Somewhere along the way we have been taught we have to live “by the rules.” In my practice, I see many clients that like to be the food rules followers. These are the people that will be the “hard core” dieters, the ones that will only eat what the diet says to. There are people that can take this to the place that is unhealthy. A place where there is a lot of restriction around the amount, type and timing of food. For some, this is an eating disorder. For others, it is disordered eating, from all the years of dieting and thinking, if I just “follow this diet (rules), I will lose weight.” There is constant preoccupation and thought about food- the calories, what it is, if you “should or shouldn’t have it.” In this place, the act of enjoying food has so much guilt attached to it, it’s “not worth it”.
On the other side of this, are the people that want to break the food rules. They want to rebel against any rule there is with food. These people tend to have grown up with a lot of focus on weight and their food. I often hear of the stories of women who were put on diets when they were just ten or twelve years old, sadly, sometimes younger. If you think about that age, it is an age where kids often idolize their parents. What a parent says about their child’s weight and their body has great weight (pun intended). The child will often feel flawed, not good enough and ashamed. Often, the parent that is doing the judging, was brought up with their weight being a focus. If weight was a constant topic for them growing up and they have not worked on that part for themselves, they are going to pass it down to their child. So the child typically grows up going on and off diets throughout adolescence into their adult years. I want to interject here that it is never appropriate to diet with your child. You and your child going on Weight Watchers together, is not a bonding experience that should be shared. Please refer to www.beyondyoursurface.com/healthykids for more guidance on helping your child develop a healthy relationship with food.
So we have two groups here. The ones that need food rules to follow and those that are constantly breaking them. Do you see it? All or nothing! It’s not a fun place to be. Those that fear breaking the food rules, often want to break (some) of the rules, but can be paralyzed by the fear of going out of control. Maybe for some, that has happened, so the rules feel safe. For those that are retaliating against the food rules, they often feel guilt and shame attached. There are people who will be in both groups, swinging from one side to the other.
Now, if we look beyond the surface, we would see those that need the food rules, need to feel control. There is more than likely one or more areas in their life that is out of control. For those that want to rebel against the food rules, they often don’t feel seen or heard somewhere in their life. Their physical weight takes up more space, therefore they are seen. There is so much more to all of this that will be a later post, but you get the picture. It is so much more than someone who is always on a diet or a person who just doesn’t seem to care what they eat.
One of the questions I like to ask my clients, is, “What do you want your quality of life with food to look like?” If you think it about it in this way, you can choose whether you want a life with food with to be a battle. When it’s old stuff, the stuff that’s there because of how you grew up, you need to get into therapy. So often, people look at therapy as if something is wrong with you if you go. But it is a beautiful gift you can give to yourself to do some healing and improvement in yourself. If that feels too scary, there are wonderful books and workbooks on www.gurzebooks.com.
Feeding our bodies is meant to be a loving act that we do for ourselves because it is a basic need of life, just as breathing, water and sleep. Food nourishes, refuels and energizes our bodies. But when we are living by or rebelling against food rules, we often don’t feel the loving act that it is. If we replaced the word ‘rules’ with the word, ‘CHOICE’, there can be a shift. When there is a choice, you are deciding what you are or are not eating. You are deciding based off how you feel physically and emotionally. A rule is meant to be either followed or broken. So if you grew up always following strict rules of food placed upon you by a parent, you either continue to follow them or you rebel against them. But somewhere along the way, YOU are lost. And the rule isn’t even about the food anymore. It is about pleasing or rebelling against the parent. So if we focus on the present and look at the choice you have with food versus the rule, there can be love, kindness and listening towards your body. Just think about that difference. Do you want a relationship with food to be about rules or choice? A high quality of life with food, is choice. It is listening to your body and what it is saying to you. Let me give you an example. A client I have, once followed a diet that took out gluten. When she followed the diet, she did feel remarkably better. Her GI symptoms subsided, she had more energy and her joints were less achy. So you would think that this would be enough to have her stay on it, right? Referring back to my post, www.beyondyoursurface.com/dietcraze, I talk about how some medical professionals truly believe that feeling better will make you stick to a diet. For some this is true, but for anyone with a diet past, it is not. So, as you can imagine, my client derailed off the diet, and started eating gluten again. She started feeling bad, achy and tired. Sabotage. When we discussed changing her language to look at taking out gluten as a choice versus a rule, she could see the loving act that it was for her body. Allowing it to be her choice, didn’t allow her to rebel against any rules. Allowing it to be her choice, let her stay kind and aware of what her body was telling her.
When we can look having choice versus a rule, we take away the deprivation that the rules make. We are listening and honoring our body. We don’t have to live in a box with food built by rules or live to break out of it. We can choose to be free and connect into what your body is saying.