“Staying in shape is definitely something I think about, but I don’t let it get in the way. I’m active, but I’m not just going to wake up and go to the gym and not eat pizza,” Kaia Gerber told us a few months ago during an interview. “If there’s pizza or if there’s ice cream, I’m going to eat it. If you’re not going to eat it when you’re [a teenager], when are you going to eat it? This is probably one of the last times that I can do this, so I’m like, ‘Sure, give me everything because one day, I’m not going to be able to eat whatever I want.’”
She’s right because, yes, I’m not able to eat whatever I want without gaining weight. But I do—most of the time. Though my behavior doesn’t come without regret, bloating, and yo-yo dieting. The routine is always the same—I’ll eat Chinese food, pizza, and cheeseburgers with abandon until an unflattering picture or particularly hot day sends me into a tizzy.
I start eating healthy, cutting out bread and most dairy in favor of leafy greens and vegetables until my jeans lie flatter around my waist. That goes on for a few weeks, and then the whole cycle will start itself over again. The fact of the matter is, I love foods that are typically labeled “bad for you.” But because I’ve come around to treating my body well, I can get behind a lot of healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients as well. And so goes that ever-present eating cycle.
When I read Gerber’s interview, though, I decided to give it a shot. Go less yo-yo and more YOLO, so to speak. To say I already had a bit of YOLO in me is the understatement of the century (see the aforementioned list of my favorite foods). But I was intrigued by the idea that her diet allows for my brain to be more forgiving of my body. While self-love is a good enough reason for me to try anything, there’s science behind it, too. Studies show “having a choice” and not restricting yourself leads to healthier choices.
Candice Seti, PsyD, a psychologist who specializes in weight loss and weight management explains, “It’s common to have a list of restricted or ‘off-limits’ foods—whether because they’re high in calories and/or fat, nonnutritive, or simply because we can’t control ourselves around them,” Seti says, “The problem with this list is restriction gives these foods absolute power and takes away your perception of self-control. If you feel you have no control around pizza and don’t ever let yourself have it, you will most likely feel out of control and eat the whole thing when you do. It can consume your thoughts.”
She continues, “The way to take your power back from these foods is to take away the off-limits signs and the red tape in your mind. This doesn’t mean having ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But it does mean adding the restricted foods back into your diet in moderation,” says Seti.
Having struggled with restrictive eating in the past, I can definitely relate to the power dynamic. To test her theory (and Kaia Gerber’s), I decided to spend a week letting it all go—no food restrictions—to see if I ended up making healthier choices. Keep scrolling to find out all the deets.