Last Sunday May 8th, 2018, was International No Diet Day(and Marci Evans birthday How friggen perfect is that!!). This is a day where we encourage others to let go of dieting and just live. I have always loved the idea of this day but often wonder how to get the message out the other 364 days of the year. So instead of writing a post on that particular day I waited until today- only 2 days later- to try to keep the conversation going.
What if we let go of the rules around eating and just ate with curiosity. It is amazing how many rules a person can have around eating-without even thinking about what the rules are. Eating rules can be introduced at a very early age. Did you ever have to finish all your dinner before you got dessert? Or were you told at school that your morning snack had to be the "healthy choice". Even something as innocuous as cereal and toast are breakfast foods only. The internalization of these food rules only grows when entering the school system. My experience with my own children in school (presently grade 1 and grade 4) is that foods are taught to be "good" or "bad". That they should be choosing "healthy choices" instead of "junk foods" They are being taught a language around food and eating that is very moralistic and can create some very strong food rules going further. These rules continue to solidify as kids are exposed to more and more adults living in diet culture that are outside their own families. Rules are reinforced at family gatherings when Aunt such-and-such says "I am so bad for eating this cake" or cousin says " I am not eating that burger because it is summer and I have to wear a bathing suit". These statements can further create rules that get internalized as "but I like burgers, maybe my body isn't good enough for a swimsuit". Or even "cake is bad therefore I am bad when eating it". And before too long these kids are teens or young adults with a complex web of food rules that dictate what they eat and how much.
So if we take all those rules then add all the rules about dieting...and really what is a person supposed to eat after all that? Each diet, wellness plan, lifestyle change all has rules. They are all about external forces saying when, what and how much you should be eating. Stand in line at the grocery store and read all the headlines on 3 different magazines- you get enough food rules from those to confuse you for at least a year. You might start drinking green juice, eliminate a food group, don't eat after 7pm but never eat before 6am and that's from just reading the headlines. And all the rules we learn leads us to the exact same spot. That you can not trust your body. You can not trust it when it tells you it wants to eat. That you can not trust it when it settles at a weight or size you don't want it to. All of these food rules tell you that you are wrong and they are right and if you follow them you will "live your best life". Or whatever saying is the diet industry tag line for now.
So what do we do without rules? Wouldn't there be anarchy? Wouldn't there be a worldwide shortage on white bread and candy if we just ate what we wanted?? Ummmmm...no. Trust me when I say I am the last person on earth that would do anything to put m&m's into a shortage. So instead of rules we could try curiosity. We could eat what we choose and then ask ourselves "do I actually like the taste of this food", "how do I feel after eating it" or even "did I enjoy this eating experience??". Food is joy. Food is pleasure. Food nourishes us and gets us through this crazy thing we call life.
Have you ever seen a baby eat? The way they play with their food? They mash it with their hands. They smell it. They put it in their mouths and let it sit there a bit before they either spit it out or scoop up more. They are curious. They are mindful. They are perhaps more what we should be like as adults than we actually are. Now before you close off this page thinking I am being silly by saying you should play with your food-think about this. You do not have to play with it by smooshing it on your face. Play with it in other ways. What if you added some spice to a dish. Or change up an ingredient. What if you try a totally different entree the next time you went to your favourite restaurant. What if you did all this without any rules. Or consequences. Because when we throw out the rules we also throw out the consequences. Eating the dessert without mentally calculating how long you need to workout the next day means you get to free up your brain to actually take in the tastes and textures of the cake.
Try being curious. Try being mindful. Try letting go of your food rules-even if you have had them for your whole life. Try something new. Try being free
Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically me