There are too many rules in nutrition. Seriously. How often do we catch ourselves reciting an allegedly healthy “rule” when it comes to eating? Every damn day.
“Fruit has too much sugar so I’m cutting it out” (Barf.)
“I’m only allowed to eat 1200 calories a day” (No.)
“I heard that carbs will make you fat so I’m going to eat a ketogenic diet” (Nope nope nope.)
I think it’s because we like structure: if somehow we follow these rules, we’ll get the results we want (or vice versa). But healthy eating isn’t that binary. We can’t approach it with the same rigidity and gusto as we do with work or school. As we become too strict, we build up pent up energy that makes us swing to binging and feeling guilty.
So, how do we learn how to eat healthfully without all of these rules?
One of the first skills I have my clients learn is to listen to their bodies. At first glance, it seems like a throwaway skill, yet it’s one of the most essential ones! Your body will let you know what it needs, but we just don’t listen to it often enough. Our bodies tell us when we’re hungry, full, stressed, bored, tired, or thirsty. But life happens. We focus on work for long hours, delay eating, grab whatever is around, and rush to scarf down as quickly as possible. I’m guilty of this too.
To practice this skill of listening to your body, I encourage you to pause and check in with yourself to see what’s going on throughout the day. By understanding the trigger that’s happening to you in that moment, you’ll be able to respond to it (as opposed to confusing boredom for hunger, for example).
There is power in the pause.
Nowadays, tons of diets have hijacked this skill as a way to lose weight. That’s not the point. I repeat, eating less is not the point. Pausing and understanding where you are will help you make an appropriate decision. It may mean less food. It may mean a nap. It may mean a break from work. It may mean more food! It may even mean Doritos. Checking in with yourself after a light lunch and realizing that you need a little more to satiate yourself is more than okay. It’s what your body needs.
Along with pausing, over time you’ll build awareness of how food makes you feel. Maybe you’re stressed out and craving a family sized bag of Doritos. After eating it, you’ll realize “oh hey, I feel like poo.” You’ll adjust in the future. It’s all a learning experience until you strike a positive balance of listening to yourself and practicing what your body needs.
Forget the rules and start listening to your body, friends.