Why the rules are bullsh*t

Do you have rules around your eating habits? They might be something like, “I can only eat sugar on the weekend.” Or “Bananas are loaded with calories and starch. So, I can’t eat bananas.” Whatever they are, do they help you? Or do they hinder you?

I think most people create these rules  because the grey area of our food can become so… GREY. H*ll! I don’t even know if there IS any black or white when it comes to food anymore! With all the media hype, and misinterpreted studies, something that you would think should be intuitive is now confusing. There’s so much fear and uncertainty when it comes to our food. What’s good for us? What’s not?

And once we’re in that grey zone of ‘Eat these foods in moderation’, how do we know where we are in that moderation scale? How do we know when we’re slipping?

If I know that I can have sugar sometimes, how do I know when is too much?

So, to create some structure and understanding around all of it, we create these rules that give us some guidelines around our eating behavior.

A few years ago, I wanted to clean up my diet. I felt like I was using too many, what I referred to as, fake foods. You know what I’m talking about: protein powders, bars, meal replacement shakes, and things like that. Foods that aren’t necessarily bad for us, but aren’t exactly healthy either. Foods that are meant to be a supplement to our diet. They’re not meant to be the bulk of our diet.

I didn’t intend to cut these foods completely out of my diet; I just wanted to cut down. So, I created a rule. I was only ‘allowed’ to eat one of them per day.

As with any limitations we put on ourselves, I did well, for a while. I sat down and thought about what other foods I could add to my diet as snacks. Some time later, I don’t remember exactly what was happening on that day, but I got the mid-afternoon snackies. I wanted a protein bar, but I had already had a shake earlier in the day. So, I went in search of something that I could have. I looked right past the baby carrots, and I came up with cashews.

Yep – I should have known better.

I know that nuts are a trigger food for me.

Trigger foods are foods that when you eat them, one of two things happens. Either A) you eat waaaaaay more than you should, or B) they lead to a trail of destruction: it starts out with nuts, but then quickly moves on to chocolate, peanut butter, and a whole host of other things.

In my case, I just ate the cashews. BUT I didn’t just portion out one ounce & seal up the bag. I ate so many that I felt sick afterwards!

WHEN, if I had just freakin’ not had this stupid rule, I would have only eaten the protein bar, been fine, and moved on with my life.

I think about all the times that we create these rules around food.

And I get it.

We do it to create some structure in our eating lives. We started out in this dieting world, and read an article, or someone told us, “Oh! If you want to me be successful in your goals, you can’t eat brownies!” And then, just like that, brownies are off-limits. “But we love brownies!  And it doesn’t seem fair. We can’t eat brownies, but we see other people eating brownies – and some of those people are even THIN! I hate those people!”

Am I Right?

Cakes and brownies like this should never be off limits!
Cakes and brownies like this should never be off-limits!

And so what happens next? We don’t eat brownies, but we hear them calling our name. And we resist them. Until one night we eat THEM. ALL!

And then we feel sick, and guilty because we just failed. We failed at our food plan and these rules that we set up. And because we did that, clearly A) we are bad, and B) we cannot be trusted around brownies (or anything else that is brownie like: cake, fudge, cookies, and the circle of food we can’t be trusted around gets bigger and bigger).

So now, we can’t be trusted around a food that maybe a year ago, or when it was that we created this ‘rule’, we COULD trust ourselves around this sudden forbidden siren song.

When we create rules around food, suddenly, those foods that are off-limits, become more desirable. If I can’t have it, then I want it more.

Okay. So, I understand the need to have rules and/or guidelines. As I said above, there is so much grey when it comes to food and our eating habits. It’s so easy to slip from “I’ll only drink one glass of wine on the weekends!” To “It’s Thursday.  Friday is just a few hours away – and that’s the weekend. Right?” And soon enough, its wine more  evenings than not.


What if, instead of our food rules containing things that we CAN’T have, we define what we SHOULD have? What if you created rules and guidelines around habits that you want to have, instead of things/foods that you CAN’T?  What if you focused on those things/foods that you want?

What foods make you feel good? Start there. Fill your diet mostly with those foods that make you feel light and energized.

And if there’s room left over, have a protein bar, or a brownie.