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You can barely exist in today’s 24/7 information overload without hearing rules about eating. By 9:00 this morning, I heard references to food rules in these places:

  • Facebook posts and adsyes-no stoplights
  • Local newspaper (yes, they still exist)
  • Local morning news program
  • National morning news program
  • Morning radio DJs

If you’re not sure what food rules can look like, here are some examples:

  • Don’t Eat after 6:00 pm!
  • Keep Tempting Food Out of Your House!
  • Eat Every 2 Hours!
  • Eat This, Not That!
  • 5 Foods You Should NEVER Eat!

All those breathy exclamation points might make you feel lightheaded and woozy. Kind of like detoxing crash-dieting.

Despite all the exclamation points trying to get you to buy the latest weight loss plan, diet food, or weight loss supplement, food rules often have a good intention underlying them. Usually, they are meant to help you not overeat, lose weight, and have better health.

The problem is, they don’t really work. They keep you in a mindset where you are actually more likely to overeat (even binge) and obsess about food. In the long run, you are more likely to gain weight – and be miserable. It’s the total opposite of what you want!

It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but our minds are complex things. For one thing, we don’t process negative language very well.

Diet Advice on SmartphoneSo when you tell yourself, “Don’t think about the donuts in the break room,” you really hear, “Think about the donuts in the break room.” And you’ll think about the donuts. You’ll think about the donuts A LOT.

Adhering to (well-meaning) food rules prevents you from tuning in to your body’s needs and cues. If you are focused on things like how many grams of carbohydrates or fat you can have; how many calories you can have; or how many points you can have, it keeps you focused externally. It’s letting someone or something else override your body’s signals.

If you have been on lots of weight loss plans, rules about eating are probably appealing. It seems really simple and straightforward to have directions about what and how much to eat. But your body has even better mechanisms to tell you what and how much to eat. It’s just that you have probably forgotten how to listen.

One of the first steps to be free from rules about eating is to be able to identify them. I would love to hear from you in the comments. What are some food rules you have (or have had in the past)?

Image credits:
“Yes and No Buttons” courtesy of digital art at
“Diet Advice on Smartphone Showing Healthy Diets” courtesy of Stuart Miles at