Let’s start this off with a disclaimer. First, I have no problem with women wanting to look “skinny” or “slender”. I encourage women to build the body THEY want, whatever that means to them. My problem with The Skinny Rules below isn’t about the “skinny” part. It’s the fact that those rules reinforce a negative mindset, contribute to obsessive compulsive eating patterns, feed on the “rapid fat loss” mentality, and are unrealistic to apply long-term.
Second, this article isn’t my typical style, but after reading “the skinny rules”, I couldn’t help but sigh in utter disappointment. After all, the wave of women choosing strength over dieting has been growing, faster than ever in my opinion. But books like The Skinny Rules are making the battle more challenging. But, that’s okay, I’m up for the fight.
I’ve had the privilege of watching more and more women say “No!” to dieting and yes to strength training, building a stronger body and mind, and becoming better versions of themselves without the use of starvation diets, crash diets, brutal workout routines, and other methods I think should be avoided.
And because this is my website and I’m entitled to my opinion, I’m going to share my thoughts about these so called “rules”.
Here’s an image I saw floating around the internet with “The Skinny Rules”. I believe this has surfaced and become viral because of the release of Bob Harper’s newest book, “Jumpstart to Skinny” (I will note that the following “rules” are in the The Skinny Rules and not his new Jumpstart to Skinny).
There you have it. The “simple, nonnegotiable principles for getting to thin.”
Nonnegotiable? Really? I’ll address that in a moment.
Admittedly, all of those rules aren’t bad. Eating your veggies and getting enough sleep are great “rules”. But some of the others, not so much.
Rule 2: Don’t Drink Your Calories. Yeah, I can understand that one. Easy peasy. But if you, like me, enjoy some cream or coconut oil in your coffee, then I say don’t stress over something so small and insignificant. Pick your battles for goodness sake! I’d rather you put some half ‘n half in your coffee and enjoy it instead of dreading having to gag down black coffee. This is when nit-picking is pointless.
After all, what will have a larger impact on your fat loss progress? Forgoing some cream in your morning coffee or choosing to eat a real food meal versus something you get in a drive through? Choose your battles and don’t obsess over the tiny details. If that means a splash of cream in your coffee, then do it.
Rule 7: No Carbs after Lunch. This isn’t a new recommendation. Or, excuse me, a “nonnegotiable principle”. I just don’t like it. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary and “nonnegotiable” to enjoy some carbs with your dinner. This is just another rigid rule that contributes to OCD eating patterns for many (meaning, not all) individuals.
Rule 13: Get Rid of Fast Foods and Fried Foods. I took this one personally. I can’t recall the last time I ate fast food and I very, very rarely eat fried food, so I follow this rule 99.9% of the time. But I’m a southern gal, and on the rare occasion that my Mama makes homemade fried chicken, I’m going to eat it. Is it smart to follow that rule the majority of the time? Of course. But to suggest people can’t enjoy something as amazing as homemade, pan fried chicken on occasion because it’s a “nonnegotiable” rule is just silly.
Rule 18: Go to Bed Hungry. Allow me to express my thoughts with a facial expression first. O_o
Really? How is telling people to go to bed hungry, which is yet again another “nonnegotiable” principle, mandatory and helpful for fat loss? Sure, you may burn a few extra fat calories by applying this rule, but it wouldn’t be a large enough amount to have any noticeable impact even over the long-term.
Not to mention, that rule is in total conflict with the following rule:
Rule 19: Sleep Right. I agree that enough high quality sleep is very valuable for losing fat, building a better body, and improving your health. But, telling people to go to bed hungry is a great way to negatively affect sleep quality. If your stomach is growling and you’re so hungry that your pillow starts to look like a tasty marshmallow, I doubt you’ll fall asleep with ease.
In that case, any potential extra calories you could burn (which again, would be few) from going to bed hungry would be mitigated from stress and lower sleep quality.
Rule 20: Plan on One Splurge Meal a Week. Admittedly, some people love this approach and do well with it. I strongly dislike it. In fact, I dislike terms like cheat, forbidden, off limits, splurge, and other terms people apply to certain foods. This not only makes you want those foods more, but it tests your willpower unnecessarily. This is something I discuss in detail in Sane and Simple Nutrition.
Plus, having a “splurge meal” reinforces the idea that food is a “reward”. We’re not dogs. We don’t get rewarded with treats.
If I’m craving some ice cream, then I’m going to eat the ice cream and enjoy every cold, creamy, spoonful of that yummy goodness. I’m not going to eat it because “I’ve earned it” with a tough workout, following “all the rules” or some other nonsense. Such a thought process adds fuel to the “food is the enemy” fire. I know, because I’ve been there many years ago.
I could easily poke at some of the other rules, but that should be sufficient.
What’s Wrong with The Skinny Rules?
Some people can look at those “skinny rules” above and think they’re perfectly fine, even great. But that’s not what I see when I read those rules. I see rules that contribute to OCD eating habits. I see rules that continue to tell women they’ll never be good enough and that they must fix every perceived flaw they possess. I see rules that try to press every woman into some ideal mold — a certain pant size, body image, weight, or figure.
I see women stressing out. Depriving themselves of nourishment. Going to bed with a rumbling stomach unable to fall asleep. Causing themselves ridiculous amounts of stress over tiny, insignificant details that won’t have a big impact on their results. I see women trying to eat less and less. I see womens’ actions being fueled by negative thoughts (I’m too fat, I’m not good enough, I eat too much, etc). I see women thinking food is evil and that they must avoid it as much as possible.
I see women doing everything they can to follow the rules exactly as written because they’re determined to get results. But, inevitably, they’ll slip a little at some point because those rules just aren’t realistic. And, unfortunately, such strict guidelines can lead to binge eating. Sure, they may lose some weight and “get to skinny”, but more than likely they’ll quickly regain that weight back, plus interest, once they stop following the rules.
Then they’ll be back where they started before following The Skinny Rules. They have unwanted fat, again, and they’ll be upset that they didn’t get or maintain the results they wanted, and eventually they’ll seek the next diet that promises to make their dreams come true.
This is what I call Nutrition Insanity. It’s just more of the same “eat less (or way less) and exercise more” propaganda that’s run a muck in the fitness world. Sure, some people who are lethargic, overweight, and eat nothing but heavily processed, low quality food all day long could benefit from that advice.
But more and more women are literally eating less . . . and less . . . and less. They often combine such a low caloric intake with high intensity workouts. Sure, they may lose some weight, but they end up exhausted, burned out, their metabolism in shambles if they do this for an extended period of time, and desperately craving some dang food. But they won’t eat the food because they fear it will add fat to their body.
Those women do not need to be told to “eat less and move more”. No, they most likely can benefit from Eating MORE and Working Out LESS.
Gee. I wonder how many “nonnegotiable rules” that would break if women would pick up the fork and get off the treadmill for a bit.
These rules reinforce the thought process of “perfection” and do nothing but stress women out and make them feel shameful about their body. All these rules do is communicate to women that it’s too complicated to lose fat, build a better body, and figure out on your own. It reinforces the idea that women can’t trust their own bodies and listen to their own hunger cues; and it works. So many women are simply terrified to “eat when they’re hungry” because rules like this make them think food is bad. Food is evil. Food makes you fat. Hunger is good.
The rules make it seem that if you’re not suffering, struggling, or depriving yourself, then you won’t get results.
But it’s just not true.
Starving, being miserable, and strict rules are not mandatory, and most certainly not “nonnegotiable” to lose fat.
Screw The “Skinny” Rules – Be Awesome
Look. I completely understand that not every woman wants to sculpt muscle and have an athletic looking body. I always encourage people to go after they look they want and to build the physique that makes them happy. If you prefer a more slender appearance, that’s fine. Go for it.
But, and here’s the important thing — I believe you should develop a simple, practical, sustainable, motivating lifestyle approach to achieve those goals. And once you achieve those goals, you should be able to maintain them.
You may wonder why I’m so passionate about this whole “screw dieting and trying to be skinny” stuff. It’s quite simple, really. It’s because I connect with women every day who have tried diet after diet in hopes of building the body they want. Heck, I’ve been there myself.
I learn of their struggles, desires, and I see how desperately they just want to regain their sanity and discover how to, once and for all, get the results they want and maintain them. They don’t want to focus on fat loss for the long-term.
I want women to be extremely confident. I want them to love their bodies and eat better and workout because they love their body and they want to become a better version of themselves. Eating and working out should not be punishment, and many of these “rules” that encourage women to be skinny does just that.
Instead of telling women to “not eat this” and “avoid that” I want to show them how to listen to their own bodies. To discover what works for them. To develop a simple, sustainable lifestyle approach instead of turning to a diet to solve their problems. To show them that if they follow a few simple, flexible guidelines that they can lose fat, build the body they want all while not starving, depriving themselves, fearing food, or being miserable.
And, ladies, I truly don’t care if you look awesome in a swimsuit, because if that awesome body comes with a mindset that’s constantly filled with negative self-talk, and you’re revolving your life around dieting and going to the gym, then something needs to change. Looking good is awesome. But having a strong, confident mind and not being tossed back and forth between the latest diets is priceless. The mind is truly where your transformation begins.
An overall stronger mind and improved self confidence is just one reason women should strength train. Instead of focusing on eating less and losing fat, strength training allows you to focus and be proud of what your body is capable of DOING. Not only that but strength training is fun, motivating, and incredibly empowering.
Say no to any and all “skinny” rules. Choose instead to be awesome. I discuss more about what it means to “be awesome” in Stop Basing Your Self Worth on Your Physique.
Bottom line. Whether you want to be lean and athletic, slender, or just strong and healthy, you can do so. But have positive motivation. Don’t look for more diets that encourage deprivation. Stop trying to be “less” and choose to be strong. Choose to be confident. Choose to be awesome. Choose to be the best version of yourself. Choose to be proud of your body and what it can do. Choose to focus on the weight on the barbell and not the scale.
If you’re ready to ditch the strict rules and opt for Being Awesome instead of chasing the goal of being “skinny”, I highly encourage you to get the free Beautiful Badass Mini Course. Just put your email in the box below this article, hit Sign Me Up, and you’ll get it immediately. That will give you a taste of what it means to have positive, motivating goals.
After you do that, here are some articles to help you on your journey to Being Awesome.
Simple Fat Loss 101 — if you want to lose fat, then this is the sane and simple approach to do so. No “nonnegotiable” rules included.
6 (Sane and Simple) Rules to Lift Like a Girl — want a real set of rules that don’t say a thing about dieting, starving, or working out to total exhaustion? Here ya go.
How to be the Most Awesome and Strongest Version of Yourself — the title says it all. I highly recommend you read this article.