Rigid Eating and Inflexible Food Rules and How to Manage It

Written by: Bianca Villanueva BS – (Psychology)
Last updated date : March 06, 2023

While eating is a basic need, it is one of the many pleasures we have in life. There’s no feeling like eating the food you love. For some people, they live to eat, rather than eat to live. However for others, food is something that needs to be restricted. That is, they have rigid eating habits and inflexible food rules. If you’re one of these people, it can seem sensible at first. Of course, we want to be healthy, look good, or maybe save money. However, there are drawbacks to having these rules.

This article will focus on rigid eating and how it can change. While indulging yourself all the time is harmful, so is having inflexible food rules. Whatever your reason may be, it can be harmful for you physically and mentally. The goal of this article is to help you get a better view of your health. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll be able to change your rigid eating habits into something more flexible, healthier, and catered to you. So first, what is rigid eating? How do you know if you’re a rigid eater?

“Very interesting and relevant” John

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Group of friends with their dogs having a picnic eating a variety of foods

Chapter 1:

What Is Rigid Eating?

Rigid eating is more than just telling yourself “I’ll eat less chocolate” or “I’ll cut down on the meat.” It’s making inflexible food rules like “I’ll skip lunch” or “I won’t eat after 7pm.” These rules are restrictive and allow for no lee way whatsoever. Sure, having rigid eating rules will help you follow them, but there’s such a thing as too rigid. While being inconsistent at times and rigid during others is fine, extremes most of the time are harmful. Moreover, it might be a sign of a more serious condition.

Try to think of what inflexible food rules you make for yourself when you eat. Are these rules about when you eat? Are they about what you can eat? What about how much you eat? Are there even rules for how you eat? Which of these types of rules do you keep for yourself? What do you do when you fail to follow these rules?

If you set rigid eating rules for yourself and set harsh rules as punishment, you definitely have inflexible food rules. The most common rule is restricting your food. In other words, it’s the question of what you can eat.

Chapter 2:

Why Do People Have Inflexible Food Rules?

People have inflexible food rules because they have some benefits. For many, it’s usually their first time dieting or their second time after not following the last one. For many first timers, having rigid rules can make the most sense. After all, how will you follow your diet if there are ways to break it? Having a rigid eating plan limits the things that can tempt you. Knowing you’re absolutely not allowed to have cakes and other sweets will give you the mindset of what exactly is off-limits.

When you have rigid rules, there’s no room for any uncertainty. Rather than wondering if you should or shouldn’t be eating something, you know exactly what you want to avoid. Being specific helps you reach goals better since they’re explicitly stated. Choosing what to eat is also a lot easier because your choices are narrowed down. Rather than spending time thinking which food to buy, you can avoid a whole type of food like junk food, with no room for exceptions.

Lastly, it’s motivating for many people. Having specific and strict plans reflects a resolve to comply with your plan. If you allowed any room for uncertainty, it would be more tedious and harder to follow. Coming up with a specific plan on your own also helps you feel more excited to put it into action.

Chapter 3:

Why Is Rigid Eating a Problem?

While there are benefits to rigid eating, at the end of the day, it can be harmful. Sure, you can follow your eating plan. Maybe it can work for some people. However, there’s more to eating healthy than just being compliant to your rules. If it were that easy, everyone would be fit. So, what exactly should you be looking out for to make sure your plan isn’t too rigid?
Emotional Harm

Imagine your favorite food in the world. Now, imagine that you’re not allowed to eat it. Of course, you’ll find it hard to do. You’ll find yourself always thinking about this food, especially if you’re someone who really values food. You’ll be craving that food, or even feel hurt when you see the product. Some people cope with this by eating substitute foods. For example, instead of eating bacon, they simply eat more tofu or other plant-based meat substitutes more. This can cause you to eat more to compensate for your lack of the other food. Another effect is that you might become to focused on that food that when you finally eat it, you eat it in excess.

Physical Harm

Your body needs nourishment. When you have rigid eating plans, especially those that make you eat less, you’ll find yourself lacking in necessary nutrients. Also, when your body feels like it doesn’t have enough nutrients, it’ll metabolize slower. In other words, by eating less, you’re training your body to survive with less food. That means that when you do eat normally, your body will actually gain more weight.

Also, restricting your diet to specific groups will deprive your body of necessary nutrients. When you avoid a whole food group, like meat for example, you’ll find yourself weaker than before. There are even some medical conditions caused by the lack of certain nutrients.

Rigid Eating Rules Will Break

While this may not have been your intention, the problem with strict rules is that they inevitably break. Apart from that, the consequences of breaking there are usually emotionally severe. Many people who have rigid rules are anxious about how they look or weigh. So just going a bit out of their rules, even just a small bite of something unhealthy, they will see it as a failure. It will reflect on how they see themselves, and even what they think they look.

Apart from that, strict rules usually have strict punishments. This shouldn’t be the case when it comes to something like food. Food is meant to be enjoyed. However, if you punish yourself for eating what you want and when you want, you’ll associated food with negative experiences. This can lead to more anxiety, or worse, an eating disorder.

The Diet

Much of the time, when people go on a diet, they fail to do thorough research. As a result, many fall victim to fad diets. These diets come with inflexible food rules with a promise of a quick and easy. However, these diets usually don’t have any scientific basis and can actually cause more weight gain. As such, it’s important to always research on the diets you do and how they work.

Diets Alone Are Short-Term Solutions

While you make experience weight loss or even a better figure after you diet, these results aren’t for forever. If you continue with crash or strict fad diets, you’ll find yourself gaining the weight you lost and more. So, apart from the mental and physical stress a strict diet causes, you don’t reach your goals in the long-run. Instead, balanced meals and exercise are still the best way to go, and we’ll discuss these alternatives later in this article!

Chapter 4:

Rigid Eating Beliefs That You Don’t Need

Many believe that controlling their diet is healthy. They’re not completely wrong. Watching what you eat is part of being healthy. You can’t always stuff your face with junk food because you like it. You can’t always force down a salad that you don’t enjoy just to be healthy. Wellness isn’t just about forcing your body into a particular shape or weight. It’s about your mental state, and how satisfied you are with yourself. You can start with this healthy relationship with yourself through food. So, here are some beliefs that you can throw out the window about your diet:
Don’t Eat Processed Foods

For a long time, we’ve been led to believe that processed food– any processed food– is unhealthy. The words “processed”, “preservatives”, and even just “packaged” can make us think it’s unhealthy. In reality, processed foods are exactly what it means: they went through a process. For years, humans have found ways to keep food good for longer periods of time. With technology, we’ve changed raw and natural food into something that lasts longer and might even be healthier. Instead, start reading the labels and ingredients of the things you buy. Sure, it takes a lot more research, but at least you’ll know what exactly you’re putting in your mouth. Labeling food as “good” or “bad” will only make you feel like a “bad” person when you even have just a bit of “bad” food. Instead, label them as food you can “sometimes” eat.

Buy Only the Natural Foods

This rigid eating rule usually has people only buying their food from the fresh produce and meat aisles of the grocery. However, it gives this false idea that only natural foods are healthy. While having fresh produce in your kitchen is great, there are other reasons to buy other products. Packaged products are convenient, preserved well, and affordable. They’re also easier to eat when you’re in a hurry. In the end, it’s more practical to compromise between the fresh food and packaged food. Instead, fill your grocery cart with a mix of fresh goods and processed foods.

Eat Only at Certain Times

Many people who do intermittent feeding tend to have this inflexible food rule. “Don’t eat before 12 noon,” or “Don’t eat after 7pm.” What many people don’t realize is that it messes with your eating schedule. For example, if you eat early and sleep late, you tend to eat a lot more. Even more so, when you only allow eating at specific times, you will still end up eating more. Instead, eat your 3 meals at regular times. When you get hungry, you can eat a small snack. Your body is the best meter for when you should be eating or not. You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight.

You’re Not Hungry, You Just Need Water

Many people have this rigid eating rule that they can drink and fill their stomach to make them feel more satisfied. However, hunger is more than just a signal to fill your stomach. It tells you when your body needs energy. Water has no calories and offers no nutrients to the body. You’ll find yourself more tired as you use this rule over time because you’re filling yourself with nothing to burn. Instead, drink when you’re thirsty, and eat when you’re hungry. Your body is the best meter for when you should and shouldn’t be eating.

Don’t Eat Carbs

Many of us have heard the word “carbs” enough to the point we think it’s a bad thing. Actually, “carbs” is short for carbohydrates. These are basically the sugars of your body. Now, that may sound unhealthy because we know too much sugar is unhealthy. However, that’s not really the case. Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of fuel! So, why is it associated with weight gain? Well, your body doesn’t want to waste fuel in there’s some excess carbs in your body. Instead, it stores them as fats in your body. So, instead of cutting your carbs and robbing your body of necessary energy, just watch your calorie count. There are phone applications that can compute your calorie intake and make sure you’re eating enough to get the ideal amount!

Chapter 5:

A Few More Tips for Rigid Eating

Before we end this article, here are a few more things you can do to help you not only reach your weight goals, but make eating more enjoyable rather than setting inflexible food rules:
  • Don’t miss meals. Find a time in the day you can eat, and be consistent with it.
  • Research what an ideal diet should be. How much calories should you be eating? What portions should be on your plate? Which eating styles match your lifestyle?
  • Exercise. It’s not enough to diet. You need to exercise to burn the excess calories and keep yourself in shape.
  • It’s not about eating more or less.It’s about balancing your food intake. You need all the essential food groups.
  • Make eating an enjoyable experience. It’s something you’ll be doing several times a day, so you might as well find ways to enjoy it. Eat with others. Cook it yourself. Make it something meaningful than something to be dreaded.
  • Research where you can get your essential nutrients. There will always be a source of food you’ll like for any essential nutrient out there. If you don’t like eating a particular food or you find it unhealthy, then you might want to find an alternative rather than leaving it out completely.

"Very interesting and relevant" John

72 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount