Food rules and food guidelines
At this point in the course, you should know the importance of food rules and the part they play in mastering cravings. You should also know that I am somewhat evangelical about food rules and the use of ‘never’ instead of ‘sometimes’. I’m going to add to those rules with a couple of guidelines.
I tend to not recommend guidelines as they aren’t as powerful as rules. However, they can be useful.
You already know that I like food rules because they are definitive and show commitment. Saying ‘I never eat junk food during the week’ is much more certain than ‘I’ll try to not eat junk food during the week’. Rules are also objective and quantifiable. You can measure them and they leave no room for misunderstanding.
Rules mean you know exactly what the target is. You know what you have to do. You have the tools to do it. Rules are as unforgiving for you as they are your cravings but they work for you and against cravings.
Rules leave no room for your inner craving to gain a foothold. There is nowhere a craving can go with ‘never’ which is why you are always encouraged to use the word in your food rules.
Used on their own, food guidelines are not enough to overcome cravings. There is too much space for those cravings to move and gain a foothold to create reasonable doubt.
However, used alongside food rules and guidelines do have a place.
Guidelines are useful when you have less control over the situation. For example, the guideline ‘I will always buy organic vegetables if available’ would work. I use this one myself. It has to be a guideline because you have no control over whether the grocery store has organic vegetables in stock or not. As long as you maximize your chances of achieving that goal, a guideline can work.
The same for ‘I will always try to order lots of vegetables when eating out’. Again, you can do everything you can but there is no guarantee the restaurant you go to will have something suitable.
If you used guidelines on their own it is clear to see how they could let you down. Saying to yourself ‘I will always try to order lots of vegetables when eating out’, can easily be overturned by adding ‘but not this time as I really want a steak and double cheesy fries’.
‘I never eat junk food during the week and I will always try to order lots of vegetables when eating out’ becomes much more powerful. When used as one!
This combination is the only time I think a guideline is useful in our course.
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Alan Steiner DMD