Breaking The 'Rules' around Food
Have you ever been out for a meal, or went to a cafe, only to find that the whole situation filled you with more anxiety and fear than excitement?
Instead of enjoying the social occasion, instead you felt like a mess - not physically - but because your head space was so full of victimising and messages, telling different stories and repeating the rules about what you can't, should, or should not eat.
On the one hand, that cheese pizza or pasta looks divine, and you know it is what your body and social situation will thrive on. However, you also feel that such a meal might not look very 'good', plant-based, vegan, protein filled, clean, or healthy enough when you take a picture on your Instagram feed. You might also worry that what you are served has 'too' many Calories (which is why you checked the exact Calorie content of the menu before leaving the house ...), grams of sugar, carbohydrates, 'points' or 'sins'.
Or, alternatively, you might fear that ordering a dessert is something you haven't earned (perhaps you've not been to the gym in the past 3 days God forbid...)
Instead of going for what you really feel like, instead you end up ordering something like a 'superfood' salad, some courgetti pasta, avocados on plain bread, or whatever was available on the alternative vegan or gluten free menu.
By the end of the meal, you feel safe and calm, but not satisfied. Maybe at a physical hunger level you might feel some sense of fulness - superiority even for eating such a 'healthy' meal when everyone else what munching carbs, creamy sauces and cake. But, deep deep down, psychologically you are still yearning for what your social and psychological needs were yearning for. You have not filled in a hole somewhere, but yet you can't quite pin point what exactly that is...
What I am referring to here is a sense of feeling as though we need to adhere to food rules in every area and situation of our lives, even though doing this can lead to greater harm for our overall health than any gains.
In our current times, it is hard to escape the bombardment of information to tell us what we should or should not be eating, whether that be for health, fitness or environmental and ethical reasons. Deciding feels like a mine field, or a very messy food fight in a school canteen.
In a landscape that necessitates that we eat only for energy and health, choosing food based on how we want to feel psychologically and socially (2 very important needs in our lives!) can feel alien and wrong.
We might ask ourselves:
What if I did decide to go for a full pizza, with full fat cheese, all by myself. Would I feel bad, unclean, gluttonous and guilty?. Would others think bad of me? Does that now mean that I am an unhealthy person unworthy of respect and love?
These types of voices may be even louder for individuals who have ever experienced an eating disorder or orthorexia (issues I will be discussing in more detail in future posts), and I know all too well just how debilitating and utterly paralysing they can make you feel.
The problem lies with the idea that there are very fixed rules around food, as well as the idea that we have to adopt one food identity or another (whether that be gluten free, raw, vegan, paleo, clean eating, plant-based, or whatever else you can think of) in order to find safety, acceptance and love in our lives.
I am not at all saying that following any particular lifestyle in relation to food is 'bad'. But, I am highlighting the fact that many of us can become tricked into thinking that eating a certain way, at all times, is the magic key to all of our life issues.
In a way, the time and energy it takes to invest in our food choices, detracts away from the more important things in our lives we can be focussing on. Self worth and love won't come from having the perfect diet, no matter how good you are at making the perfect smoothie bowls or perfectly choreographed avocado on toast.
When we become more flexible in our food choices, we can leave any negative judgement behind about what we do or do not eat. By not succumbing to unnecessary identity labels, we can feel free to make our own choices, and trust that we can make the best food choices based on the social situation at hand. Thats not to say that individuals who eat in certain ways for ethical reasons should now go out and buy slabs of meat or buckets full of cheese (although that shouldn't be criticised anyway), but what it does mean is that eating any food should not be demonised or feared.
If we are able to make food choices in light of how we want to feel - psychologically and physically, while also taking into context our needs to eat in relation to our culture and wanting to develop positive memories, then we can begin to feel free, flexible and empowered around food.
Rules around food breed fear - not self love.
No matter how 'clean' or ethical or diet may be, a sole focus on this is not the route to head down if you want to find your true meaning and purpose in your life. Each and every day the universe guides us down an extraordinary path - a path which ultimately leads to our purpose and ability to do great things in our world and make it a better place in which to live. What a great shame it would be to miss an extraordinary opportunity in your life purpose because you were checking the number of Calories or the whole list of ingredients on a food menu or nutritional label...
With this in mind, I invite you to step in to your true self, away from any rules around food that don't come from an authentic place of self love.
If you know that food choices are more about feeling accepted by others and fitting in line with an identity or trend that is currently viewed positively by society, maybe you can eventually gain the strength to break free from the fear of making your own food decisions.
A similar story goes for making nasty remarks or negatively commenting (in real life or social media) on what others are eating. In reality, in most cases, it is none of our business what other people are eating. They are not you, and they don't have to live in line with your expectations of how human beings should and should not eat.
Remember, at the end of the day, food is as just as much about enjoyment, social connection, memory creation and feeling energised enough to live the way we were born to do. Don't let any food rule get in the way of you living life to the very full.
Break free from the rigid rules, Calorie requirements or macronutrient quantities - even if that means ordering something that was once your biggest fear or not precisely in line with something you once viewed as the healthiest or most ethical option.
We can't control everything in our life, and the world as a whole will not suffer when you choose food from a place of loving yourself fully first.
Eventually, breaking free from rules feels liberating - not wrong or something you should feel guilty and ashamed about. You fully deserve to eat food in a way that allows you to embrace your whole self - not just one belief that might not even be your own ...