09 Feb The Food Police
In a previous blog, I outlined ‘why diets don’t work’, checking out diet culture and how to start sticking a big ol’ middle finger up at it.
Today I want to take a look at the food police, the rules we’ve all absorbed around food and how you can tell them to do one if they don’t work for you.
Have a quick think about any rules that you have around food. These could be:
- Only eating carb’s if you’ve exercised
- Only having sweets on your ‘cheat day’ / ‘treat day
- Don’t eat anything with white flour
- Don’t eat anything with added sugar
Where did these ideas come from? Why do they apply to you? Do they even need apply to you?
Most of these ideas have been absorbed while we were growing up, they have nothing to do with how hungry we are, what we fancy eating, what would satisfy us. Think back to when you were a kid – or think about how your kids eat. Do they have any food rules? Do they eat when they’re hungry – or stop when they’re full? Do they eat things they don’t like in the name of ‘health?’ I reckon not. Not until these ideas start to creep in.
Food can take on a sort of moralistic flavour when it’s seen as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘sinful’. Dieting and having food rules can be a way to essentially absolve ourselves of those ‘sins’ and feel better about ourselves. The thing is, it’s not that black and white, food is neither good nor bad – and dieting isn’t actually going to make us a better person.
Making peace with food
Because of all of these rules, food has become a battleground for so many people; carefully navigating the supermarket aisles, planning meals and macro’s meticulously. Sound familiar? What if I told you that you didn’t have to do it – that it wouldn’t matter if you ate that Mars bar (other chocolate-based treats are available) with your meal and it wasn’t a ‘cheat day’?
We eat for so many different reasons, hunger is just one of them. We have also developed SO many rules around food, we learn them from family, from friends, from magazines and online – and they’re not always the most helpful things to have.
They can definitely have a negative effect on how we eat and why we eat. Food rules can take the enjoyment out of eating and reduce it to something that’s purely done to ‘fuel’ us. They can also end up taking the joy out of a special day or event.
Food is awesome, we use it to celebrate, to commiserate, to gift to people, to show love and to experience different cultures, religions and.. well, a gajillion other reasons.
Cringe-worthy memory moment
Sad fact: I wouldn't even let myself eat the free biscuits in the hairdressers because I was concerned about the added sugar. I also wanted to show that I was ‘healthy’, that I could resist, that I had self-control (pretty grim). These didn’t fit with my ‘food rules’. Now, I eat them. They’re delicious and hey, free fucking biscuits. What the hell, old me.
Why not have a think about one of your food rules, try to reframe it…
- why can’t you eat that Mars bar on a Tuesday?
- did it ever actually do you any harm when you did?
- what if you ate the Mars bar with your dinner (or whenever) instead. When you fancied it – would that be more satisfying?
If you fancy a little challenge, see if you can give yourself permission to break this food rule. Ask yourself what actually happened when you did? How did it feel?
As I’ve mentioned before, restricting foods can make us want them more – when they’re naughty, out of bounds. We start to crave them, indulge our cravings, feel bad, restrict and then start the whole cycle all over again. If we didn’t restrict them in the first place, would they be so appealing? Would you crave them?
I’m not going to say that any of this is easy, that letting go of dieting and kcal counting and macros in the name of losing weight or being ‘good’ is something that you can just pick up. Nor is it a diet – with rigid rules to replace your old food rules. It isn’t. It takes time to get comfortable with feeling more ‘normal’ around food. It is possible though.
Next time I’m looking at honouring our hunger and fullness cues – something we just might have lost sight of thesedays.
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