Put down the bun and put your hands behind your back.

I trawl through a fair few facebook pages relating diet/nutrition/health/wellbeing. I consider it as part of my ongoing professional development procrastination research. Well, that’s how I justify it when my husband seems confused as to why the ironing hasn’t been done or the breakfast dishes are still in the sink at 5pm. Such pages can inform me, educate me and give me food for thought (pardon the pun). But I am always selective about the info and like Wikipedia; don’t take it all as gospel.

Good quality articles written by qualified professionals I usually file under the educational banner. I take the time to read those articles in detail and then follow and contribute to the comments with interest. It fuels my fascination in all things health and fitness.

The ones written by the not-so-qualified individuals, I generally just jump to the comments and see where the discussion is headed. The comments fuel my fascination in human behaviour.

Let’s face it, Facebook has become a massive medium for information gathering and sharing and there is a truckload of pages out there dedicated to diets. If you want to catch what I am throwing, type “paleo” into your Facebook search function (top left hand side) then hit the “show more results” button at the bottom of the initial suggestions. You’ll be presented with an extensive list for everything paleo; paleo mums, paleo recipes, paleo cafes etc etc etc. Do the same for “sugar”. And the same again for 5:2, gluten free, protein, low carb and Atkins (sadly, showing its age through significantly less worshiping pages).

Amongst all of these diet-shrines, there is almost always someone, from somewhere in the world asking: “am I allowed to eat X on this diet?”man eating donut

I have some news for you. Whatever diet you are on, wherever you are in the world, whichever page you are following, the answer is YES, you are allowed to eat it.

Going Paleo? And want to eat a slice of sourdough bread? Yes. I can almost, with 99% certainty (I won’t say 100% because his tanned skin and overwhelmingly sparkly eyes could indeed be magical) guarantee that Paleo Ambassador Pete Evans is not going to jump out of the pantry and donk you over the head with caveman club for breaking Paleo law.

Quitting sugar and want to know if you are allowed to have honey? Yes. I’m pretty sure that green-short clad Sarah Wilson is not going to piff jars of Rice Malt Syrup at you over the breakfast counter.

Going 5:2 and wondering if you are allowed to eat ice-cream on your 2 day? Yes. (Now I’m stumped… I have no idea who to attach to the 5:2 thing to. Note to self: more Facebook “research” required).

Regardless of what diet you are following (and just for the record I think “the best diet is the one you don’t know you are on” Brian Wansink, Ph.D. 2006) you are allowed to eat whatever the hell you damn well want. Unless you want to eat human beings, crystal meth or the neighbour’s cat, there are no police; there are no convictions, no fines, and no jail or death sentences.

Diets. Are. Not. Laws.

Sure, shop around and see if there is something out there that seems to sit right with you. I think paleo, sugar quitting, 5:2, low carb, high protein all have components worth integrating into our lifestyles, but when we start to roadblock ourselves with rules we fall into danger territory.

You can zip a long for quite a while being ok with the fact that bread or chocolate or honey is not “allowed” but eventually (and this is backed up by stats – 95% of people who go on restrictive diets don’t succeed long term) you’re likely to rebel. And then you’ll love the feeling of being able to make your own choice again. And then, abuzz with new found freedom you’ll eat everything from the “forbidden list” (quite possibly in one sitting), and all of a sudden the weight is back on and it’s often paid back with interest.

Just like my six year old hates it when I tell her what she can and can’t eat, fundamentally, so do most adults.

Here’s something to consider: Make your own decisions about food (gasp!). Not based on rules. Not because some airbrushed celebrity making a nice buck out of your vulnerability said so. Make your food decisions based on hunger, happiness and circumstances.

If you understand why you are choosing to eat whatever it is you want eat and you understand the outcomes of that choice (i.e. is it getting your closer or further away from your goal) then you are entirely in control. You don’t even need to ask a Facebook page for permission.