Rigid Thinking - How to rebuild trust with your body and mind

Kiara Tchir
April 9, 2020

Do you engage in rigid thinking?

Here are some examples:
  • “It’s 11am, I shouldn’t be hungry yet.”
  • “This isn’t a proper meal – there’s no protein.”
  • “If I don’t eat breakfast my metabolism will slow down.”
  • “If I eat breakfast I’ll break the fast too soon.”
  • “Eating carbs will make me gain weight.”
  • “I don’t eat past 7pm even if I’m hungry.”
  • “I finish everything on my plate even if I’m full.”
  • “I don’t like this, but I eat it because it’s a superfood.”
  • “I only eat in front of the TV, my phone, or a book.”
  • “Dessert sounds good, but one cookie – max.”
  • “I can’t go there. they have nothing I can eat.”
  • “I’m craving chips, so I need to avoid them at all costs.”
  • “That looks so good, I wish I could...”
  • “If I start, I’ll never stop.”
  • “I’ve eaten healthy all day, I don’t want to break that pattern now”

Have you ever said any of these things? How about a friend or family member? These statements exemplify a tendency to hold rigid beliefs and rules around what, when, how, where, or why we eat. These rules can be long-held or ever-changing, but they all highlight an  underlying mistrust of food and the body. This mistrust creates a dysfunctional relationship with food.

Black-and-white rules

Everybody has their own opinions about food, based on their experiences, learnings, or culture. We behave in alignment with our personal beliefs as a way to feel comfortable and to enjoy the process of eating. Most of these behaviors are simply harmless preferences, such as choosing brown rice over white. Rigid thinking starts to affect behavior when, rather than for preference, we make choices to soothe our fear or anxiety, such as refusing to eat white rice when it’s the only option at an all-night event.

Black-and-white rules are the hallmark of rigid thinking. Our preferences remain innocent when we can still make compromises, like eating the white rice instead of going hungry. Preferences transition into rules when we sacrifice convenience, enjoyment, or eating itself to stay within self-imposed limits of what, when, or how much it’s acceptable to eat. If guilt follows a food choice, or when our mental and emotional energy input outweighs the pleasure of eating, rigid thinking may be the cause.

Learn to trust your body – and your mind

When you micro-manage the details of what, when, where, or how much you eat, you’re communicating to your mind that you don’t trust it to naturally make good decisions. At the same time, you're telling your body that you don’t trust it to properly request and process the appropriate amount or type of food. Cravings become something to fear, appetite becomes something to curb, and health becomes something to manage. This will not allow you to have a functional and peaceful relationship with food.

There are no absolutes in nutrition. The debate over what’s considered healthy is ongoing, and with new study findings come new fads, new diets, and new rules. Contrasting this with what tastes good creates a tug-of-war between desire and responsibility. What results is a relationship with food that’s laden with confusion and mistrust.

“Reminder: saying no to food rules is not the same as saying yes to all the food, all the time.”
  • Anna Sweeney, RD

We often impose food rules because we worry that once we start eating, we won’t stop. But once you take away the harsh, black-and-white rules, the overwhelming desire for off-limits food diminishes. Whether you’re on a diet or you feel confined by rigid food rules, you’re setting yourself up to rebel – it’s in our nature to desire what we deny. Trusting your body and finding the appropriate type and amount of food begins with respecting your internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.

Savor sets the stage for change

Savor provides a safe space for you to explore your internal body cues and begin dismantling the food rules that take the enjoyment out of eating. Taking a fresh look at your beliefs, emotions, and behaviors is an important way to identify what food rules you follow. Our intentions, journal entries, and affirmations are designed to facilitate this process.

This is how one Savor journal prompt addresses rigid thinking around food:

Intention: We usually resist something when we feel it's wrong or bad, or we fear that it will negatively affect us. Resistance to food or eating may be a limitation that you're choosing. Today, see if you're choosing limitations – and how those limitations affect your food and eating choices.

Journal entry: Do you feel resistance around certain food choices? What boundaries do you draw around what you can and cannot eat? Why? Do you have any fears around food?

Affirmation: You can choose to release your boundaries and embrace what feels positive about food, eating, and your body.

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You are not alone in your quest to build a healthier relationship with food. In embracing mindful eating, you will learn to naturally find the weight that is right for you. Download Savor to begin a well-balanced life today.