Our Alternative to Diets/Food Rules – A Flexible Structure

I recently taught a class here at Movara where the participants were really adamant about having a list of food rules. I get it, it?s nice to be able to trust that if you just do X, Y and Z that you will lose weight, gain health and feel amazing. My hesitancy at giving rules is not due to lack of experience but because of my experience. It?s obvious they questioned my expertise, which is fine – I encourage everyone to be their own health expert anyway (more on that later) – but my question to you is?have food rules ever actually helped?

As a society, we are on a quest for the perfect way to eat. We believe that food rules, and the black and white thinking that comes with them, are what will keep us safe. My professional experience is quite the opposite. It?s BECAUSE of the food rules and that rigid mentality that we struggle so much with overeating, bingeing, food ?addictions? and/or food anxiety. Restriction isn?t a solution for chaos, it causes it.

That doesn?t mean that we ignore nutrition information – it can be a great tool! In fact, that?s exactly what I hope to accomplish in our Nutrient Density vs Calorie Density lecture. These are principles to guide choices, not necessarily a list of rules. The underlying message is eat more fruits and vegetables, understand portion sizes (that are proportionate to you) and listen to hunger and fullness levels. Breaking free of the all-or-nothing, rule based, mentality allows for more flexible thinking which leads to looking at food patterns rather than getting nit picky about certain foods or food combinations.

Now, if food patterns have been chaotic and haphazard, it could feel really difficult to think flexibly about food. In fact, having a set of rules probably seems like the best solution. I totally understand that. This is why we introduce the plate method, as a flexible structure. It?s not necessarily a list of rules, but it does provide structure and accountability. I urge you to use those guidelines – implementing for 3 meals each day – adding snacks in between if you are going longer than 3-5 hours between meals (range based on how soon you get hungry). I KNOW that if you are consistent with that, your blood sugars will normalize, your eating will be more regular (and therefore not chaotic), cravings will come down (because you feel well fed and satisfied) and you will be better able to recognize what hunger and fullness feel like, allowing you to feel more trustful of intuitive signals and being guided by them.

So if you are coming to Movara for a list of rules to go home with, you won?t find them. I mean – think about the meals! You eat dessert every night (that have sugar in them), meals include bread, gluten, red meat, dairy?We refuse to do what everyone else is doing. Our goal is for you to become self-reliant and confident in your ability to take care of yourself, rather than be micromanaged by a list of rules. That doesn?t mean we won?t help you with guidelines and structures and principles?but only so far as it doesn?t encourage dependency on anyone or anything. We hope you know how SINCERE we are in our desire to help, and sometimes that means telling you things you don?t want to hear. I could win a lot of friends by giving you rules and making promises. That?s what diets (food rules) do. Then when you stick to the rules, you?ll give me all the credit and when you can?t stick to the rules, you?ll beat yourself up. I need no credit and you don?t deserve the beating.  (And I don’t think ANY health/nutrition professional can actually PROVE that nit picky rules WILL “work” without focusing on food patterns)


We aren?t leaving you on your own when you go home. Review the ND vs CD lecture. Set the goal to emphasize fruits and vegetables at each meal. Take a deep breathe and RELAX (which is probably the best thing you can do for your health anyway). Most importantly, reach out to us for guidance as you move forward – we are all happy to help.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD