Food Rules, helpful or no?
I need rules to lose weight, right? Surely you are only talking to people who are trying to maintain their weight?
No, I’m talking to you and to everyone who has ritually set new food rules every January (or any time of the year) only to “break them,” feel like guilty, binge, and try to set even more rules.
“I’ll NEVER do that again”
“Alright, NO more sugar!”
“That’s it, we can’t go out to eat anymore!”
“I have to exercise to burn this off tomorrow…”
“I binged today, I’ll get by on as little as possible tomorrow.”
Any of these sounding familiar? That’s because it’s really normal to try and provide our brain with binary yes/no choices. We like these types of decisions because they require a yes or a no answer…instead of a deeper dive into what’s really going on. But one of the best rules you can set for yourself is to stop setting rules entirely.
Food rules start us in a cyclical motion that almost always results in guilt, shame and weight regain.
It’s a frustrating cycle but it is one that many of can nod our heads and say, “yes I have SO been there (many times even!).” Take a moment to think back to other things you have learned in your life. Perhaps a musical instrument, a new art form, new job or how to drive and find the best route to work. If you find that you are late every time you drive a certain route…you find an alternate route. If you mess up your hand positions when learning guitar, you practice how to move them well to hit the right notes.
When it comes to our eating and making changes, it seems we have a harder time getting out of this cycle. That’s because typically the “rules” change when we pick a new diet to follow. It seems we’re trying something new but underneath that, we are often setting unsustainable rules and restrictions. Human beings do not like restriction, in fact we rebel against it! It is NOT your fault and it is NOT about your will power (more on will power being a myth HERE).
Jessi, if I am not going to set up food rules I’m going to binge every day! I won’t know what to do! This is also a common fear and I get it. So let’s talk about gentle ways to make changes and how to build up your skills.
The first step is to forgive yourself. Instead of berating your ego for going through this cycle once or many times, be kind and rewind. Take a step back and tell yourself, “It is understandable that I have struggled with this, I am a human being and deserve to love myself even as I try to make changes.”
The second step is finding the right support and getting rid of ANYthing that reminds you of a past diet, cleanse, or negative body thought. You might start with books or magazines and physical objects. Don’t forget to unfollow anyone on social media and unsubscribe from email lists that make you feel anything less than amazing. That is always a detox I can get behind.
Thirdly, start writing out what it is that you want to change. Once you have your what, define your why and make sure it is personal. Next, choose one small part of your “what” to work on. Perhaps you want to be more active, find small steps to get you there like micro workouts and reducing sedentary behavior. Not a grueling 60 minute workout you and your body were NOT ready for.
Lastly, it’s important to reflect kindly on what’s going well and what you need help in. The self-check-in is an important component of changing behavior without rules and restrictions. I understand wanting to change behaviors and the desire to lose weight. We can work on making changes that you feel good about, without tying your self-worth to your size.
Questions? I thought you might have some so please send them along and I’ll be posting videos on my Instagram feed soon answering them for you. Remember, you are not alone and you can learn new behaviors that help instead of harm.