They can creep up on us when we least expect it.
I can’t eat after 7 pm
I have to have a salad for lunch during the work week
I am allowed to eat cereal only on weekends
Or my favorite… (because I totally do it all the time)
If I eat the icing from the cake, it doesn’t really count.
So often, we live by these food rules we’ve made for ourselves; they’ve become such a habit that we aren’t even aware that they aren’t serving us!
When we actually break it down, sometimes the rules even seem a bit..well, ridiculous! It can also send us into a panic when we break the rules we’ve established for ourselves.
It can go something like this:
Rule: I won’t allow myself to eat dessert during the week. I can only have junk food on the weekends.
So, it’s Tuesday and you go out to eat with some girlfriends. You’re already feeling anxious about eating out, since you promised yourself you would eat super healthy all week (and Olive Garden isn’t exactly healthy-hello endless breadsticks and salad!)
You order a salad (even though you really want the lasagna). After the meal, everyone wants to get dessert. You sigh, resigning yourself to breaking your rule-you devour the cake and some of your friend’s pie, then swear to yourself you’ll start over again tomorrow.
But it doesn’t have to pan out like that.
So, it’s Tuesday and you go out to dinner with some girlfriends. You’re feeling anxious about eating out, but you know you can order what you really want and still maintain a healthy diet. You order the lasagna. You enjoy the heck out of it.
Then everyone wants to order dessert. You feel pretty satisfied (because you ordered what you actually wanted and not what you thought you should order to “be healthy”) and know you can have a bite or two of dessert, and not devour the whole cake.
You leave dinner satisfied, not needing to feel like you have to “start over” tomorrow because you didn’t devour the cake and go off your “perfect eating during the week” rule.
See how our food rules can mess with our minds? When we follow them to a T, it doesn’t leave any room for flexibility or enjoyment. Which sets us up to fall back into the diet-overeat-diet again cycle.
Once we begin to look at how the rules play out in our own lives, we realize they do not serve us.
Here are three steps to let go of your own rules:
1.Examine your own rules. Be honest with yourself. Take a look at what food rules you have implemented for yourself in your own life. Do you not allow yourself to eat certain food groups? Do you have weekday rules vs weekend rules? Are sweets forbidden Monday-Thursday? Do you adhere to exact portion sizes? Get out a piece of paper and see where you are blindly following these pre-established rules you have for yourself.
2. Look at the belief behind the rule. It’s important to explore WHY you are following these food patterns. What is your belief or fear behind it? If you aren’t allowed to eat after 7 pm, what do you think will happen? If your rule is “icing doesn’t count”, why won’t you let yourself have the whole piece of cake? If you forbid yourself from eating carbs, what are you afraid will happen if you have a bagel every once in a while? Look at what’s behind the rule. That is where you’ll find WHY you’re following it to begin with.
3. Replace the rule. One of my favorite mindset shifts is “you can’t just stop doing something. You have to do something else instead”. Translation: you can’t just magically tell yourself you won’t follow the rule you have in your head. It will only set you up for failure. You have to REPLACE it with something. So if your rule is “I can only have pizza on the weekends”, maybe you replace it with “Ok, I will try to let myself have pizza once during the work week if I want”. This may seem like another “rule” but it’s a softer, gentler way of lessoning some of the rigidity of the previous way of thinking.
Eating doesn’t have to be so rigid. You can begin to let go of your food rules and enjoy more freedom around eating.
So tell me-do you have any rules you follow? How can you replace that rule with something else? Share below 🙂