Examples of “Always” rules that work…
The types of food plan rules you choose to implement are only limited by your imagination. There isn’t any “right” way to do it, other than to ensure it’s specific enough that 10 neutral observers who followed you around for a month could agree whether you followed vs. broke the rule. There’s nothing that says a rule has to be particularly strict either… just specific enough to give you 100% clarity and prevent your Inner Pig(tm) from sneaking it’s Pig Squeals(tm) by you to get you to feed it some Pig Slop(tm).
That said, I DO get a lot of requests to explain when an ALWAYS rule is appropriate, and to provide several examples of same. As a refresher, I recommend you set up your Food Plan in terms of four categories of rules: (1) NEVERS: Things you will never eat and/or do again; (2) ALWAYS: Things you will always do each day for the rest of your life; (3) CONDITIONALS: Things you will always and/or never do only under certain very specific conditions; (4) UNRESTRICTEDS: What you may eat, drink, and/or do without any restrictions whatsoever. By default this includes anything you leave out of the first three categories, but it can be helpful to specify a few things to remind yourself how much freedom you do indeed have!
Today let’s focus on ALWAYS. Perhaps the first and best time to implement an ALWAYS rule is after you’ve taken full control over your single worst trigger food and/or eating behavior and are ready to proceed to develop a sweeping Food Plan for total protection against your Pig. Getting control over your worst trigger is usually something that’s accomplished with a NEVER or CONDITIONAL rule. For example, suppose you have trouble with nuts but don’t want to relinquish them entirely. You might construct a rule like: “I will never eat nuts without an equal caloric amount of vegetables in the same meal again.”
OK, great. Let’s assume you find this works and now you’re 100% in control of your nut intake. Great!
Well, at this point a lot of people make a long list of every possible trigger and proceed to implement perhaps a half dozen rules in their plan. Many go beyond this and include overall volume and caloric restrictions as they put together a comprehensive Food Plan which they assume will give them comprehensive protection…
But there’s a problem.
You see, the ease with which most people learn the Never Binge Again(tm) method for ignoring the Pig Squeal about their single worst trigger is based, in part, on the fact that we’re only eliminating ONE trigger… NOT doing anything which might endanger the overall nutritional completeness of their diet as a whole, or threatening their general satisfaction and satiation levels. In short, in virtually all cases, the FIRST trigger is the easiest trigger to take hold of because the payoff is monumental in comparison to the work necessary to execute it.
But when you start imposing sweeping eliminations and controls, it becomes additionally necessary to ADD foods and eating behaviors to keep satisfaction and nourishment high. Sometimes this is easier said than done because people are SO eager to rid themselves of the pain associated with overeating and/or binging behavior that they’re simply focused on eliminating the negative, not enhancing the positive…
That’s where ALWAYS rules come in.
In fact, I like to tell people that for every restriction they impose on their Food Plan after their first, they should enhance their plan with an ALWAYS which will add to their nourishment, taste satisfaction, and satiation too.
A few examples to help illustrate:
- I had a client who found herself severely overeating on salty foods during social gatherings in restaurants. It wasn’t enough to create her conditional rule “I never eat restaurant meals with added sodium sauces”… we also had to add an ALWAYS rule which said “I always eat a full tomato and four stalks of celery within one hour before eating out in a sit down dining environment.” (The natural, healthy salt levels in the tomato and celery staved off her salt cravings in the restaurant, and reminded her of her commitment so she could hear and ignore her Pig Squealing when she got there!)
- Another person found pizza was her second biggest weakness. It wasn’t enough to say “I will never eat pizza again”… she had to add “I always eat a bowl of whole grains with tomato sauce and vegetarian cheese at least once per Calendar Week.” (The rice and vegetarian cheese didn’t give her quite the same “food high” as Pizza did so she wasn’t prone to overdo it…but it DID kill her pizza cravings and left her feeling satiated and complete)
- Then there was the man who wanted to drop his calories to 2,000 per day during his weight loss efforts. It wasn’t enough to say “I will never eat more than 2,000 calories on any given Calendar Day where I have not weighed in under 200 pounds again”… he had to additionally say “I will always eat at least five servings of whole fruit AND one pound of leafy green vegetables per Calendar Day.” With this Always rule to accompany his caloric goal he was able to ignore his Pig’s attempts to sway him towards empty calories… which would have stimulated his survival instinct to find the nutrition it needed and made it much less comfortable to comply with the caloric limits.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Essentially, every time you add a restriction, add something else which nurtures you each and every day in the form of an ALWAYS rule.
But just because you add an always rule whenever you add a restriction doesn’t mean you have to add a restriction every time you want an always rule. You can have as many always rules as you like! See, at some point you’re going to have weeded out all your triggers. I KNOW it doesn’t feel like that at first. I KNOW the Pig keeps finding loopholes through your plan as you develop and enforce it. But at some point it DOES give up and leave you 100% in control of your healthy eating. It HAS TO… because we are anatomically wired to win this game. (The Pig is really the “lizard brain” part of us… and a few hundred million years of evolution have now put the Mammalian Brain–and finally the Neocortex–in charge!)
After you’re done eliminating triggers you WILL continue to find ways to enhance and improve your Food Plan. You’ll try recipes that make it both easier and more fun to incorporate healthier foods into your diet… and you’ll want to ensure there’s ALWAYS enough of that food around the house to encourage you to eat it. So you might ALWAYS go shopping for produce twice per Calendar Week. Or you’ll discover a particular form of exercise you find more pleasurable which gives you just the right balance of energy and results. You might ALWAYS want to perform this exercise three times a week… you get the picture.
And that, my friends, is how ALWAYS rules are meant to be used.
Let me know below as you discover new examples for yourself please… our collective wisdom is worth more than any one of us could ever figure out alone
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