Some Rules Were Made for Breaking


Back in the day, I used to have a LOT of food rules:

Once it’s 11:00 a.m., it’s officially acceptable to eat lunch.
Snacking is bad for you, don’t do it.
You can’t eat more than 1,200 calories a day.
You’re not allowed to drink alcohol before noon.
It’s not okay to have breakfasts like pancakes, french toast, or muffins…that’s like having dessert for a meal!

Any time my stomach grumbled at 10:45 or I noticed my mouth watering over stuffed french toast on a menu… I’d feel an automatic jolt of “NO!” Like a nun smacking my knuckles with a ruler for not paying attention in class (full disclosure, not Catholic, but have heard this is or was a thing?).

These days, post-intuitive eating work that I’ve done, many rules still pop into my head. My mind will chatter with “You have to get a dairy substitute in that latte,” or “Check the label for added sugar!” The difference is I notice it instead of immediately acting on it. I think to myself, “I see you food rule… but I love this particular coffee drink with milk so, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Maybe I’m just a by-the-books type of person (okay, no MAYBE about it!), but I’ve long had money rules, too. Have you ever had thoughts like these?

You shouldn’t spend money on this.
You should spend no more than $XXX on groceries in a month.
You should only go out to eat once every two weeks.
You need to save X% of your paycheck.
You need to give X% of your income to charity.
You can’t have negative self-talk around money…be POSITIVE!
You shouldn’t have student loan debt by X years old…

With both money and food, it’s easy to take the best practices or advice from a podcast, TV personality, or personal finance book and FORCE it to become a hard and fast rule. It’s even easier to take family practices or beliefs and adopt those mantras as your own. You may not even stop to question these rules - where they came from, if they’re still relevant, or whether or not they’ll even work for your unique financial situation. Maybe you not only blindly adopt them…you also tie them to your self-worth. And whenever you break them, you’re “bad.”

No rule should have the power to convince you that you’re bad with money, or worse, a bad person in general. Pick one that stands out to you and get curious. Where did you learn this rule? Is it true in ALL cases, 100% of the time? If you bent it a little to better fit your needs, would the world burn? What would have to change - with the rule, not you - to make the guideline feel more fun, motivating, flexible, or inviting?

Life becomes a lot easier when we give ourselves grace…with food, money, or anything else. When I started acknowledging and adjusting my food rules, eating (something that is supposed to come naturally for survival!) started to become a lot less stressful. I wasn’t scanning barcodes or comparing my food to others’ when going out to eat.

And when I took steps to stop beating myself up for spending more than I meant at Target, or paying a little more in rent for an apartment I absolutely loved, life was a little more fun to live. That doesn’t mean I’m not mindful about where my money is going and how I’m directing it to help me live my values - it just means I’m not forcing myself into a box and saying, “This is the way you HAVE to live your financial life!”

Not all rules are made to be broken… but the ones you’re making yourself stick to without knowing why, and without feeling good and empowered in the process? Those ones absolutely are.


Liz Garster