Food Rules vs Food Values

Do you have food rules? Do you even know what I mean by ‘food rules’?

Simply put a food rule is any decision about food that is based on what you think is ‘good’ or ‘right’, not on what feels good for you and what your body is needing. Some examples are:

  • Not eating before / after a certain time of day (yep, that includes intermittent fasting).
  • Cutting out food groups because you think they are bad for you or will make you ‘fat’ (unfortunately carbohydrates tend to get the bad rep here).

Why You Might Have Food Rules

If you have problems with food, or it has been a struggle for you, then food rules can make you feel safe. Temporarily. Just like diets food rules can become difficult and hard to manage in your daily life.

The Effect of Food Rules

Following strict rules about eating can be very stress-inducing, rigid and burdensome. In more serious cases they can affect your quality of life. Let’s look at an example; ‘I can’t eat after 7pm`. This doesn’t allow for lovely long summer evenings or dinner with friends, let alone actually feeling hungry after 7pm. Having a rule makes life difficult and food becomes a battle.

What’s more, when we have food rules we often don’t learn to listen intuitively to our body. This can leave us feeling dissatisfied and increase our cravings for the foods we have ‘ruled’ out. In turn this can lead to binging as well as feelings of guilt and shame when we break the food rules (which we all know isn’t a key to success).

Food Values

Food values on the other hand reflect our core values, how we want to live, and how we want to feel. They don’t however rule our life. When we achieve them we feel better about ourselves. We don’t present the opportunity to feel guilty.

A personal example is that I like to eat as many colours as possible to increase the range of nutrients I get from food. This aligns with my value of wanting to eat as many vitamins, minerals and nutrients as possible to nourish my body. However, it is not a food rule, not every meal I have is rainbow coloured and I certainly don’t feel bad if I have a ‘beige’ meal.

What matters is the why behind the decision – are you doing it because it feels good to you or because you feel you ‘should’. By shifting our perspective of food to focus more on food values rather that food rules, we can positively change our relationship to food.

Where do you think you might be creating food rules for yourself? Is this something you struggle with? As always, if you’re having problems and need someone to talk to please feel free to drop me a line.

Love Emma x

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