“Why did you eat that, it’s so bad,” “you need to be good and get a salad,” “that is too high in calories,” “you have no willpower.” Have you ever noticed a little voice in your head that judges your food choices?
One of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is to “challenge the food police.” What does this mean you ask? Keep reading, we are breaking down what the food police is, and ways you can challenge it.
What is the food police?
The food police is your inner dialogue that pops in your head with unhelpful thoughts and judgements about your food choices. These are the thoughts that tell you you’re “being bad” for eating certain foods or even “good” for others.
These thoughts are so unhelpful because no food is morally superior or inferior. Sure, some foods have a higher nutritional value than others, but they are all perfectly fine foods that might be perfectly appropriate in the moment. Your body can handle all kinds of foods, so call out your inner food police and reframe those thoughts with helpful thoughts.
Challenging the food police
Challenging the food police really means trusting yourself and your body. Instead of making food choices based on external factors like what we think we should be eating, we are making food choices based on what we want to be eating.
Examine your food rules
As a result of diet culture’s influence, you may have food rules that you believe and follow ritually. These rules may have developed over time, or have been taught to you from a young age. Food rules typically come from the avoidance of foods or rigid structure around food/ the eating experience that are spoken by the food police. These rules rarely have any leeway, so if you break them, you believe you have failed.
Remember, eating food that you enjoy does not make you a failure! It actually allows you to honor yourself and your body. When we challenge the food police and our food rules and eat the foods that are intimidating, we are slowly breaking down the walls of diet culture to reach food freedom.
Evaluate your belief system about food and your body
Think about your thoughts and beliefs around food, and pay attention to what may actually be a disordered thought. For example, one may sound like “I need to eat less carbs, they are bad for me.” Many of these thoughts have become automatic to us, and are typically deeply rooted inside us.
To challenge the food police with these thoughts, take a moment to pause, hear and observe these thoughts, and think to yourself: are these thoughts actually true? Have any of these thoughts, and moreover the actions that typically following them, actually ever benefited you?
Has eaten carbs ever harmed you? How do you typically feel after eating carbs? Do you genuinely enjoy carb containing foods? What about the health benefits of carbs, like carbs being your brain’s #1 source of energy and fuel?
Now, let’s focus on reframing this thought. Maybe it is in the past, the more I avoid carbs the more I end up craving them and later binging on them. When I label carbs as bad, I end up eating more carbs. When I add carb containing foods to my diet, I am more full and satisfied after meals. Use past experiences to encourage what you know to be realistic and true about the disordered thought, essentially “disproving” the food police.
Keep your feelings in mind
Our thoughts have a big impact on our feelings, so it would make sense that negative, judgemental thoughts would negatively impact our feelings and mood.
Think about the feelings that may come up around food: anxiety, stress, fear, disappointment, sadness, envy, anger, shame.
Now think about the behaviors that follow from those negative feelings and emotions. Common results are being right back in the restrict and binge cycle, picking yourself apart, overeating, and continuous loss of touch with your body’s natural hunger cues.
When we pause to challenge the food police and reframe these negative thoughts, it impacts our overall wellbeing.
Tell the food police “NO”
Scream a loud "NO" to thoughts in your head that declare you're "good" for eating under 1000 calories or "bad" because you eat a piece of chocolate cake. The food police monitors the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and it's loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to intuitive eating. Imagine the freedom when you do!
As you begin or continue navigating your journey with food freedom, NourishRX wants to be there for you every step of the way. If you are interested in working together, learn more about our team of dietitians and the services we provide to support you.
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