When you’re stuck in a place of food rigidity and food obsession, there’s a chance your relationship with food involves following strict rules about how and what you should eat. I'm not just talking about people with eating disorders here. I'm talking about diets too- which usually involve applying a set of food rules to a desired "lifestyle."
A few of the food rules I used to hold myself accountable to were:
Do not eat more than X calories per day
Do not put real butter on bread
Do not eat real sugar
Do not eat creamy foods or sauces
Do not eat carbs
Do not eat snacks
When I was living with these rules, eating turned into an obsessive source of inner conflict and turmoil. The surprising thing about this is that I’m inherently a rule breaker. I have an artistic mind and usually trail-blaze through life outside of the lines. I’ve had this trait most of my life, so naturally I’d end up breaking my militant food rules often.
Breaking my rules felt miserable. I’d beat myself up for not sticking to the plan, and then I’d punish myself with more restriction. Soon, my emotions became deeply connected to the foods I ate. I’d judge foods as being “good” or “bad” and when I ate a bad food, I’d feel guilty, like I had committed a crime or done something horrible.
Recovery is worth it because when you recover, the rules slowly go away, and you learn to bring compassion and self-forgiveness into your relationship with food. Food flexibility will become a superpower you have, that most people drowning in diet culture struggle with for a lifetime.
To get this superpower, you must consciously decide to start breaking your food rules. Breaking your food rules involves slowly stretching your boundaries so you can become a more flexible eater.
You can practice by planning to break your rules in small ways at first. For instance, if you have a rule to not eat salad dressings, you may want to plan to add a small amount of dressing to your lunch once or twice a week to start and increase the amount and frequency over time as you feel comfortable. Collecting small victories by consciously breaking your food rules will bring confidence to your eating and within yourself.
The key here is to:
Identify your food rules
Create a plan to consciously break your food rules in small ways.
Visualize breaking your food rule successfully
Increase your flexibility with the rule over time by increasing the amount and frequency.
Plan to fill yourself with love and forgive yourself relentlessly if you mess up (it happens sometimes)!
When you use the frontal lobe of your brain to plan ahead of time and specifically (figure out when, where and with whom you will break your rules), it will help mentally prepare you for the moment.
I recommend visualizing breaking your rules successfully beforehand. This is like when an athlete visualizes winning a game- they visualize the exact plays they want to use, the techniques, and the small details as if practicing in advance.
Finally, you also want to plan how you will handle the moment if you do not succeed. This plan must involve self forgiveness, self care and being gentle with yourself. You do not want to plan to fail, but you do want to plan how you would handle that, if it happened. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't! Planning to stay calm and not freak out is possible.
When it comes to recovery, perfection is not necessary. What you really need is to develop a greater sense of flexibility, patience and self forgiveness. Most of all, just keep going. Do not give up on yourself.
Hey, and before I let you go, schedule a Food Guilt Freedom Starter Session with me so I can walk you through my 6 step process to achieving food flexibility.