Rewriting the Rules

by Moira on November 10, 2011

This is the book that started it all for me, and the one that I have recommended to countless clients over the years.

As I’ve been working on some material for an upcoming class, I’ve been inspired to re-write the eating guidelines.  Different ideas about this have been floating on the edge of my consciousness for awhile, and during a wide-awake period in the middle of the night, they sprung almost fully formed.

First off, they’re not guidelines anymore, they’re practices.  “Guidelines” was meant to be a softer word than rules, but in most cases, it didn’t get interpreted that way.  It still carried all the judgement about good/bad/right/wrong that any diet does.  And it’s hard to break the Diet Mentality when those kinds of thoughts are dominating.

Whether we call them guidelines or rules, there’s something about those words that makes the result primary, and the process secondary: “if I follow these guidelines, then I’ll have the result I want, and I’ll be happy.”

We engage in practices in order to transform and balance our lives, and the results follow organically.  We’re never done with practice, because as we continue to practice, our experience deepens and becomes richer,  expansive, nourishing.

So, here we go:

Guideline: Eat what you want to eat.
Practice: Eat what nourishes and delights you.

While someone who has been restricting for a long while may need to go through a short period of eating whatever they want, the real shift comes when we learn that eating wholesome, delicious foods is a nurturing, healing choice.  This doesn’t mean that we never indulge in foods that are more delightful than nourishing (Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food – yum!), but it’s always a conscious choice.  My favorite quote about this comes from Evelyn Tribole:  “Nothing’s forbidden; everything counts.”

Guideline: Eat and enjoy each bite consciously.
Practice: S-a-a-a-a-vor your food.

The various hints around the guideline have to do with eating while sitting down, eating without distractions, etc.  They’re more about what not to do then what to do.  One of the challenges, personally, is I can be not doing all those distracting things, and my mind still wanders away with whatever thought happened to hijack it.   Aside from that, the guideline is still about the mind, whereas the practice is about engaging as many bodily senses as you can to fully experience the meal.

Guideline: Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry.
Practice: Know when enough is enough.

This starts to point to some of the conditioned patterns and beliefs that are deconstructed as part of living these practices; accepting that if you’re eating past the point where your hunger is sated, there’s something else going on here.  So, the practice is not to just stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, but to get curious about the whole topic of what’s enough.

Guideline: Eat only when you’re hungry.
Practice: Eat to fuel your body.

Of the four practices, I’m less sure about the wording of this one.  What I’m getting at here is the balance between the hunger signals from the body, and what nutritional science tells us is optimal.  In most cases, I’m more likely to side with what my body is telling me.   A counter-example is that I’m rarely hungry in the morning, not feeling the first pangs for 2-3 hours.  However,  I’m willing to concede that my body needs fuel (and protein, in particular) sooner than that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these practices.



{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret Graham November 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I love your reframes on this classic, defining book. I remember (hmmmm…it’s been more than 5 years, I’m pretty sure) when you first introduced these practices to me via this book. Mind-altering! Life changing! And I’m still evolving in my use of them. Over the years, I have been sucked back into dieting mentality, swimming in the sea of our culture and I always come back here to what you taught me. I find truth and power in these practices. And my favorite part of what you’ve done with your transformation of them is your affirming language around creating intent. Removing words like “stop” and “only” and adding “savor” (love this one!) makes it so much more vivid and empowering about where to put my attention. Love,

Moira November 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Great to hear from you. Glad you like the reframing!

Kimberly Reyes July 3, 2013 at 5:18 pm


That is such valuable information. It’s all a relearning exercise when we were raised so differently. No more cleaning your plate…

Great blog!

Stacy Harshman July 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Great points for thinking about eating. Thank you for sharing them!

Nisha July 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm

The re-framing is so much less restrictive and “user” friendly. Sounds like food would be more enjoyable. I will keep these in mind when “nourishing”. Thanks for a great article.

Cheryl T Campbell July 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Great article Moira, I’m so happy that you said they are “practices” because it becomes easier to incorporate them into your daily routine. It becomes a lifestyle choice which, to me, is so much better than trying to follow the restrictive rules of whichever diet plan is the flavor of the week!


publisher, Tribal Woman Magazine

Rose Muenker July 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I love this. This is the deprivation-free way to let your body settle into its natural size. Everything improved when I let my body tell me what, when and how to eat. I LOVE the results: more energy, more radiance, more beautiful ME!

Rose Muenker
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Moira July 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Kimberly and Stacy, glad you enjoyed the article.
Nisha, yes! Food is meant to be enjoyed!
Cheryl, going from “guidelines” to “practices” really made a difference for me. I also like to “experiment” and “explore” different ways of nourishing myself through food.

Moira July 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm


thanks for sharing! I love hearing “success stories” about people who have embraced this way of eating/living!

Nina Johnson July 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

So poignant! I always struggle with the practice of know when enough is enough. (Emotional Eater Here).

Jen Jones July 5, 2013 at 2:46 am

Excellent reminders to s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n. and listen. We have more internal wisdom than we give ourselves credit for. Thank you for the inspiration.

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