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Why I Don’t Eat Standing Up, And When Food Rules Are Helpful

Hello, Friend.

Today, I want to talk about rules and restrictions that we place on ourselves, and how those can be HELPFUL (rather than detrimental). Here’s ONE rule that I have for myself: I do not eat standing up. It’s an arbitrary rule. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating, while standing up. But It feels shitty to ME, in a sense of “what the hell am I doing wrong with my life that I can’t even set aside a few minutes to sit down and eat in peace?”. Also, it’s triggery, because it looks and feels like a binge. The whole “standing over the sink, eating Kraft dinner out of a cooking pan” thing. And so, I don’t eat standing up, AND I ask people around me to NOT eat standing up. That last part is often harder, because it can include communicating your boundary to OTHER people. I may offer the person eating a seat, and if THAT doesn’t work, I can say something along the lines of: “Would you mind sitting down when you eat? It just makes me a bit jittery, when people eat standing up”. And, of course, it goes without saying that we are talking about my own household here, not a stand-up cocktail party. :) Rules, guidelines, control and restriction come up a lot in my work. Like a LOT, a lot. Rigid “do’s” and “don’t” in health and wellness have fallen out of vogue recently. Sometimes, fellow coaches cringe, hearing that I have food RULES. There is a good reason to be cautious around rules and restrictions when it comes to food, movement and other health-promoting practices. Many folks (most? all?) already struggle with all-or-nothing thinking, and rigid structures - whether it’s a meal plan, a diet, or a training regime - can elicit feelings of deprivation. If we feel deprived or restricted, the result is often a bounce-back into the opposite → binging, in case of food, or complete inactivity, in case of movement. But, sometimes, I feel like we swing too far the other way. On the continuum between complete chaos and complete order, when complete order feels oppressive and triggering, complete chaos is rarely the answer. Rules ARE still ok. Rules can be quite helpful for folks. I often suggest coming up with arbitrary rules that help you move in a desired direction. I also have a rule around skipping workouts: “I can skip a workout whenever I want, but never TWO workouts in a row.” A rule of “I don’t eat in the car” can be very helpful for someone, struggling with drive throughs and mindless snacking while driving. Notice the qualifying questions here: → does sticking to this rule feel HELPFUL? Yes? Great. → does this rule make me want to rebel against it? No? Fantastic. One client says: ” This feeling that I can have SOME rules is a huge shift. Having a few food rules helps keep me successful.”

Restriction IS also ok.

I might want a second (or third) glass of red wine on a Tuesday night, but it’s a workday the next day, AND I really don’t feel like feeling like shit in the morning, so I restrict myself to one. That’s helpful. That kind of restriction ADDS to my quality of life. Some folks intentionally give up eating out for a period of time, because those situations are too challenging. It’s not a forever solution, but it can be helpful in the beginning.

Avoiding certain trigger foods entirely, while you are working on something else, is often the right way to go: Heck, I kept peanut butter out of my house for MONTHS – because I couldn’t eat it without eating the entire jar.

Having peanut butter around wasn’t helpful. So, I avoided it entirely. I’d buy it every few months, eat the whole jar in a day or two, conclude that it was too early and avoid it again for a few months. Then I’d try again.

Notice the qualifying questions here:

→ does this restriction result in an inevitable rebound? No? Great.

[Restricting myself to ONE glass of wine does NOT result in me drinking the entire bottle the next day.]

→ am I actively working to repair my relationship with whatever it is I am restricting? Food, alcohol, etc.

Eventually, I could buy peanut butter and eat it like a normal person. ← this hasn’t happened by magic, but through a whole lot of therapy / coaching. And that restriction was crucial at first.

What about you? What rules have been helpful to you in the past? What rules have been detrimental? How do YOU tell the difference?



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