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.