It’s okay to have rules.
I know, I know, I write to you a lot about how you should be wary of “diets” and “rules” around food.
The reason I say this so much is that 99% of the clients I speak with have some kind of Food Rule Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their heads have been filled with rules for years, and it’s gotten to the point that those rules are doing more harm than good.
But can we be real? It’s totally fine to have rules around food. Or, as I like to call them, “guidelines” or “practices.”
For me, all rules have to pass two criteria:
1. They have to make me feel good.
2. I have to be allowed to break them.
Because let’s be real, I have all kinds of “rules” (or “guidelines” or “practices”) I follow, in almost every area of my life.
I try to go to bed before midnight.
I try to move my body each day.
I try to take a shower every day.
I try to call my mom and dad and grandma a few times a month.
I try to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.
All of these, in one way or another, are “rules” I try to live by.
But I also do these things because they make me feel good.
And if I don’t do them, I don’t flip out. Because, well, see #2. If I broke my “move my body each day” guideline, it was probably because I needed to rest. If I broke my “go to bed before midnight” guideline, I was probably doing something fun, or maybe I just felt like being “bad.”
If I broke my "eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full" guideline...it was probably because I felt like it.
And that’s allowed.
So if you want to give up sugar?
Or stop eating carbs?
Or not eat after 7 p.m.?
Have at it. Seriously.
But if you want to make sure that you stay sane, you have to be honest, and I mean really, really, really honest with yourself about (1) why you’re doing it, and (2) if these rules are making you crazy.
Most of us have great difficulty being that honest.
Most of us create über-restrictive rules when we are in the middle of grandiose daydreams of self-improvement. (I just read a random article online about the problem with sugar! That’s it! I’m only going to eat vegetables for the next week!)
These rules may sound nice in the moment, but they are completely disconnected from what we truly want in our long-term, day-to-day lives. Truly, we don’t want to give up sugar. We like sugar.
Then, as a result, when we begin to live with these guidelines, we start feeling cray-cray. Our inner voice starts whispering, then yelling, I don’t like this! Why won’t you listen to me?
But we ignore it.
And, well, I think you know what happens next. An express train to binge-ville.
So that’s my test for you. You can make any kind of “rule” or “practice” or “guideline” that you want, but it has to truly make all of you feel good. And if you are feeling crazy and rebellious and bingeing-left-and-right, that rule isn’t helping you.
So instead of doubling down on that crazy drill sergeant that is inside of all of us, why don’t you just ask the insanely simple question:
Oh, I seem to be rebelling against these rules. I must want something different than I thought I did. What do I truly want?
Now it's your turn: What rules or guidelines do you already have your life? Do they make you crazy? Let me know in the comments!