How to move away from the shackles of diet culture by challenging your food rules
If you’ve ever felt guilty or anxious around food and eating, you’re probably be influenced by your food rules.
Food rules are beliefs about foods that are collected over time and form the basis of our food choices when we are not eating intuitively. They dictate things like the types of food you’re allowed to have, how much you should eat, and the timing of your meals and snacks. You may not even realise how many food rules you have until you start your journey towards intuitive eating and begin to question the reasoning behind your eating habits!
This article will give you three simple steps to help you get to the bottom of your food rules and overcome them, in order to learn to eat based on your internal body cues.
ONE: Renourish your brain
In order to do the difficult work of changing your thinking patterns and belief systems, you must first ensure that your brain is functioning to the best of its ability. We know that the brain needs a tonne of energy to do its job properly; this means that getting adequate nutrition is one of the most important steps you can take if you want to change your cognitions.
One of the most well-known studies showing the effects of inadequate nutrition on the brain is the Minnesota Starvation Study. Amongst other ground-breaking discoveries, the study found that the restriction of calories causes impaired concentration, reduced alertness, poor comprehension and problem solving, and reduced motivation. Learn more about the effects of starvation on the brain and body here.
Ensuring you are eating regularly and adequately to give your brain the fuel it needs will make the next two steps that much easier.
TWO: Unpack the rule
It can be helpful to understand the origin of your food rules and what exactly they mean to you. This can allow you to develop a deeper understanding of you thought processes, making it easier to challenge them.
Some questions you can ask yourself to begin this process are:
- Where did this rule come from?
- When did I first begin following this rule? What triggered this?
- What do I believe this rule will achieve? Is this belief logical?
- What are my specific fears around breaking this rule?
- How is my life affected by this rule?
THREE: Conduct an experiment
The most effective strategy for breaking down food rules is experimentation. Put your scientific hat on and approach your beliefs with curiosity and a methodical mindset.
The first step of this is to select a rule to challenge. Begin with the more flexible and less fear-inducing rules – there’s no need to throw yourself in the deep end!
Next, form a hypothesis about what you think (or what you fear) might happen. This might be structured like “If I do X, then Y will occur”.
Here comes the scary part – testing your hypothesis out. You might like to ask a friend or family member to support you through this if you’re expecting it to be particularly difficult. Keep in mind that you may need to test your hypothesis several times in order to come to a conclusion.
The last step is to evaluate the results. What actually happened? How did this compare to what you expected to happen? If it was different, can you come up with an alternative belief that might be more accurate?
Continue to repeat this process with all your food rules, gradually progressing to the more challenging ones. With patience and practice, you’ll be eating according to your body cues in no time!
If you believe you would benefit from individual support with your journey towards intuitive eating, our expert dietitians are here to help! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can work with you to achieve your goals.
Karli Battaglia, APD
EHL Team x