Tonight I listened to Nutrition Matters #116 - Letting Go of the Shoulds with Food. It’s a really good one with lots of practical advice. Here are my notes from the episode.
“You shouldn’t have shoulds” is just another rule. Maybe a few guidelines are helpful. The idea is to start letting go of the shoulds that hurt you.
Paige’s guest, Jenn, never thought dieting was the cause of all the problems. Dieting is what she was always trying to get back to after a binge, but the more rules she made and the harder she tried to control her eating, the worse the binging behavior became.
Saying your “should” out loud can help deflate it. Your carb phobia sounds really logical in your own head, but spoken, it’s like, really? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Where are you following a rule that isn’t serving you?
“But I like rules. Rules are my friend.” That isn’t always disordered. It’s some people’s personality. The way to know if a rule (guideline, should) is serving you is to notice how it feels. If you say, “I can’t eat carbs” and your whole body tenses up, that one maybe needs some adjusting. If it feels like a way to take care of yourself, that’s better, but you still have to be honest about your intentions. In the heat of a disorder, we can tell ourselves that running 10 miles every morning and living on kale feels wonderful and is totally healthy.
Let go of the rule that feels the most constricting. If you only eat salads in restaurants, get the salad but get half a sandwich to go with it. Take baby steps out of your comfort zone.
This applies regardless of body size. Sometimes people feel like they aren’t allowed to break certain rules or order certain foods if their body is bigger than they want.
Language is important. Tell yourself, “If I eat a balanced meal I’ll feel good and won’t binge later.”
Rules evolve. Your first steps toward freedom may seem insanely restrictive later. Oh, boy, was that true for me! I look at some of my earliest posts on this site from eight years ago and am gobsmacked by how deep in diet culture I still was.
We make rules because we want to feel safe and in control. Diets are ALL shoulds. People embrace rules because it’s all they’ve known.
“You shouldn’t think about shoulds!” LOL No, they come up. Don’t beat yourself up for still having them in your head.
1. Become aware of what shoulds are popping up. Say them out loud. 2. Ask how they make you feel. 3. Reframe the language. We don’t just stop saying or doing something. We replace it with a new action or another thought. 4. You can also notice should and let it go instead of trying to engage with it. Whichever feels better.
An indication that you’re following a should or a rule is where you feel rebellious. This really struck me. It’s how I’ve identified my deepest diet gunk. You know your eating/thinking is too rigid when you can’t wait for any reason to go off the rails and escape. The whole “cheat day” mentality really messed me up in this regard. It carried over into every weekend, vacation, or evening home alone. I couldn’t wait to eat whatever I wanted! Well, the cure for that is eating what you want all the time, owning your choices, giving yourself flexibility. Then you don’t gasp for food anytime you let your guard down.