As cliche as it feels to write a post about “breaking the rules,” I felt it was overdue, since a huge part of my #moderation365 journey to liberated eating actually began when I harnessed the ladyballs required to question some of my old beliefs around food.
And for those who want to break the all-or-nothing mentality, it requires you start learning a new language around food and break the need to be perfectly on plan or else.
Ten years ago, when I was competing (and losing and gaining the same 20 lbs year after year!), if you’d asked me how to eat for fat loss, I’d list two dozen “must-dos,” rigid rules that if you just did them all perfectly 100% of the time, you’d be able to get up on stage in a swimsuit and heels:
- Eat every 3 hours or else your metabolism will slow down
- Drink a gallon of water a day or else your metabolism will slow down
- Fasted cardio first thing in the morning for enhanced fat burning
- At least 25g of protein at every meal or else you are losing muscle
- Don’t skip breakfast or else you’ll be ravenous later
- No big carb meals before bed or else you’ll store fat like a mofo
- Each workout needs to be for a specific body part or else we won’t know how to categorize the workout
- Watch sodium or else you’ll get bloated and puffy
- Eat immediately post-workout or else you are losing muscle by the minute
These are some examples of the kinds of “guidelines” that we’d have our competitors following. Rules, rules, and more RULES.
I hate it (now), and I feel like we did ourselves and our clients a disservice early on. Because the nature of rules is that we feel “bad” or “wrong” when we break them. It perpetuates a feeling of not-good-enough and that if we don’t do things perfectly, then we might not even try. Not to mention the fear factor. It sucks going through your day worried you are messing up every second. It’s no way to live.
But here’s the thing: you can get great results by creating rules of your own, based on your own preferences, mindfulness practice, listening to your body’s cues and finding a way to actually #LikeHowYouEat.
Will you be able to get up on stage in a swimsuit at 10% body fat? Probably not, but that’s not the goal of automated eating. The goal is to be healthy, fit and not obsessively miserable with your eating and exercise.
And in order to do that, you have to start breaking some rules. In fact, just stop collecting rules altogether. Stop that shit.
I distinctly remember when I started breaking my old nutrition rules, and at first feeling disoriented, like, Is this okay?
And the more I did it, the more I saw that my body didn’t actually change that much. I didn’t gain 50 lbs, I wasn’t losing muscle by the second and I didn’t get bloated AF if I didn’t carry around my gallon water jug.
The key here is having the experience. Because not all nutrition decisions carry the same weight in terms of outcomes.
A simple example:
Scenario #1: You force yourself to eat 150 grams of protein every day because you worry you’ll lose muscle if you don’t, or you’ll gain fat because you’ll be ravenous later. You mentally calculate your protein grams all day long to make sure you get enough, obsessively stressing and scheduling and counting in your mind. You get 150 grams, good job, now go to bed and wake up tomorrow worrying about the same thing all over again.
Scenario #2: You eat moderately and stay mindful of hunger and satiety cues throughout the day. You eat foods your body feels good on, and you Intermittent Sample some Preemptive Cheats, going to be bed satisfied and enjoying how you ate. Without thinking about it, you took in about 100g of protein.
The macro difference: 50g protein
The actual difference in your physique: practically nothing
The difference in mental obsession: night and day
This was the first “rule” I broke. I stopped mentally calculating protein grams and instead just started asking, does this have any protein in it? That’s it. I didn’t care if it had 10g or 50g. If it had some, and it was going to satisfy (but not stuff!) me, I ate it.
The physique change outcome was minimal, if any. I still carry tons of muscle. Sure, I’m not as lean as I was when I was competing, but that was a full-time job and so I picked my battle.
Automated eating, to me, beats trying to perfectly follow rules and plans. And the latter is not even possible long-term!
Try to perfectly implement 20 rules and you’ll be successful at exactly zero of them.
But learn to eat according to your personal preferences, unique psychology and having an understanding of your own body, and watch as things feel effortless. And the change in outcomes is minimal.
Pick and choose your nutrition battles. Implement some nonnegotiables. I call these my 3 DNCs or Daily Nutritional Commitments. If I don’t do anything else, I make sure to get these in because they help me stay on track, and as for the rest? I do my best.
The most successful people don’t follow rules, they create their own.
Check out 9 other ways to quit your food obsession here.
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