There is a difference in the mentality around ‘rules’ and ‘guidelines’ that differentiate the mindset involved with abiding by one to the mindset of incorporating the other. Rules are rigid. By eating in accordance with rules we limit our scope to enjoy life or live with a relative flexibility that is required in order to not be at constant battle with your will and that of the universe.
However, does this mean that we should eat what we want and consume at wild abandon? I wouldn’t say so. By being mindless of our relationship with food, and what we are eating we lose insight into whether we are full or hungry, whether we REALLY want that piece of cake or if we’re eating it out of an unintended routine, or boredom.
Guidelines however, are much more flexible. Guidelines are more about doing something than not doing something. Adding behaviour or replacing behaviour is much easier than not doing a behaviour. Therefore it makes sense that ‘drink more water’ is likely to be more successful than ‘stop drinking fizzy drinks’. The stop goal doesn’t replace the behaviour with an alternative to help create a behaviour change. Guidelines can have hairier edges of accomplishment than rules. With rules you either follow it or break it. With guidelines, you may hit eating 5+ portions of fruit and veg in the day, but there is no such thing as failure: only achieved or try again tomorrow. Rules tend to be very specific.
For example, a diet plan may include g targets of protein, carbohydrate, fat and maybe even a further breakdown of the macro-nutrients. This is so difficult to meet or even be aware of without a micro-focus on food, which for some may be necessary – athletes for example – but for those of us just living average active lives, this may not be necessary or even conducive to feeling better or achieving an overall healthier life.