Food Rules Are Meant to Be Broken: Paleo, AIP, Vegan (& Everything In-between)

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Banana Peace 2 Copy 1 | Food Rules Are Meant To Be Broken: Paleo, Aip, Vegan (&Amp; Everything In-Between)

Do you ever feel like you are walking around on egg shells, trying to follow a certain diet perfectly? Or, you don’t even question the diet rules you follow now–it’s just what you do, on auto-pilot? I did too. 

I’ve always been a “rule-follower.” 

I never had the guts to start a food fight. I always wanted to be that kid that stood up and yelled ‘food fight!’ but I was too much of a people pleaser to ruffle any (teacher’s) feathers.

I turned myself in for the first class I ever skipped in highschool—9th grade drama with Mr. Clay. I went to eat sushi, hit the tanning bed and shop for a dress for Sadie Hawkins with my best friend at the time. I ended up walking into the principal’s office the next day and confessing my deed—unbeknownst to her.

I’m a really safe driver. My biggest claim to driving fame is getting pulled over for going too slow. Yes too slow. 45 in a 60 mph zone. Whoops. Got off with a warning on that one.

From the time I was 10 years-old to 24, I was always on some sort of diet—bound by rules and perfection. Vegetarian. Low-fat. Paleo. Low-calorie. ‘Clean-eating.’ All-fruit. Cleanse. Diets became legalistic for me and no matter what my food philosophy was at the time, I felt extremely guilty if I ever broke my rules.

I am a rule-follower, tried and true.

Until now…


Your Diet Indentity

“What type of diet do you follow?” or “What is your food philosophy?”Paleo? Vegan? Clean eating? Good and bad foods? No grains? Low carb? Mediterranean? The Food Guide Pyramid?

As a nutritionist, I am asked these questions occasionally.

To which I respond:

Diet? I don’t have one. I just eat real food.”

 Food Rules
Politics, Religion & Diets

Food is a touchy subject for some—right up there with the ranks of politics and religion.

Don’t tell a vegan they are missing out on protein and B-vitamins.

Don’t tell a paleo person they are “sooooo rigid.”

Don’t tell an autoimmune-protocol adherent that their gluten sensitivity is “all in their head.”

Don’t tell a Food Guide Pyramid adherent that “everything in moderation” is not 100% accurate if they are eating pizza and ice cream a vast majority of the time.

Telling a person what’s wrong with their own diet or rules will get you (and them) no where.

Instead, each one of us should look to our own food and nutrition philosophies and decide for ourselves what is the “right way” for us.

A vast majority of my work is spent in the trenches with girls and women who have been bound to rules for far too long.

They want to be free of feeling like something is constantly clipping at their heels when it comes to checking off boxes of ‘diet perfection’ and thinking about food—and juggling their diet—in the world around them.

And there is so much noise, sometimes they struggle with knowing what to even believe:

  • High-fat, no carb vs. Low-fat, no-carb vs. Low-fat and whole grains.
  • No eggs, no more than 1 fruit per day, no nuts if you follow “AIP (autoimmune protocol)” vs. Eggs and bacon, fresh fruits and a handful of nuts for snacks if you follow paleo
  • Low-fat, fat-free dairy vs. No dairy because it’s inflammatory vs. Grass-fed, raw dairy
  • No rice vs. Brown rice vs. “White rice is better”
  • Butter, egg yolks and coconut oil vs. Fat-free margarine, egg whites and olive oil
  • Whole grains vs. No grains
  • Soy milk vs. Almond milk

Aye aye aye!

So many rules to keep up with.

What do you believe? What do you follow?

Throughout the years I found my identity in diets and rules—more so than being in touch with myself and what my body actually needed and could handle.

In my recovery, through lots of trial and error, I have found that no one way is the “right way.”

And therefore, while diets and nutrition protocols CAN serve as guidelines for helping you cut out inflammatory foods, reach a certain performance and body composition goal, or improve your health…

Diets and general nutrition protocols are just that—guidelines.

Food Rules

For instance, the Autoimmune Protocol:

  • No grains and gluten
  • No dairy
  • No nuts and seeds
  • No pepper or ‘hot’ spices
  • No eggs

These are some of the guidelines.

However, you may find while eggs and almonds do not agree with you…you actually do just fine with a little bit of white rice with your sushi or black pepper with your sea salt.

Or, take Paleo:

  • No grains and gluten
  • No dairy
  • No alcohol
  • No sugar
  • Little starch

However, you may be very active and find you actually do need more starch around your workouts to support your recovery or muscle gains. Or, that some full-fat grass-fed cheese actually doesn’t make you breakout, get allergies or upset your stomach. (#Shocking).

Or Ketogenic:

  • High fat
  • Low carb—less than 50 grams
  • Don’t so much even think about butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or beets; choose leafy greens instead

So what happens if you “slip”? You really wanted some homemade sweet potato fries. So you made them. Is all over? Are you a failure?

Or the Whole 30 diet:

  • Strict Paleo!!!

Like Ketogenic, what happens if you slip? You ate a little more fruit one day, or had a homemade cookie your mom made while visiting home?

Do you need to start all over at Day 1? Is all lost?

No. No. No. NO!

Food is not a game of Perfection.

Food Rules

You are not defined by what you eat—or don’t eat. You are not a “vegetarian,” a “paleo,” a “ketogenic,” an “AIP-er,” a “clean-eater,” a “dieter.”

These are the foods you eat.

They are not who you are.

And, no matter what you choose to eat, or what guidelines you choose to follow, remember those guidelines are just that—guidelines—intended for the masses.

Your body is your body, and it’s up to you to decide what does, and what does not agree with you.

The better questions to ask yourself, rather than: “Am I following the diet protocols, or the rules” are these:

(1.) “How does this food make me feel?” (Good or bad digestion, brain and mental clarity, energy, recovery, etc.)

And, (2.) What would healthy me do?”—the healthy body, mind and soul you.

The girl you want to be. The woman who is not bound to rules or chains—but living free with food.

For each and every meal you face or foods we encounter on the daily, when we face them with a perspective of eating out of love and kindness towards our bodies…rather than dogmas, rules and mandates…

Freedom with food (and from food rules) can be won.

Food Rules

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One thought on “Food Rules Are Meant to Be Broken: Paleo, AIP, Vegan (& Everything In-between)

  1. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes!! I have seen so many women slip into disordered eating from following sets of these rules, becoming stricter and stricter, ultimately not getting enough fuel because they cut out so much and then losing their period (along with other health consequences). It is definitely time to let go of the rules and eat what makes you feel good – and enough of it!

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