Having food rules, diet rules and food restrictions are sadly becoming the norm nowadays. So common, in fact, that it can be hard to even identify the ones you follow. This is especially true if you have been following them for a long time.
Food rules can be about what or what not to eat. For example, “I am not allowed to eat chocolate because it is bad”. They can be about restricting the time you can eat. For example “I am not allowed to eat past 7pm”. They can be about how much to eat. For example “If I eat more than 1 slice of bread per day, I will gain weight”.
Clients often describe using rules a means of controlling of their weight or body. Often they feel that if they give up these rules they will lose control, overeat or eat an unhealthy food. This may sound like it makes sense, but in reality, having “control” over something involves having choices. Funny enough, having many food rules or restrictions actually takes away your choices. If I want to have control over what I watch on my TV, I must have the remote and have access to a few channels. Same goes for my food and health- I must have food choices in order to really be able to chose what/when/how I eat.
Following rules forces you to listen to external factors rather than your body’s signals (internal ones) to decide when, how much and what to eat. Our bodies have evolved to have built in mechanisms that will signal when it requires energy and when it has had enough. This is a scary concept for some people because they feel they cannot trust these signals, and there is some truth to these fears. If you have stopped listening to your body’s hunger and satiety signals for a long time, they can be hard to hear. Also, if you are following a restrictive diet or are very preoccupied with food, the fact you are not eating enough can push you to overeat. Breaking free of food rules and restrictions can actually help you hear you understand your body’s signals and experience fewer episodes of overeating.
Replacing erroneous food rules and myths with healthy guidelines (that are flexible and realistic) can be one step in the right direction. One simple way to do this: take a peek at the food guide. It has realistic guidelines and tells you exactly what your body needs to be healthy.
The facts is, avoiding certain foods does not automatically make you a healthier person, or a better person. Fun foods can be included from time to time in a way that is enjoyable and has no negative effects to your health or weight.