Up until my early to mid-twenties, I viewed food very differently than I do now. I ate very “clean” (what the eff does clean even mean?) during the week, and I only allowed myself “bad” foods on Sundays (why are all of the forbidden foods always only allowed on Sundays!?). Then I would usually feel bloated on Monday and get right back to my restrictive diet. I wasn’t restricting my calories or trying to lose weight, but I definitely stuck to certain food rules on week days. A grilled cheese during the week? Never! A bowl of pasta on a Wednesday night? Blasphemy! I worked hard all week to keep my eating in check so that I could enjoy these foods over the weekend.
To many people, this may seem pretty normal. I see a lot of people who eat this way, and they don’t recognize the inherent problem with this type of eating pattern. If you are setting food up this way in your mind, you are categorizing your food into two groups: good and bad. This is all fine until you slip and have a slice of pizza for lunch on a Tuesday and that guilt sets in. You are setting yourself up to feel like a failure. Also, just a side note: there’s nothing wrong or unhealthy about pizza! If you are craving pizza, I recommend honoring your craving, getting a slice, and maybe adding a side salad or some veggies to help fill you up and add some more nutrients. Then ENJOY that pizza. Allow yourself to feel satisfied rather than guilty.
Now, I go about every day the same. A Tuesday is no different from a Sunday. I honor my cravings and eat foods that help me feel my best. Yes, this means that I eat mostly plant-based foods, but it also means that if I want a quesadilla for lunch during the week, I’m making myself a quesadilla with real, fresh, and delicious ingredients.
Breaking the cycle and getting rid of the food rules didn’t only affect my weekly cycle of eating, but it shifted how I view certain life events like going on vacation or getting married. If I’m planning for a beach vacation, I’m making the same food choices as I would in the dead of winter. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to not have to worry about how many weeks there are until I’ll be in a bikini, AKA, the timeline for when I should start buckling down on my diet. On vacation? Same eating pattern as at home. The night before my wedding? Enjoyed a lovely bowl of homemade pasta with family and friends at our rehearsal dinner and did not think TWICE.
Worried you’ll gain weight if you let go of the rules? I think you don’t give your body enough credit – it knows how to regulate your body weight just fine. If you are restricting your diet to a point where listening to it will cause some weight gain, maybe this is healthy weight gain for you (yes, weight gain can be healthy!).
If you can relate to being stuck in a food pattern where you are creating food rules for yourself, I recommend identifying the rules you follow and asking yourself why you follow them. You may find that they are completely unnecessary, a false security blanket, and doing your body and your health more harm than good.