In my last post on Intuitive Eating, we talked about how to make peace with food. This week is all about working towards challenging the food police, the fourth principle of Intuitive Eating. If you haven’t read the last few posts you can find them here to catch up!
So, who are the food police? Well, it can be a friend, family member, yourself, or our society as a whole…hello, diet culture! The main food police we are going to be talking about here is that voice in your head that tells you foods are bad or good.
In the Intuitive Eating book they describe the Food Police as a “strong voice that’s developed through dieting. It’s your inner judge and jury that determine if you are doing “good” or “bad”. It is the sum of all your dieting and food rules, and gets stronger with each diet. It also gets strengthened through new food rules that you may read about in magazines or messages you hear from friends or family.”
When the food police are involved we tend to feel a lot of stress, anxiety, shame and guilt around food. This affects our health and wellbeing. It can impact us even more negatively than you think certain foods will. Below is an example of how that food police voice impacts us negatively.
Let’s say you have been following a diet for several weeks and you are avoiding sugar and sweets as part of the diet. Then you go to your friend’s house and they have cookies (your favorite) and other delicious looking sweets there. Here are some of the food beliefs and thoughts that may fill your head:
- I’ve been so good on my diet the last few weeks
- I haven’t had any sweets and those look good, but I can’t and shouldn’t have one
- If I have one cookie, that will blow my diet
- If I have one cookie, I won’t be able to stop myself
- Everyone else if having a cookie, why can’t I?
- Maybe one cookie will be okay
Then you eat said cookie…
- Oh, Sh*t I shouldn’t have done that
- I have no willpower
- Why can’t I just stick to my diet
- I am not good at this
- I am not good enough
- I’m going to be out of control now
- No wonder I am fat
- I will probably never be able to lose weight
- I am a failure
While these thoughts are going on you are more than likely feeling fear, sadness, guilt and disappointment. Unfortunately, the typical eating pattern that would follow this would be going to grab another cookie, and then another, etc. until you are stuffed and uncomfortable and even more guilt has been built up. Or you sit at your friend’s house beating yourself up and unable to be completely present and engaged in your relationships.
In order to truly be at peace with food and ourselves we need to stand up to the food police. This means challenging those negative thoughts about food in your head. This will help us work on seeing food in a neutral way, not good or bad. Food does not have moral value or change our value in any way. One of the first steps of challenging the food police is identifying what your own food beliefs are. Here are some examples of food beliefs that could be challenged.
- I ate so bad today
- I am so bad…I had a cupcake (insert any other food)
- All carbohydrates are bad
- Gluten is bad
- I can’t eat past 7pm
- If I eat carbs at night I will gain weight
- If I eat dessert I will gain weight
- If I eat dessert I am bad
- Desserts are all bad
- Eating high fat foods will make me fat
- I shouldn’t eat carbs at night
- I’m a bad mom because I let my kids drink juice
- I should drink my coffee black because the creamer is so bad for me
This list could go on and on and on. Unfortunately, these food beliefs are constantly swarming around us. They appear in our own head, on social media, TV, radio, gyms, and family or friends talking about it. Once we learn what our food beliefs are and how they may be impacting us we then can work on countering them with some facts. I often have clients list out all of their food beliefs on a piece of paper. That way we can start reframing their thoughts and write those beside the beliefs. Then you have some concrete things you can say back to that voice!
Now, let’s go back to that earlier example with the cookie. Here is an example of how challenging your food beliefs can change your feelings and behaviors around food.
Beliefs and thoughts in same scenario:
- I am so happy I gave up dieting
- I can eat what I want, when I want to
- I would love to have a cookie
- ‘Eats cookie’…that was delicious
- I enjoyed that and feel satisfied with just that one OR maybe I would like another one
Feelings in this situation are content, pleasure, satisfaction and happiness.
Behaviors that follow include leaving the rest of the cookies, not obsessing or beating yourself up and being able to have engaging and meaningful relationships.
As with every principle we’ve discussed so far in Intuitive Eating this is only one piece of the puzzle. If you are interested in Intuitive Eating I encourage you to purchase the book by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD. It takes time, patience and practice to work through each principle and is not as easy as just doing these activities one time.
If you have any questions or feel you want some assistance with Intuitive Eating you can contact me here!
Now, go challenge the food police!