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  • Writer's pictureRachel Fletcher

Is it OK to have food rules ?

Eating food should be an enjoyable thing, so why does it often make you feel guilty ? Do you have certain rules about the kind of foods you can eat ? Or maybe when you can eat ?

  • Do you like to eat 'clean' ?

  • No carbs after 6pm ?

  • No carbs at all ?

  • No foods that have ingredients you can't pronounce ?

  • Are some foods classed as either 'good' or 'bad' ?

  • Do you have to 'earn' certain foods ?

Many of you will have some food rules that you adhere to a certain extent. How much do these rules take over your life ? And where have they even come from anyway ? This article will explore food rules, their origins, whether or not they serve you (*spoiler alert - they don't) and give you tips on how to overcome them. Otherwise known as learning how to challenge the food police.

The Inner Food Critic

This is that internal voice that tells you off and makes you feel bad for eating the foods you love. It makes you second guess your food choices, wondering if it's healthy enough, whether you deserve it, or whether you've earned it. Unfortunately, the inner food critic isn't a rational voice, it's more of a moral one and one that isn't very fair or kind. But before you beat yourself up about it, I want to point out that this kind of morality when it comes to food choice is everywhere. I love M&S but their advertising is a classic example when it portrays foods as luxurious, sinful and tempting. Plus we see ads all the time describing items as 'guilt-free' or as 'cheat day' foods. Not to mention diet companies such as Slimming World, who have a raft of foods that are blatantly labelled as 'syns'. This black and white, good v. bad labelling of food is not helpful and simply serves to fuel your inner food critic, meaning instead of just enjoying food, you attach a moral judgement to it which can leave you feeling rubbish, even days later.

The Food Police

These are your friends, family and colleagues who can't help but make (usually unsolicited) comments about your food choices. I bet you've had things like this happen lots of times; 'you're going to eat that...?!', or 'eating *insert food such as bread* makes you fat, you should cut that out'. It can even present as 'you need to eat more than that, there's nothing on you'. Everyone seems to have an opinion, so not only do you have your own internal food critic telling you what you should do, you have the food police on your case. Plus you have the online brigade of food police, telling you what the latest food fads, diets and rules are. Sounds exhausting when you think about it, right ?

Where do these food rules come from ?

You all have them to a certain degree because as I've said, these rules and moral judgements are literally everywhere and are really hard to avoid. So we know they come from others; from diet culture messaging, social media, food adverts, from friends and family. Some are really deep rooted and stem backfrom childhood. For example, were you told as a child that you couldn't leave the table until you'd eaten everything on your plate ? What if you were full up ? Or were you told that you could leave if you'd eaten your veg, that it was ok to leave the meat or potato (especially chips !) I'm sure you were given a clear direction on what foods were deemed good (veg, fruit etc) or bad (chips, chocolate, sweets, crisps etc). I'm also guessing you were told that you could have a 'treat' food if you were good, or that these treats were withdrawn as a punishment if you weren't well behaved.

So you already have a number of ingrained food rules from your childhood, now add on all those you obtain through adulthood. Social media is a huge one here and isn't going away fast. There are so many 'influencers' online who spout unqualified and sometimes downright dangerous nutrition and health advice. Honestly, this makes my blood boil. Detox teas are NOT healthy ! Social media is full of food rules and the 'what I eat in a day' posts are included here. So many people post messaging along the lines of it worked for me, therefore it will work for you and this is simply not true, We are all very different. I suspect that this food rule content is popular because it makes things sound simple - 'cut out carbs and lose your belly fat !' when nutrition is not simple. Plus, they are often more engaging and interesting posts than reading that you need a sustainable, personalised approach. Lets face it, most people want simple and quick results....

How can you beat the food police ?

(Metaphorically of course !!)

One thing to remember is that you don't eat foods in isolation. They form part of an ongoing daily, weekly, monthly intake of a variety of foods that overall, provide you with a heap of the nutrients that you need. I don't think anyone exists on a diet of just one food item. You don't just eat chips, you eat other things with chips and that's just one meal on one day. And even if you did just eat chips that day, potatoes are a great source of vitamin c, potassium and b vitamins to name just a few benefits. So you can tell the inner food critic and the food police to pipe down. Chips are not inherently bad, so there's no need to feel guilty for eating them. Furthermore, if you eat a so called good food such as an apple and later eat a bar of chocolate, the chocolate doesn't negate the nutritional benefits of that apple, you've still obtained all the nutrients from it. Along with some nutrients from the chocolate too. However, it's really common to simply focus on the so called bad food and beat yourself up about it. You'll hear this a lot from nutritonists, but it really is all to do with balance when it comes to eating. No foods should be off limits.

One way to start examining your food rules is to write them down in a list. This can include the what, when or how much you eat. Then ask yourself the following:

  • Where they have come from. From a nutrition professional or from your parents or a random person on Facebook ?

  • Do these rules help you enjoy your food ?

  • Do they allow you flexibility in your eating ?

  • Do they allow you to try new foods or recipes ?

  • Do they allow you to eat the foods you truely enjoy ?

It's so important to consider the actual pleasure you get from eating food. This could be that nice feeling you get when you eat something you really like. Or from the enjoyment of trying out the new restaurant that's just opened in your area, or eating with friends and family. Food is a very social thing but when you have food rules, the enjoyment element isn't quite there.

Want to learn more ?

I hope you get the picture, nutrition is complex and there is no such things as the perfect diet. Food rules only serve to make things worse. There are few food rules that actually benefit you, unless of course you have an allergy or medical condition that prohibits you eating a certain food or food group. Food rules just make you feel rubbish and can lead to you missing out on important nutrients, not to mention the enjoyment factor of food.

If this has resonated with you and you'd like to learn more about how to challenge the food police and improve your relationship with food, then get in touch to find out how I can help you. There are lots of tools that I can support you with to get to a better place with food such as helping you learn to reframe your thoughts about food, helping you move away from black and white thinking and helping you navigate the nutribollo**s of nutrition info online so that you don't start following new food rules.

Book your free 15 minute discovery call here:

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