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The Food Rules We Live By

Posted Apr 23 2012 8:48am

Good Morning Friends!

You know what I forgot to mention on Friday? A VERY important to date to a whole lot of people out there, especially several individuals on this campus, 4/20 aka National Smoke Weed Day! Well I’m not sure if that is the exact correct title, but it’s something along those lines. Basically the day where smoking marijuana alllll day, outside and in public places is perfectly acceptable.

Although I did not partake in the festivities myself, I was around several people that were celebrating the holiday on Friday. Right near my dorm there is a large piece of lawn that is at a sloped angle and named accordingly, “the Hill” a great place for people to gather outside and lay out, read, hang out with others, SMOKE, drink, play games and so on. There is a lovely view of campus from the Hill too and it’s a rather popular place, so you had better believe it was bumpin on 4/20!

On Friday I decided to get out of my own head and socialize and joined some lovely ladies from my staff to lay/hang out. It turned out to be a fantastic afternoon and it wasn’t until the very air I breathed in was smokey marijuana that I realized what the date actually was haha.

Anyway it was a rather delightful afternoon, followed by helping out a friend and several others, set up for a dance that would be happening for freshman students later that night. The whole afternoon I was around people, doing things other than constantly focusing on everything food-related, and let me tell you, it was a nice break. Yes by the end of the day I did crave some alone time for myself and that is just fine… I believe I am starting to find that balance between socializing with others and needing my space.

I even went out Saturday night!

But then- walking home happened.. in the rain.. in the pouring rain. Well it was an adventure at least haha

On Sunday I decided to venture on over to my dad and stepmom’s house for a day visit where I (obviously) cooked and baked my heart out. It was a rather perfect day for this as it was rainy as heck in these parts (and still is) and is supposed to continue like this for the next few days. We need the rain though, as we were experiencing a bit of a drought the last few weeks, so this weather is welcome!

Because I was around food, cooking and such all day on Sunday, it got me thinking about something- something that I have actually been wanting to write about for quite some time! I don’t know why I have waited so long to do so either… I guess it’s because I knew it would take me a bit to gather my thoughts around such a subject that has played a leading role in governing my life for these past several years.

Food Rules, and no, I am not talking about actual beneficial ones like from Michael Pollen.

The rules around food- the ones that govern what we “should” be eating vs. not, the times these foods are appropriate, the amounts, portions, the foods we “need,” the ones that should NEVER be consumed…. Food Rules.

In my opinion, women in this country (and some men too!) have some sort of disordered view towards food, eating and their bodies. I could be wrong here, but there is not one.single.person I know that doesn’t dedicate some kind of thought to what foods they are eating, when, if it will make them gain/lose, etc. You cannot live in our society and have a completely “normal” relationship with food and physical appearance… the information is too abundant to completely ignore.

You do not have to have a full-blown eating disorder to be effected by such obsessive topics within our culture, and that is something that is important to remember. Just because you may not meet the entire criteria for an “official” eating disorder, does not mean you are not suffering in some way… the extent of which only you can honestly gauge.

The idea of normal eating remains to be a foreign concept to me, but one I am continuously striving for, as I know this a key factor in recovering (whatever that means exactly) from the eating disorder that has nearly destroyed my life. However, there are countless obstacles in the way of achieving this more normalized view of food and eating, ones that I have managed to create in my own mind and for myself….

My personal “food rules” being a major one I have yet to overcome. These are rules I introduced into my life in the darkest and worst times of my disordered eating. While I have let many of these go, there is still a sense of longing I have for them, and some are much harder to break than others.

From Rules,

  • A principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.: the rules of chess.
  • The customary or normal circumstance, occurrence, manner, practice, quality, etc.

I think for this topic, the second definition fits nicely into what this is all about.

I believe that everyone has “food rules” to a certain extent- ones learned from our parents and friends on what methods of eating keep us the healthiest and also from gaining weight. But let’s not forget the ones that are drilled into our heads from magazines, the media, and TV for weight loss, maintaining and “thinness”. Ones like,

  • No eating after 7pm- causes weight gain in your sleep
  • Eat more in the morning and less at night
  • Protein at every meal
  • Cut back on carbohydrates (they are the devil after all)
  • Healthy fats only- 6 almonds ought to do it! Don’t even think about saturated or trans fat though!
  • Sugar is bad

Hahhaa this is great.

These are not “new” ideas, they are the same ones that are tirelessly seen in magazines on how to jump start your weight loss, lose the extra pounds and keep it off. Throughout the years, these rules have changed according to what the latest trend is, and the next set that comes out always claim to be the BEST, the most innovative, the ones that will surely work this time!

At this point in my life, I no longer read anything on the topic of “weight loss” as of course this is not my goal, as it once was. Therefore the food rules about the best and most effective methods for losing weight, are no longer actively sought out. Unfortunately, that does not mean I haven’t managed to cling onto some of my personal food rules that I genuinely fear completely letting go… although I have improved greatly.

Some of my FORMER Food Rules,

  • ONLY coffee, an apple and carrot sticks before lunch around 1:00. The largest apple must be chosen because calories from apples won’t make me gain weight like calories from other foods will.
  • If I do choose to have something than an apple for “breakfast” it has to be other kinds of fruit, again safe calories.
  • TWO meals must be primarily vegetables- aka salads for two meals is pretty much necessary. These are safer calories and won’t allow for too much weight gain. (No wonder I was constantly gassy and in serious pain after every meal)
  • Keep carbohydrate consumption to a minimum, especially when I exercise as this will be the most effective way to lose weight- aka waste away my body to a gross nothing

  • No eating after exercising, even an intense amount, the fat will be utilized for recovery, no need to eat
  • No foods can be consumed with a calorie count of 150 or more per serving
  • Water-dense fruit and vegetables are fine, but ones like bananas are just not allowed, too many carbs and calories
  • Dinner cannot be eaten before 7:15 pm, what if I get hungry right before I go to sleep?!
  • No fats allowed, not even healthy ones.
  • Can’t have certain foods more than one time per day- especially dairy, protein and carb products.

“Safe calories” make a regular entrance here it seems…

I could go on but I think you get it, I was a disordered head case. I clung to these rules like there was no tomorrow… these were the thoughts I lived by and they HAD to followed to a T, otherwise I would gain weight, get fat and become even more unhappy and miserable than I already was. Breaking one of the rules would be destructive to my existence, I felt like a failure whenever it happened, my anxiety would be through the roof, and that the world was in fact coming apart by letting any of these go.

Gosh I am just so thankful I am not living as I once did. I reflect on how I felt during this dark time, and just wow, I was such an emotional headcase! Besides depressed, I was incredibly angry and frustrated at everyone and everything… especially when anything got in the way of my food rules, my routine, and schedule. How DARE someone try and intervene and mess me up? Don’t they know what awful, terrible things are going to happen?!

As I said before, I have made vast improvements from the worst times of my life thus far. I was able to let several of these food (and really LIFE) rules, by challenging them, breaking them at my own effort and seeing that DOOM did not quickly follow. Additionally I asked myself a key question, “so I have these rules and they MUST be followed. But how well are they really working for me? Yes I am losing weight, but at what cost?” My personality, my physical health and my sanity, that’s what.

Yes the improvements have been made, but unfortunately I do still cling to food rules. They provide me with some kind of security, of control because I know the ideas and values are in place that allow me to have some kind of direction and plan with how I am eating and what this food will do to my body.

Again, I am no longer trying to lose weight, but that sure as heck doesn’t mean that the fear of gaining too much or “getting fat” is still a destructive thought of mine. If I was completely able to trust my body- reaching it’s happy weight which would theoretically allow me to have my period back- I would not be dwelling on the foods I was eating, as I would be trusting myself to normalize everything in the end.

Clearly I am NOT at that point, as I monitor my food intake like a hawk. I just can’t help it, I am still unwilling to let all of this go… I am just so scared to see what will happen if somehow no longer think about food, weight, exercising, calories, nutrients, etc… to the extent that I do now. Perhaps I will actually be (gasp) HAPPIER, more care-free, and loving myself if I try and turn these food rules off?! NOPE, because I only consider the ‘bad’ results that could come- uncontrollable weight gain for example.

At this point, I don’t have a former written out list of the rules I follow, but I can think of a few key ideas that immediately come to mind:

  • No more than 400 calories before 12 pm
  • An apple must be eaten at least once per day, otherwise… just bad
  • The calories from at least one meal MUST mostly come from vegetables- these are much safer
  • I cannot go a day without vegetables making a regular appearance, otherwise my body will quickly fall apart
  • no more than 2 tablespoons of nut butter in one sitting
  • Fruit must make a regular appearance throughout the day, these are safer calories
  • Can’t have sweets every day, I will become too addicted to this habit
  • Keep carbohydrate consumption to a certain amount and also keep this macro-nutrient coming from several different sources
  • Get protein in my body ASAP after a workout or my fitness will all go to sh*t
  • I must follow a clean diet at least 98% of the time- I know the 80/20 rule is the more accepted one but I am the EXCEPTION this rule and gain weight must faster and easier than everyone else

Once again I am sure I could think of more, but I will spare you.

What I have told you are my personal food rules, but they have actually come from SOMEWHERE… mostly the media and our society establishing what is “right” and “wrong.” These food rules don’t always have to be about losing weight, although this was the initial reason that I adopted so many into my life.

If you think about it, food rules are popping up everywhere and not just in weight loss related magazines… I am looking at you blog world and Pinterest! They are all claiming to be the best for you, the ones that will fight disease, make you a lean, mean fighting machine, the rules that you MUST follow to have optimal health, otherwise you will die a slow, painful and unfortunate death. Perhaps a bit extreme, but you get my point.

I see this all of the time throughout the “Healthy Living” blog world… all of which have their won set of rules that some claim MUST be followed:

  • Paleo Diet, this is the best thing for you!
  • Only organic!
  • Go gluten-free, you don’t need it anyway!
  • Veganism, don’t eat animal products ever!
  • Eat CLEAN and only CLEAN!
  • Cow’s milk is just terrible for you, go with almond, soy!
  • You use white flour? Ha, that’s so yesterday- buckwheat, almond, coconut, chickpea flours (and more) are the only good ones

Now before getting angry with me on this, I completely understand that some people really do have genuine gluten-intolerances, Celiac’s, and so on- they actually do NEED to steer clear of gluten. For those that choose to go Vegan, that is there personal choice for whatever reasoning they use and that is of course fine too. Paleo diet works for you and you feel better than ever? Awesome, I however would rather stab myself than completely give up carbs and grains (even with the fears I still have).

There are so many other diets and trends out there that claim to be the BEST, but let’s be honest here, no ONE way of eating works for every.single.person. If that was the case, our society would be a whole lot healthier and happier. Of course the ideal solution is to eat the foods that are actually nutritionally good for you, prolong life and all of that good stuff, and then enjoy items that are purely for taste and pleasure, all in moderation, but no more thought and attention is needed than that.

But that is simply NEVER going to happen. Our culture’s focus on food, the latest diet trends, the “best” ways to eat, weight, exercising, is way too intense and popular to ever lessen in intensity, let alone completely disappear. I am not saying I am above any of this at all… in fact my whole life is about FOOD, much thanks going to the eating disorder on that one. I love to think about eating, planning meals, cooking, baking, preparing, tasting, seeing the pleasure on other people’s faces when something turns out successfully…

And yet I hate food because of the way it torments me, and takes charge of my life, make decisions for me… I hate how I fear it, yet can’t stop obsessing, it RULES me and so much of my life is based on the simple act of consuming food. But of course it is not so simple, everything food related is just the surface of disordered eating, the physical image, habits, rituals and acts that are just symptoms of whatever else is going on... the tips of the iceberg if you will. I mean it’s called an EATING disorder for a reason.

I feel like I am all over the place in this post… but I suppose the overall point I am attempting to articulate is that there is always going to be an endless supply of claims and trends for the “best” diets, eating habits being released, and there is just no stopping it. But choosing how you approach and handle this information is important. Furthermore, several of us have deeply ingrained lessons about food from out childhood that are quite hard to break, plus the ones we have picked up throughout the course of our lifetimes.

Of course not all of these Food Rules are bad. The ones that are there to help your physical and mental well-being can actually be helpful. The problem comes in when these food rules are so regularly accepted, internalized, are supposed to work for everyone, and if you just follow the rules well then everything will be A-OKAY! Yet I know personally that trying to follow these rules which claim to make me happy and awesome, have actually made me miserable, anxious and physically sick at points in my life.

So I ask the question again, “how well are these food rules working for me? Am I physically healthy? No, no period. Am I happy with myself and with my life? No. Am I no longer obsessing about food? Hell no.” Hmm there’s something not quite right going on here!

Like so many aspects this eating disorder, the food rules have got to go. They have clearly done NOTHING beneficial for me and have only heightened my focus on food and making sure none of these rules are ever broken. Times when they are, well the anxiety is often difficult to handle, the fear of not knowing how my body will react to what has “broken” is a emotion I am quite frankly tired of experiencing.

I know there will always be influences from society, our culture, items and blogs I read on the Internet on a daily basis, but what is essential is finding what works the best for me and my body. Rules, tips, claims, what I “should” do aside, what kind of diet works for me? What can I do to establish the normalcy of eating into my daily life? How can I make the obsessions stop?

Right now I do not have definite answers to these questions, as I feel I never do, but finding what works for Me, myself and I, is something that must be done. Otherwise the focus will continue, the fears, anxiety, sadness, will never leave me. Plus I will never be able to experience something new and different with food without inevitable horrific emotions, if I don’t cut the crap with these Food Rules. This is not life to me, and I deserve an existence free of all of this, as everyone does too.

-Have you ever succumbed to rules and restrictions with food? If so, what are some of them?

-Where have your food rules come from? Parents? Society? Media? ….Blogs?

-Have these rules changed throughout your lifetime? Intensified or perhaps have lessened? Have you noticed changes in your emotions and attitudes when either of these shifts occurred?

-What are the craziest food rules you have ever followed (if any!)?

-Do you know that has what you consider to be a “normal” approach and habits when it comes to food and their bodies?

-Have/did you celrate 4/20?! Hehe. How was your weekend?

I know this was another lengthy one… especially for a Monday. So if you read the whole thing great and if not, understandable :) Have a nice rest of your day!

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