Ditching Those Last Diet Rules


Earlier this month, my friend Kara shared a really beautiful post about Intuitive Eating and how it changed her life. Go read it. It's really open and honest and vulnerable, all the things I appreciate in this messy and imperfect world.

Towards the end, she shared a few ways she realized she had still been following food/diet rules. Nothing nutty or super restrictive, but dietitian-y food rules - healthy guidelines that somehow got a little too rigid.

I connected with some of the things she said, and it made me realize that despite the fact that I consider myself a pretty intuitive eater, there were still ways that I was subconsciously restricting - vestigial diet rules from my disordered-y eating days. Since my transition to intuitive eating was pretty slow and not necessarily intentional (I didn't connect with having an unhealthy relationship with food until much later on), I realize there were some food rules that slipped through unchallenged.

Getting a wee too rigid with meal planning. I like to meal plan. I love trying new recipes and can't stand eating the same foods again and again, so meal planning helps me keep things interesting. I've found it essential for keeping organized in the kitchen, and planning forces me not to spend all my money on dumb things (hello two different types of pancake mix, lifetime supply of millet that was on sale, and three bags of raisins because I keep forgetting I already have some at home 🙋). Plus, it's a good excuse to spend Sunday morning relaxing on the couch with a good cookbook to explore.

That said, looking back I realize meal planning got a little too rigid for me, and only recently have I started consciously challenging it. Back in the day, if I was really craving Thai or dinner plans with friends popped up, but I already had planned to make something with avocados that were about to go bad, I'd stay in and eat whatever I planned to make rather than just repurposing the avocados for breakfast. Or, if I made a pasta dish that was supposed to serve four, I'd catch myself eating to a point where I felt uncomfortably full, or not eating quite enough, just to make sure I had leftovers for lunch the next day. Basically, sticking to my plan had become a barrier to listening to my body.


Even though I still plan, I consciously take a much more flexible attitude. Sometimes that means throwing away extra spaghetti squash or a cucumber that went bad before I used it, but I compost so I don't feel so bad. Or if I want a second helping, I might turn leftovers into a snack and use it as an excuse to go out to lunch.

(P.S. As I was writing this, my dad called, trying to plan what to eat for dinner Friday night when we're in town. It's Tuesday. Apparently this planning thing is genetic 😂)

Planning "splurges" in advance. Early on in my dietetics career, when my relationship with food was a little disordered-y, I would plan my food "splurges" each week. If I was going out to a nice restaurant where I knew I'd get fancy dessert, I would (try to) not eat "real" sweets during the week. As a food lover, it seemed like a totally rational and sensible way to make all foods fit.

Certainly, it doesn't conflict with intuitive eating to use your noggin' to make smart choices in line with supporting health. If I know the hubs and I are going out for ice cream at night, I'm probably not going to stop at my favorite yummy bakery on the way to work and pick up one of their gooey, delicious cinnamon rolls for breakfast, because hello tummy ache. But that's not coming from a place of deprivation, just consciousness and caring about how I feel. The problem comes when guilt, shame, shoulds and restriction come into the picture - for me, it was. I felt like a failure for simply being spontaneous and living life.

Even today, while I most certainly do not plan splurge foods in advance (or label foods as splurges for that matter), I do sometimes catch my brain going there if I'm not paying attention. Like this weekend, the hubs and I went out with friends to an afternoon biergarten pop up followed by dinner. I was pretty hungry before dinner and really wanted to split a buffalo chicken pizza , but a voice inside my head said, "No Rachael. You're about to go out and get Mexican food with lots of cheese for dinner, so you probably should get the hummus with veggies and pita." Obviously, I told that voice to shut it, but it just shows how long those voices can linger!


Being a tad obsessive about whole grains. I love the taste of whole grains, and I do think it's smart to eat more whole grains than not. But back when I was more restrictive with the way I ate, I was really anti-refined grain, so basically everything in my house was 100% whole grain and I only ate white flour/rice/pasta when I was going out to eat. Somewhere along the way, I loosened up, but I still purchased almost exclusively whole grains. It was more out of habit rather than restriction, but I really wasn't paying attention to what I thought tasted best. It hit me when I was buying sushi from Whole Foods a few weeks ago. They didn't have the spicy salmon I wanted in brown rice, so I started to compromise and get a brown rice California roll. But then I thought - why?? I eat plenty of whole grains and a overall balanced diet. So why should I deprive myself the spicy salmon roll I want just because it had a few grams less fiber?


Since then, I've been a lot more conscious about asking myself what I like. Although I love whole grain pasta, I prefer white flour pasta with certain sauces. Ezekiel's sprouted grain bread is my jam, but some sandwiches just call for ciabatta! Brown rice, you forever have my heart...with the one exception of sushi.

If you're new to intuitive eating, the idea of purposely breaking healthy habits may seem kinda...wrong, but it's really important that decisions on what to eat come from a place of honoring your body and soul's needs, not fulfilling a list of shoulds. To get back in touch with your intuition, you've got to break down the rules that are blocking you from it.

Are you unconsciously restricting or following food rules?

More Intuitive Eating inspiration: 

Never Start All Over Monday Ever Again

Never Start All Over Monday Ever Again

How long does it take to become an intuitive eater?

How long does it take to become an intuitive eater?

What my dog taught me about intuitive eating

What my dog taught me about intuitive eating