To Stop Overeating, You Need To Break These Rules 

 May 4, 2020

By  jennifer@thinkingnutrition.co.nz

It’s time to rethink the rules in your life if you want to stop overeating.  Because it turns out those rules are often CAUSING your overeating. So are you ready?

For the longest time I had a pile of food rules that I lived by:

  • I can have a mallowpuff (chocolate delicious-ness!) if I exercise today
  • I can eat chocolate, but only in the evening not during the day
  • Don’t eat even one potato chip, you can’t control yourself around them
  • Don’t use mayonnaise, it’s full of ‘bad’ fats
  • Only use lite vinaigrette type of salad dressings
  • In fact, ask for your salad dressing on the side so you don’t use too much
  • Don’t eat super-sweet baking more than once in a week
  • Don’t eat anything after dinner

You can see how life got confusing, right? One minute I was allowed to eat chocolate after dinner, next minute I was brushing my teeth early to stop myself eating anything after dinner. Next, next, minute I was going to bed early so I didn’t have to deal with my hungry rumbling tummy. Worried about how to stop overeating.

Anyway, all of this is to say – yep, I’ve done the rules. And I didn’t call it a diet. It was just my way of “eating healthy” (or so I figured).

Food Rules Are Harmful To Our Relationship With Food & Our Body

I finally realised (after I discovered intuitive eating), that all those food rules I’d created were actually harmful.

I thought I was eating healthy. But really I’d created an awful diet for myself.

Truth is, any time you create rules that tell you HOW and WHEN and WHAT to eat, you’re on a diet.

You might think those rules are helping you eat healthier.

But ‘healthy eating’ is about more than eating ‘healthy food’, it’s also about having a ‘healthy relationship with food.’

So think about your unwritten food rules from this perspective:

  • Do you struggle to stick to the rules?
  • Do you feel guilty about breaking the rules?
  • Do you listen to rules at the expense of listening to your body (hunger, fullness and so on)?
  • Do you follow rules at the expense of eating food that truly satisfies your taste buds?
  • Do you find those rules are hurting your social life?

If you’re answering YES to one or more of those questions then your food rules are likely doing more harm than good.

Which is why I now wholeheartedly agree with the saying, “rules are made to be broken.”

Food Rules Are Made To Be Broken

I can’t remember the first time I heard the saying, “Rules are made to be broken.” It’s one of those sayings that never really made sense to me.

Until now.

I think what this saying is implying, is that we should think for ourselves and not obey every rule blindly.

So just because you read in the healthy eating magazine that “vinaigrette dressings are lower in energy/calories than mayonnaise, so you should choose vinaigrettes,” doesn’t mean you should “NEVER eat mayonnaise again.”

Other rules/beliefs you can ditch include:

I can only have a muffin if I exercised for XX minutes.

I only have chocolate on the days I’ve been to the gym.

I can only have a dessert if I haven’t eaten anything else sweet that day.

I should never eat white bread.

Butter is the devil incarnate and should be avoided at all costs.

Any time you make a black and white rule, a pass and fail rule, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Some days you’re not going to follow the rule. Because that’s life.

Then that feeling of failure leads to shame and guilt – “I should have done better…” “how hard is it to say no to icecream…” “I’m so hopeless….”

Truth is, there’s nothing wrong with you. But everything is wrong with setting black and white rules about eating, or creating conditions that you must meet in order to eat certain foods.

You’re basically forcing yourself to be perfect. Never make a mistake. Always stick to the rules.

But no-one is perfect. Ever. (‘cept Jesus, and that’s another whole story for another day).

And you sure as heck shouldn’t be expecting yourself to be perfect. You’re dooming yourself to failure (and potentially a tear-soaked cookie-fest, amiright?!).

Frame Your Goals and Habits with “For The Most Part” Thinking

It’s really common to get stuck in this perfectionist type of thinking.

When you scroll through social media you see people posting photos about all their fab ‘healthy food’ choices and the gym workouts they’re doing.

They never post the photos of the big pastry-laden pie they ate, or the day they spent sitting on the couch munching corn chips in front of netflix, right?

No-one eats perfectly ‘healthy’ food all day every day. And you don’t need to be perfect either.

Take your goals and shift the “black and white approach” to a “for the most part” approach instead. 

For example:

Instead of: I’m going to go for a run every day next week.

Try this: For the most part I’m going to exercise every day, as long as it feels good and I’m not over-tired.

Instead of: I will always honour my fullness signals and stop eating.

Try this: I will try to notice my fullness signals regularly; and then honour them by stopping eating when full for the most part.

(Because let’s face it, some days you’re going to eat past full when a meal tastes super-delicious, and it really doesn’t matter if you do that sometimes).

Not… I’m only ever going to eat organic.

Not… I’m going to get up at six every morning to exercise.

Not… I’m going to give up chocolate for good.

What Food Rules & Food Conditions Should You Say Goodbye To Now?

Can you instead create an intention using “for the most part” thinking?

Give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much healthier your relationship with food will become when you’re not guilt-tripping yourself every day.

And there’s a good chance you will stop overeating so often. Because you won’t have that cycle of failure, guilt and shame hammering down on you. Or a set of restrictive rules that make you feel like breaking out of diet-prison and over-eating.

Happy eating,
Jennifer xo.



Hey, I’m Jennifer. I help women transform their relationship with food, their body and weight, so they can ditch the guilt and shame, and focus on more important stuff - like living a happy and healthy life!

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