Principle 4 of Intuitive Eating: Challenge the Food Police
The Food Police rob you of your ability to choose and enjoy food that is physically and emotionally satisfying. Fight back against these harmful messages and tune in to what your body needs.
Although each of us is born with the ability to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full, most of us fall prey to messages from society about what we can and can’t.
Sometimes these messages become so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even notice them.
In Intuitive Eating, we call these voices The Food Police, because they provide us with rules that affect what, when and how much we can or should eat.
Are you ready to learn more about how to discover and ditch your food police? Read on….
Did you know that we make more than 200 food-related choices every day?
When we decide what to eat, we take into account taste, temperature, texture, and/or how much a food tends to satisfy us. But sometimes our decision is affected by messages from others or even those in our heads.
Sometimes these voices are helpful, like when they remind us that a particular food helps keep us feeling good for several hours. (This is really helpful when you have a morning of back-to-back meetings.)
However, sometimes these voices are harmful, and, in Intuitive Eating, we refer to them as the Food Police.
The Food Police:
- have lots of rules about food, many of them quite arbitrary;
- reinforce the idea that some foods are good, while others are bad;
- often spark feelings of guilt and shame.
Who are your Food Police?
Learning to identify and challenge your food police is a key step in becoming an Intuitive Eater.
(If you’re new to Intuitive Eating, check out my prior blog post, What is Intuitive Eating? before you read on)
If you’ve been reading along with my Intuitive Eating blog posts, you’ll know that Intuitive Eating is about tuning IN to your body and its needs.
However, the messages the Food Police provide take your individual needs out of the equation.
Do any of these Food Police sound familiar???
- Patty the Paleo social influencer: Patty has a huge online following as a coach for those wanting to follow a Paleo lifestyle. She wants everyone to benefit from her personal experience and promotes the idea that Paleo is the ONLY way to eat. Patty doesn’t let the her lack of nutrition degree stop her from preaching the dangers of not following her lifestyle.
- Weight Watching Wendy – Wendy is a long-time Weight Watchers member. You’ve been friends with her long enough to learn about exchanges, points, etc and she is sure to tell you that “it’s not a diet.” She meticulously calculates what she can and can’t eat and chastises herself for ‘being bad’ when she eats outside of her meal plan.
- Clean Eating Cathy: Cathy eschews anything processed or artificial, and while you might agree with some of her thoughts, you are starting to think she is taking it too far. It’s hard to eat out with her, because most restaurants don’t meet her exacting standards, which seem to increase by the week. Sometimes, she shuns food altogether and just has a cup of herbal tea and some nuts she brought with her.
Do you notice that you make different food choices when you are with them or when you have these thoughts in your head?
Perhaps you feel compelled to follow these rules, only to notice an increase in craving forbidden foods later. Or perhaps you are affected in an opposite way, openly rebelling by choosing foods you don’t really want ‘just because you can.’
If you answered “Yes,” as most women do, it’s time to start fighting back against these unhelpful bullies that are standing between you and your goal of finding peace and joy in food as an Intuitive Eater.
So, how do you challenge the food police?
- Identify them: Some of my examples above might resonate with you, but maybe they don’t. Perhaps there are other voices that dictate what and when you eat. Grab a journal and spend a few days noticing when your food choices are affected by those external or internal voices.
- Pick apart the messages. Let’s use Clean Eating Cathy as an example. As diets have come under fire in recent years, there’s been a focus on “eating clean” as a lifestyle. However, the rules around clean eating can be harmful as people often see our next meal as a cure all or a death sentence. The research shows that our bodies are quite resilient and that the negative effects of stress and fear around food can have serious consequences. You could research these concepts. Or perhaps you have some experiential knowledge of how your cravings or stress levels increase after trying to “eat clean.”
- Create statements that challenge your food police.
Continuing with the example of Cathy above, you could say:
- “During prior experiences with ‘clean eating,’ I avoided eating out with friends because of the stress of finding the right food. Socializing is important for physical and mental health. I am able to eat all foods.”
- “I enjoy eating chocolate chip cookies and I can eat them and still feel good. Since I have started allowing them again, I take the time to savor and enjoy them and I trust my body to tell me when I’ve had enough. I know that I can have them whenever I desire so I don’t want them all the time.”
- “I’ve noticed that when I avoid carbs, I find myself hungry an hour later. Nourishing MY body well means eating carbs as a part of my meals.”
The key element to creating these statements is to reflect on your eating experiences with curiosity rather than judgment. Curiosity allows us to explore deeper; judgment creates feelings of shame that prevent us from finding the true meaning.
Finding those food police voices and examining their role in your food choices allows you to tune IN to your body, while tuning OUT unhelpful messages that affect your body to eat intuitively – an integral part of becoming an Intuitive Eater.
Are you ready to start challenging your Food Police?
You can use the steps above to start identifying and fighting back against YOUR food police.
But perhaps you need some more guidance as you begin working on Intuitive Eating. Maybe you’ve started reading about Intuitive Eating, but you feel anxious about quitting diet culture and starting this journey all alone.
That’s where I come in! I help women just like you every day as they learn to tune in to their bodies and eat food that is physically and emotionally satisfying.
Are you curious about what it’s like to work with a professional on Intuitive Eating? I offer a complimentary discovery phone call to those who are interested in exploring working with me. Click here to schedule your call!
We can discuss the areas where you are struggling, your goals for the future, and outline a plan to get you on your way towards finding joy and peace with food and your body. Isn’t that worth working for?
Stay tuned to the blog as I continue to explore Intuitive Eating. Next time I’ll be talking about Principle 5: Learning To Feel Your Fullness.
If you missed my prior articles about Intuitive Eating, click on the links below to read the complete articles so you understand the full process of Intuitive Eating:
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”