What Are You Willing To Give Up For Your Food Rules?
Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN
If you’ve ever been on a diet or are struggling with disordered eating, it’s very likely that you are following some food rules, whether you realize it or not. Food rules are arbitrary rules created with the intention of manipulating or controlling body size, and to appease the ever pervasive pursuit of the ‘thin ideal.’ Food rules are fueled and encouraged by diet culture, and usually, create a false sense of moral superiority. You could actually follow food rules for the rest of your life if you wanted. However, doing so would greatly reduce your quality of life and sustainable health.
What Food Rules Currently Exist
When you are ready to break free from harmful food rules, it might be helpful to start naming all of the food rules you currently have. Keep a list on your phone or in your journal, and add to it every time you encounter a rule as you move through the day. Once you are aware of all the rules you have been living by, ask yourself some of the following questions:
Where did I learn this rule? Would I tell anyone else to follow this rule? Am I following this rule based on my current body image? Does this rule support my disordered brain or healthy self? What might happen if I leave this rule behind?
Food Rules + Food Guilt = Zero Body Trust
How do food rules play into feeling guilty for what we eat?
Food guilt is created and perpetuated when food choices are made outside of your food rules.
In other words, we feel guilty when we think that we have broken a rule. When this guilt starts to rise, so does the worry and preoccupation with food. If you have been eating according to food rules, the following thoughts may sound familiar.
“Do I deserve this? How many calories is it? How will this affect my body? What have I already eaten this week? Will I have to exercise more to make up for it? Was I good today? What will someone else think if I eat this? Will I be able to stop eating this?”
Because we do not have to earn the right to eat food, or compensate for giving our body the energy it needs, these thoughts are destructive. It is not healthy to base eating decisions off of what someone else is doing, or what they might think. We completely lose the ability to trust our body when rules and guilt become more powerful than our innate wisdom. When you toss out the food rules and choose real, satisfying foods, you gain that trust back.
Making a Food Choice Without Food Rules
This might sound like too much freedom, however giving up rigid rules doesn’t mean there can’t be some structure. In fact, as someone is healing their relationship with food, often a little structure is essential in the same way a cast is essential for healing a broken arm. A few examples of creating structure are eating every 3-4 hours, allowing all food groups on the plate, and being mindful of internal cues that tell you how much food will be satisfying. Once the person is comfortable making their own food decisions, less structure is needed.
In addition, learning to approach meals and snacks from a place of curiosity instead of fear is helpful.
Instead of asking what you are ‘allowed’ to have, approach a meal by asking ‘what sounds good and what will support my body?’
Instead of relying on a meal plan written by an outside source to tell you what, how much, and when to eat, the goal is to be able to make these decisions yourself. All of this wisdom is already inside of you, but you can’t discover it if you are obsessed with rules.
Ultimately, the desire to give up food rules becomes strong enough when they are causing you to give up things that make your life meaningful. When you are able to make your own food choices from your mind and body knowledge, food guilt can’t survive. Without food guilt, you are able to form a trusting, peaceful relationship with your body. So the question is, what are you willing to give up for your food rules?
Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian fiercely passionate passionate about helping others create flexible, joyful eating habits and cultivate a peaceful relationship with their body. Haley specializes in intuitive eating, eating disorder recovery and body image healing from a Health at Every Size perspective. She is currently pursuing her Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) Certification. In addition to her full-time private practice she is also the co-founder of INSPIRD to SEEK, a community- based learning experience designed to mentor and guide nutrition entrepreneurs to build amazing businesses. Visit her website or connect with Haley on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.