The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating: Principle 4
Written by Madi Hahn, Dietetics Student
Challenge the Food Police
If you’ve ever felt any guilt when reaching for one of those yummy foods you may have deemed as “bad”, you can certainly blame what we call “The Food Police.” Diet culture often tells us that certain foods are “allowed” and others are deemed evil – or that we can only eat something if it’s justified. We’re supposed to feel guilty for things like lying, cheating, and stealing – not for eating a donut!
Challenging the food police is about rejecting the negative thoughts in our heads surrounding food and its relation to our bodies, including the random (often non science-based) mantras society tells us about our habits. This can include thoughts like, “white bread will make me fat” or “dairy is unhealthy” or “I shouldn’t eat after 8 PM” or “I didn’t exercise today, so I shouldn’t eat a snack”. These thoughts circle around in our heads and plant themselves deep in our psyche, leaving us with an uphill battle to break free from the debilitating guilt that comes from eating anything outside of what the food police has deemed “appropriate”.
In the Intuitive Eating book, Tribole and Resch discuss the different ‘eating voices’ that contribute to the policing of our food habits:
The Food Police analyzes every move we make in regards to eating, exercise, and health. This voice is not our friend – it creates havoc in our minds when we break the laws that we’ve created in our minds regarding food.
The Nutrition Informant is the voice in the back of your head providing you with nutrition information about what you’re eating. The flaw with this voice is that it operates under the guise of health, but is really polarizing our views around foods and playing into our sense of guilt.
The Diet Rebel is the pushback we feel whenever we try to diet or restrict ourselves. This voice only gets louder over time, and it might say things like “I can’t wait for my family to leave so I can eat all of the cookies they told me not to eat!” or “I refuse to eat another undressed salad!”. These strong voices only build over time and ultimately draw us to self-sabotaging habits such as overeating as a form of ‘acting out’.
The good news is that these voices can be challenged with more positive voices:
The Food Anthropologist provides us with a judgment-free view of our food decisions. This voice simply recognizes the facts the book provides examples such as “I skipped breakfast and was ravenous at 11 AM” or “I experienced guilt after eating dessert with dinner”. These are mere observations without harsh, policing opinions.
The Nurturer is the comforting voice which never reprimands us for our eating decisions. Although it may be easy for us to forget to deploy this voice, it might say things like “I’m allowed to eat ice cream. I really enjoy ice cream.” and “I feel my best when I listen to my body’s cravings”.
The Intuitive Eater is a voice that we all have, but often dismiss for so long that we forget how to use it. The Intuitive Eater within us is what tells us to listen to our bodies. It might say things like “What should I eat for lunch today? What type of food has my body been craving?” or as the book says, “That little rumble in my stomach means I’m hungry and I need to eat.”
By combating the negative thoughts from the food police with more neutral, comforting, and intuitive thoughts surrounding food, we can help make peace with ourselves and our bodies once and for all, we can ditch the negative self-talk and practice forgiveness while still honoring our health.
Stay tuned for Madi's breakdown of Intuitive Eating Principles 5 through 10!