RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN…or not made at all.
No carbs. Carbs only for breakfast. Don’t eat until after I workout. Don’t eat after 7pm. Don’t eat dairy. NEVER EAT BREAD. No cheat days. Fast for 16 hours. I can’t eat that unless I work out. I ate that so I have to workout. I must do cardio to lose weight and the more, the better. Weigh myself everyday to make sure my weight doesn’t get out of control. Do cardio everyday. NO SUGAR. No fruit because it’s sugar. Fat is bad, avoid fat. Do a cleanse to lose weight. Do a challenge to lose weight. Limit my calories to 1200 calories per day. Track everything I eat. I must hit my macros for the day. Only eat veggies and meat after a cheat day. Don’t go out with friends because you will inevitably eat bad food. No pasta. No sweets. Definitely no desserts. But wine is ok. I have to have wine. Don’t buy new clothes that fit until I lose weight. Don’t wear a bikini until I weigh “x” pounds. And remember, once I lose weight, my life will be infinitely better.
Does this sound absurd? Maybe. But does it sound like thoughts that have gone through your head? Possibly, if you’re reading my blog. These are just some rules I have heard and even some I have made up for myself. Rules. Why do we make rules? Rules are made to keep order. To keep control. To keep everyone on track. But when it comes to our bodies, rules are made because we don’t trust ourselves to make “good decisions.” We don’t trust that if we actually listen to our bodies, we won’t gain weight. We constrict our options so much that we squeeze the life out of us. Everything we do and eat becomes a calculated move, a track to stay on. We trust our rules more than we trust ourselves. We believe that if we follow our rules, we will get our ideal body. But does your body know that? Does your body really care? Your body wants to be healthy. Your body wants to be fed a balanced diet with a variety of foods and your body wants to move. You are shutting up your internal cues and strangling yourself with rules that you aren’t even sure will work for you anyway. And let’s be honest, in the long run, no rules work. Most everyone who loses weight by dieting will ultimately gain it back and those who don’t will stay on the cliff of misery, hanging on with white knuckles, but at least they are thinner.
See, rules ultimately set us up for failure when we break them. And who can follow all the rules we make for ourselves? We are on track or we off track. We are good or we are bad. And when we are bad we are a failure. But by who’s standards???
I used to make myself wait to eat until I had gotten to work out and if I had a busy morning of clients and couldn’t workout until noon, what was I supposed to do for the first 8 hours of my day?? Starve? Well, close. I’d try to eat as little as possible so that when I finally got to do cardio I wasn’t just burning the food I just ate. Irrational right? But I’m sure some of you have had this rule too, at one point or another.
I am guilty of trying a cleanse program too. Three of them to be exact. On my third cleanse program, I had an annual physical with bloodwork after being on it for two weeks. What did my bloodwork show? High liver enzymes. High kidney enzymes. And protein in my urine. I instantly stopped the cleanse. Two weeks later, my enzymes had decreased, but it took several weeks for the protein in my urine to return to normal, but not without an annoying test first. And this was and is a super popular cleanse. To this day, many people ask my opinion about it. Now it could have been unrelated, but for years of stellar bloodwork to show this, it was the only thing I attributed it to.
I had made so many rules for myself that I didn’t know what to do without them. It was a battle everyday to follow the rules. Like I said, don’t eat till after I workout. And when I did workout, I would do enough cardio to add up to a certain number of calories total on the machines. I relied on seeing the number so much that if I worked out outside, it was hard for me to “count it.” Which brings me to my Fitbit relationship. One of the best breakups I ever had. I wouldn’t stop at 10,000 steps. No, that was a minimum I needed. And if I didn’t have it by my lunch break, anxiety would set in. I would go for walks for steps instead of enjoyment. I would walk/run versus arc trainer or spin because those exercises weren’t as effective as counting steps. If I got so many steps or calories one day, that would become my next minimum. And I’d get more and more extreme until I just couldn’t keep up and I’d fail at my rule, therefore I’d fail at the day.
My rules would effect my social life too. If I already had my carbs for the day and my fiancé or my dad wanted to go out to eat, I had to make sure the restaurant had sufficient choices to fit my rules. It became so stressful to try to base what I was going to eat at that meal on what I had already eaten and what I was going to eat later in the day. Who the F knows what I’m going to eat later that day or tomorrow. Who the F knows how much food is going to make me satisfied and content?? I didn’t trust myself so I followed my rules. Don’t eat carbs. Only eat so much of this or that, whether that was enough or not, it had to be. I had to follow my rules and if I didn’t, cue my next rule. Workout extra the next day to make up for what I had for dinner or the day before.
Exercise became solely a way to try to control the appearance of my body instead of a means of self-care and enjoyment. Instead of having gratitude for my strength and ability to workout, I punished myself. I upped the number of steps or calories I had to see “burned” that day. I completely neglected my knowledge and intuition in exchange for control and comforting rules. I knew better. You probably do too. But there’s just something about our rules that we trust them more than we trust our body.
In my gym, we used to hold bootcamps to “make room” for what we may be engaging in later that day, whether it was Thanksgiving dinner or a weekend night out. I no longer make comments like that. Our workout is for the moment. For movement. For sweat. For being thankful for all we can do with our bodies. I no longer promote the idea to burn off a meal or create a calorie deficit for what is possibly to come. Go hard for the moment, because the moment is all we truly have. And as soon as that punishment for past behavior or anxiety for future behavior creeps in, we are no longer present. We are no longer enjoying the time in our life that we actually have. And that is a shame.
Like the rules we make up for ourselves, the rules given by others are no better. Rules are not goals. Rules can be elusive. They take perceived knowledge and beliefs and become a holy grail to which we lives our life by. I want you to take a look at the beliefs and rules you have present in your life right now, mainly regarding your body, food and workouts. Are they working for you? Are they keeping you “in line?” Do you need to be kept in line? If your body was verbally speaking to you, would she be happy with these rules? Or do you think maybe she might want some fuel, some love, some energy even though its 3pm?
Do you think you are on top of the world because you followed your rules for the day? Your body doesn’t care whether you get a star for the day or not. Your body is going to get what she needs, one way or another. Biology will rise to the occasion and you’ll find yourself elbow deep in a bag of carbs because she needs fuel. She will try to tell you ahead of time, maybe by making you feel sluggish or have sub par workouts because she’s drained. But if you continue to follow your rules instead of listening to her, she’ll make sure she makes it known what she needs eventually. And then you will feel like you broke your rules. You will feel like you failed at your diet. You will say, WHY DON’T I HAVE ANY WILLPOWER??
But honey, it was never about willpower. And you don’t need rules. You need a deep breath. You need to examine what you are doing to your body and ask yourself; are you doing this to your body because you love her? Or are you doing this to your body because you don’t trust her? How many minutes and days and months and years have you spent consumed with your food/workouts? How much have you missed out on because of counting and tracking or making and breaking rules to only set you up to create even tighter rules tomorrow? How freeing would it be to break your rules? How much time would you have if you weren’t calculating your food choices? You aren’t going to jail if you eat breakfast before you workout. And you aren’t going to win gold because you passed up on a girl’s night.
The only person who gives any merit to your rules is YOU. Now I want you to take a look at your rules… And break them. Break them by tuning into your body and trusting she will tell you what she needs as well as what she doesn’t need. Because after all, rules were made to be broken. And your life was meant to be lived, not counted and calculated.