Choose the fitness and nutrition rules that work for you.
Restriction and strict rules around eating can provide structure and simplify eating.
They can also lead to feelings of deprivation, rebellion, and guilt or shame if those rules are broken.
If you have disordered eating, too many rules and restrictions can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, calories, and your body. But zero rules may lead to too much ambiguity about what to do for your goals.
So what should you do? Is it in your best interest to have rules or not?
As always, context matters.
Every individual has different preferences, triggers, experiences, challenges, and circumstances. Which means different approaches.
To help figure out what rules may work for you try this.
Idea #1: Instead of fitness and nutrution rules, try setting up targets.
Targets are like rules but they allow for some flexibility based on your skill level, experiences, and circumstances.
They also give you permission to miss and make adjustments.
For example, maybe one of your targets is to have protein and veggies with each meal. That would be your bullseye.
Let’s say you are only able to get protein and veggies in with 2 out of 3 meals today. Not the bullseye but also not very far off.
Now you can evaluate for next time and see if there are any adjustments you could make that would help.
The more you practice, the better you become, and the closer to the bullseye you’ll start to get.
Idea #2: If it’s all or nothing, it will probably lead to nothing.
Years ago when I started my health and fitness journey I set ridiculously stringent rules for myself.
🙋Raise your hand if you can relate to any of these.
- I’m quitting sugar
- I’m never drinking alcohol again
- I’m going Paleo and eliminating dairy, grains, and all fun from my life
- I’m 100% eating clean (WETF that means)
Inevitably I would fail, feel shameful that I didn’t have enough willpower or discipline, and repeat the process all over again.
Instead, try the “if-then strategy.”
For example, If I have an alcoholic drink, I will then have a big ass glass of water after. Or, If I want to eat a cookie, then I will sit down and eat it slowly.
Idea #3: Celebrate your bright spots. Honor your struggles.
This is a super simple practice you can do daily, weekly, monthly, or whatever works for your schedule. Take 5 to 10 minutes and run through the following questions.
The bright spot: What am I currently doing well and how can I do more of that? Celebrate that shit.
The struggle: What is not going as well as I would like and how can I improve that thing by 1%? Everybody struggles, this is totally normal.
I love this practice for so many reasons but mostly because you can apply it to all areas of your life.
What’s going well in my relationship, work, etc…? How can I do more of that?
What’s not going as well in my relationship, work, etc…? How can I improve that thing by 1%.
It’s amazing what happens when you slow down a little bit.
A few “rules” that have worked well for me over the years
Please keep in mind that these are my “rules.” Actually, I like to think of them more as guidelines. Rules make me freak out.
Justin’s Guidelines of Awesome: Otherwise known as JGA.
- Eat a piece of fruit most days
- Try to eat protein and veggies with each meal
- Aim to drink a glass of water with each meal
- If I drink alcohol, have a glass of water after. Don’t drink alcohol back-to-back nights.
- If I feel the need to snack, check in to see if it’s physical hunger or something else (angry, lonely, tired, bored, stressed, just because food is there, etc…).
- If I eat or drink off-plan, cool. But never two in a row.
I encourage you to brainstorm a few that may work for you. Ones that would allow you to move closer to your goals but also provide you with enough flexibility so you don’t feel all…