How to Let Go of Food Rules for Good

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By: Courtney Howard

Food rules keep you sick. Even if it is something seemingly small, holding onto any food rules keeps the door open just enough for your eating disorder to come barging back in at any time. Identifying ways to let go of food rules for good can support your recovery and overall well-being.

Protect Yourself from Diet Culture

Often, individuals with active eating disorders become sponges for food rules. If a friend decides carbs are bad, that is their new food rule too. If a celebrity touts a new cleanse, it becomes an excuse for the individual to engage in similar behaviors.

In recovery, it is sometimes best to just put up your blinders and create a wall between you and diet culture. Most of us eventually have to come to terms with the reality that diet culture is prevalent in society and develop ways to not be triggered, but for now, just ignore it as much as possible.

If you see a magazine cover featuring diet tips and “healthy” foods, don’t even pick it up. If you’re in the break room and your co-workers start talking about food in a negative way that you find triggering, simply excuse yourself and leave the room. Give yourself a buffer in the early stages of recovery, or longer, to reduce your exposure to harmful messages that may trigger old disordered thoughts and the need for food rules.

Follow the Principles of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is not for everybody, particularly during the early days of recovery when it is important to stick to your meal plan set by your dietitian and treatment team. But some of the basic principles of intuitive eating can be implemented immediately, including:

  • Reject the Diet Mentality
  • Make Peace with Food
  • Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  • Respect Your Body

By embodying the intuitive eating philosophy, even if you are unable to fully commit to intuitive eating if it is not best for your recovery at this time, you can slowly rebuild your relationship with food and your body. This new relationship does not have any room for food rules.

Remind Yourself Where Food Rules Lead

Eating disorders often start small. One fear food develops, maybe you start weighing yourself a little more frequently, not a huge deal. But these are gateway behaviors for those at high risk for the development of eating disorders. All of a sudden, more food rules and behaviors creep in until your eating disorder is running the show.

Keep this in mind when you find that you are holding onto one last food rule, or you start developing a new one. Acknowledging this awareness of where your behaviors lead and making a conscious decision not to go down that road can be a powerful step in your journey.

Of course, this is easier said than done. If you find yourself slipping back into old habits and these steps are ineffective at curbing your behaviors, feel empowered to seek professional help immediately to get back on track in your eating disorder recovery.


Courtney Howard is deeply committed to supporting the eating disorder community through her role as Director of Operations at Eating Disorder Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched an eating disorder recovery coaching practice in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.

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