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How to let go of rigid food rules.


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1. Change your language around food. Do you find yourself using moralising words or phrases such as ‘bad’ food, ‘cheat’ meals, or ‘not allowed’? Bring in some flexibility and choice by using the word ‘could’ instead of ‘should’. Swap out ‘cheat’ for ‘treat’ and remind yourself that food choices are exactly that – a choice you make, not a doctrine you must obediently follow. Simply noticing this tendency to judge or moralise certain foods is the first step to changing that habit.

2. Remember the bigger picture

If you choose to eat a particular way because of certain beliefs or values, there isn’t anything wrong with that unless that way of eating begins causing you stress or anxiety. Valued living means making choices in line with your values but accepting that life happens sometimes and we all veer off course. Values are a direction, not a final destination. If you notice you’re becoming anxious or excessively pre-occupied with food or that it’s limiting your ability to enjoy life, try to step back from the rigid rules and keep the bigger picture of your values in mind.

3. Practise mindfulness.

If you’ve struggled with food or weight in the past, rigid food rules can feel comforting because you no longer trust yourself to make reasonable choices. The problem is that relying on food rules continues to place the onus on something or someone outside of you to decide what or when you should eat, rather than you tuning in and listening to the signals of your body. Mindful eating is about connecting to your experience in the present moment; that is, what’s happening within you as well as the sight, smell, taste and texture of food. Being aware of your body’s signals helps you to recognise when you’re hungry or full whereas having your choices dictated by food rules overrides those natural inclinations. And if this is something you feel you can’t manage alone, there is no shame in asking for help from a professional. You can obtain a referral to a psychologist from your GP or you might want to check out an organisation that specialises in eating or body image issues such as the Butterfly Foundation. ]]>

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