Breaking the Rules

In 5 Diet Rules It’s OK to Break, Lisa Collier Cool writes,

Breaking the rules could actually help you slim down—and keep the pounds off over the long term. A study published in International Journal of Obesity found that dieters with a flexible strategy that allowed for sweets and other indulgences were significantly more successful at maintaining weight loss during the three-year study than those who strived for rigid control of their eating habits.

All I can say is, Amen.

Well, okay, that’s not ALL I have to say. That would make this entry far too brief, and what would you do with your time if you weren’t here? Um, don’t answer that.

According to the aforementioned article, breaking the following common “rules” of dieting may actually help with weight loss:

#1: Don’t eat after 7 PM.
Why it’s OK to break this rule: There’s nothing magical about avoiding eating at night. The key to weight loss success isn’t when you eat; it’s taking a close look at what you eat and staying within your daily calorie allotment….(snipped)

#2: Eat five to six small meals during the day.
Why it’s OK to break this rule: Although the theory behind this rule is that frequent eating keeps your metabolism stoked, the reality is that having more opportunities to eat often results in overeating, resulting in weight gain instead of weight loss….(snipped)

#3: Stick to fat-free or low-fat foods.
Why it’s OK to break this rule: The American Heart Association recently reported that low-fat and fat-free foods can contribute to obesity, because these foods often contain as many or more calories than the full-fat versions, yet trick people into thinking that these are good choices for weight loss …(snipped)

#4: Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking.
Why it’s OK to break this rule: It’s true that studies consistently show that people who eat breakfast tend to weigh less and are more successful at maintaining weight loss…(snipped)

#5: Cut out certain food groups.
Why it’s OK to break this rule: This “rule” recycles every few years. Some years we’re told to cut out red meat. Other years we’re told to avoid dairy or fruits. And we are always told to shun sugar. However, even with the willpower of iron, it’s hard to stick to a diet that leaves you feeling chronically deprived, which can set the stage for bingeing…(snipped)

I’m here to testify that I broke ALL of those rules during my loss phase and continue to break at least some of them on a daily basis. Some examples:

#1 – I could probably count on one hand the number of nights I haven’t had a pre-bedtime snack. It’s usually a yogurt “sundae” (if early evening) or a thin slice of bread with a Laughing Cow cheese or maybe a spoon of peanut butter. Something light….

#2 – When I was losing weight, I ate 3 meals each day, with a snack of fruit or nuts in between, but my habits have kind of organically changed so that some of my meals are now smaller and the snacks are a little bit more substantial.

#3 – Probably the worst mistake I made in my early days of this endeavor was in limiting fat too much. I didn’t understand the fat/satiety connection, and I hadn’t yet learned of the awesome health benefits of good fat. These days, I do eat some lower or reduced fat products (dairy, baked chips, etc.), usually for taste preference, but I always make sure I’m getting healthy plant-based fat in my day. Well, almost always. It’s still a work in progress.

#4 – I always eat breakfast—usually two mini-breakfasts–but some days it doesn’t happen until a couple hours after I get up. I haven’t noticed any difference in the latter part of the day.

#5 – I eat grains, protein, dairy, fruits, veggies, and fat—every single day. Learning to combine them in a way that nourishes my body and leaves me feeling satiated turned out not to be that difficult once I let go of the idea that any of them were somehow “bad foods!” and, therefore, off limits. It was HOW I was eating them before that caused the problem and trying to eliminate any of them, especially my favorites, simply did not work for me in any lasting way.

Despite breaking those rules, I still lost 100 pounds, and I’m firmly convinced that it’s actually because I broke them that I’ve {knock wood} kept it off so far. I benefited far more from learning how to eat healthy and nourishing foods in a way that made sense to me so that I would do it consistently. To call it a perfect diet would be laughable, but it’s oh-so-much better than it was, and I feel awesome.

I kind of like being a “diet renegade.” So much so that I added two broken rules of my own:

#6 – Eat all meals at home.
This is more than slightly embarrassing, but I don’t think I prepared more than a dozen meals the entire time I was in loss phase. These days I eat most meals at home, but I still eat out 2 or 3 times a week. I’m fortunate to have good options for restaurants nearby, and I usually make good choices when I’m there.

#7 – Eat off small plates.
Fellow neurotics will understand the importance of preventing foods from touching on the plate. Rarely possible with those dinky plates. Lima bean juice runs all over the place and before you know it, it’s over there mixing with the sliced tomatoes and cucumber or worse, the grilled chicken. *shudder* Much better to have a nice big plate where everything has clean space around it. Plus, given my tendency to eat meals out, I need to focus on interpreting portion sizes by sight and not by the fullness of the plate. (Yet another Cammy Mind Game)

What “diet rules” do you break? Or do some or all of these rules work for you (understanding that some folks have to avoid certain food groups for reasons other than weight management)?

And for my fellow renegades, shouldn’t we get some sort of badge or flag, kind of like the Hells Angels have? You know, to show how bad-ass we are—breaking rules and still getting healthy.

18 thoughts on “Breaking the Rules

  1. AMEN!!!

    Hello, Fellow Rule Breaker and Tippy Toe Diet fan here.

    I recently wrote a post about breaking rules ( because I joined a challenge and didn’t realize that calorie counting and journaling were one of the rules. I was asked why I would even join if I didn’t want to play by the rules so that post was a response to that question. I’ve tried by I just can’t count calories or points or journal everything I put in my mouth – it makes me nutty. I have broken all of these rules and a few extra for good measure.

    I think the reason why lots of people fail on diets and why I have failed to many times in the past is because we try to play by everyone else’s rules instead of our own. We all need to find what works for us and stick to it.

    I definitely think we need a bad-ass rule breakers badge or flag.

    Fellow Renegade Out!

  2. I’m with you on the food touching thing. Sometimes, I roll up a paper towel and place it between veggies that might leak toward other things as a barrier. I cannot have veg juice invading other food.

    I think all the rules come from people trying to put it all into a nice simple formula that will sell. It wouldn’t sell many books to say, “Do what works for you, eat a well-balanced diet, and in the end, it’s calories in/ calories out that creates weight loss.”

  3. What a great post with your usual humor thrown in. I’d seen this article, but hadn’t yet read it closely and yes, I’ve broken most of them. My biggest soapbox has always been the breakfast thing. I eat a healthy breakfast EVERY morning, but never until I’ve been awake 2-3 hours. I just simply don’t want it. That’s quiet time with coffee – breakfast comes later. Believe me, on the rare occasions that I truly don’t want food, I’m not going to make myself eat no matter what the “rules” are.

    And I also eat 3 meals a day. If I eat a healthy nutritious meal every four hours, I don’t need any snacks. Sometimes needing and wanting get a little mixed up. LOL!

    I’m with you 100% on having a plate large enough so stuff doesn’t mix. YUK!

  4. oooh, thanks for sharing! I do have some of those pesky ideas stuck in my head and it never helps. I love to know what you did too, since you’ve already done it.
    Love the link to the Hells Angels. Let’s do get a badge. Hmmmmm….
    You are seriously the BEST!!!

  5. I’m horrible about eating at night:( But I figure it is okay if I am on track for the day. I never eat that soon after getting up. I have a lot of tea and get on the computer instead and put of eating for a few hours. And while I don’t cut out food groups, I do cut out certain foods. Yep, that’s working for me. Oh… how about not eating while distracted!! I eat while reading and in front of the TV way too much!

  6. Thanks for this – always fun to see someone else who likes to break “the rules”. I don’t always eat breakfast. Fasting is good – maybe. I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat at the table, but I do have a set place to eat. I eat fat – well, not trans-fats. I weigh whenever the heck I feel like it then suffer the consequences. I count calories AND account for quality of food. I could go on and on. Just say the more restraining conditions are, the more oppositional I get.

  7. I totally break the fat free one all the time! I love my fats now. I used to be such a fat phobe, too.

    My own rule – you don’t have to be 100% every day to be okay.

    I really like eating off smaller plates from a photographer standpoint, but I always put messy stuff in little bowls because I don’t like my food touching too much.

  8. Excellent post Cammy! You are a REBEL!!! :) Have a great week, thanks for all the useful info in here!!!!

  9. Cammy, I follow what you did almost exact! AND YES, I have a snack almost every night & it is about an hour before bed cause I go to bed early! AND like you, I tried the fat is bad when I was young – wrong to do & learned from that! I just do what feels right for my body at whatever point in time. With age, it is challenging but I still tend to make my own rules based on what my bod tells me…:-)

  10. I think this is a great post! After years of yo-yo dieting I finally figured out that the best food plan is the one I can live with long term. That food plan continues to change and evolve as I learn more about nutrition and through trial and error I have to figure out what works for me.

    Like you my food plan is far from perfect but a huge improvement over years in the past. Most of all it’s one I can live with and still enjoy the foods I eat while keeping myself at a healthy weight.

  11. Its such a relief to have someone like you successfully maintaining without following one rigid set of rules. SUCH a relief. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. I learned to stop worrying about the fat when I lost weight and had remarkably lower cholesterol levels while on an Atkins like diet. I do avoid sugar though because that is a trigger for me. I also avoid artifical sweeteners and artificial or replacement foods because they are never as good or satisfying as the real thing and don’t reduce my craving.

    I weigh in more than once a week, if I want to.

    I don’t fill up with water before I eat because then I am hungry again in an hour.

    Not a diet myth but a myth with regard to “what not to wear” when you are a larger person. Form fitting may be more slimming than baggy – but tight is never a good idea! Body skimming is the key.

  13. Hey I thought I left a comment earlier. Glad I checked back. Because I wanted to say I was so glad there was someone like you around who has been and continues to be successful. Because otherwise I start to think maybe the rigid people ARE right. Thanks for sharing Cammy!

  14. What a good post, Cammy. I can relate to most of these, especially the one about not eating after a certain hour in the evening. That is usually when I get the munchies anyway, and I’d rather save up for my small bowl of dry cereal (that I eat one by one) than to sit around and think about it all night long.

  15. I try to tell people all the time that you can eat after 6 or 7, but they insist on keeping the no eating after a certain time rule. I ten to steer clear of the fat free foods. They are loaded with sodium or suger to make it taste good. Very informative post!

  16. I love breaking the rules! And I so want a badge!!! I always eat in the evenings – sometimes I don’t even eat dinner until 9:00-ish. So there.

  17. Cammy, I’m in your gang too! I never used any of these rules either, and broke most of them consistently too. Since reading all the primal stuff too, really think the low-fat argument is just plain garbage.

  18. Pingback: Celebrate! « debby weighs in

Comments are closed.