Today I'm writing the first of three blog posts about three destructive dieting voices - the Food Police, the Nutrition Informant, and the Diet Rebel. All three destructive voices are discussed in the life-changing book, Intuitive Eating. But for today, let's focus on the Food Police!
The food police prevents us from making peace with food and our bodies. The food police contributes to judging ourselves based on what we eat, how much we eat, and how frequently we eat. Challenging the food police is a really important part of the Intuitive Eating process.
THE FOOD POLICE VOICE
The food police represents the beliefs and thoughts that label our food choices and ourselves as "good" or "bad," depending on what we eat. The food police consists of food rules. Rules which lead to restriction, and experiencing judgmental thoughts about ourselves. The food police is the voice in our head that also contributes to some foods becoming "forbidden." As the Intuitive Eating book states, "The food police is the sum of all your dieting and food rules, and gets stronger with each diet."
HOW TO CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE
The fourth principle of Intuitive Eating is, "Challenge the Food Police." To stop labeling ourselves as "good" or "bad" based on our food choices. To unlearn the food rules, and do so from a place of curiosity - versus judging ourselves when a diet-y thought appears. Here are some strategies for doing just that:
Explore Your Beliefs and Thoughts About Food: As the Intuitive Eating Workbook points out, our beliefs affect our thoughts - which affect our feelings - which affect our behaviors. We can't challenge the food police if we don't recognize our beliefs and thoughts about food and our bodies.
When we're surrounded by diet culture, it's incredibly easy to experience cognitive distortions related to food and our bodies. Cognitive distortions are "...ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn't true." These distortions can result in feeling challenging emotions, and might contribute to experiencing disordered eating. One example of the various types of cognitive distortions is all or none thinking. Given that we're surrounded by messages that that we need to eat a certain way and obtain a particular body size (All or none thinking), it's very easy to have some beliefs and thoughts that do not support making peace with food, and can make us feel bad about ourselves.
I have adapted the following example of a cognitive distortion exercise - when it comes to food and our bodies - from the Intuitive Eating Workbook:
An irrational thought - a cognitive distortion:
It would be alright to eat dinner regularly. But it's bad to consume dinner without experiencing physical activity the same day.
Things to ask ourselves:
Should I really skip dinner when I don't experience physical activity the same day?
How do I feel when I don't consume dinner?
Don't I feel hungry for dinner - including when I don't obtain physical activity?
Think about the past, and reframe your thought:
In the past, I have experienced hunger and fatigue when I have not consumed dinner - which has resulted in having less energy and eating way more than usual later that evening.
Explore what the outcome is of implementing your reframed thought:
Since I have started eating dinner each night - including on the days that I don't experience physical activity - I have noticed that I have had more energy, and have felt more physically and mentally satisfied in the evenings.
Explore and Challenge Your Food Rules: Food rules are strict. While on your Intuitive Eating journey, I encourage you to unlearn any food rules that might be lingering in your mind. Unlike dieting, Intuitive Eating promotes a flexible approach to eating.
Here are some food rules that I come across frequently as a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor:
I try to avoid eating carbohydrates.
If I'm still hungry after finishing a meal, I never eat anything else because I don't want to "overeat."
I consume less food when I go out to eat with others.
I always clean my plate to avoid wasting food.
I never eat after 7pm.
I work with my clients to overcome these food rules one-by-one through nutrition education and Intuitive Eating coaching. The food rules above are just some of the many that I've come across.
Can you relate to any of the food rules listed above? Try writing down any additional food thoughts that you might have. Look at the wording. Do these thoughts contain strict words like, "never," "only," "always," etc.? Do these thoughts lack flexibility? If so, think about how can you make your food thoughts more flexible.
Regularly Take Self-Compassion Breaks: As you work on challenging the food police and the other nine principles of Intuitive Eating, it's really important to cultivate some self-compassion. Making peace with food is hard work. It's so worthwhile, but hard. Particularly when we're surrounded by diet culture. Cultivating some self-compassion is incredibly helpful in life - including when you're doing this work. We are human after all.
In the past, I've mentioned that during your non-diet journey and throughout your life, it can be helpful to talk to yourself like you would your best friend - as a tool for generating some self-compassion when you're experiencing something stressful. Today, I also want to encourage you to try an excellent "Self-Compassion Break," exercise by Dr. Kristin Neff. Here is a written version of Dr. Neff's "Self-Compassion Break," and this recorded meditation of her "Self-Compassion Break."
The bottom line is that you deserve to end the food fight. You deserve to challenge the food police, and develop a healthier relationship with food. You deserve to be able to eat a doughnut or produce and not feel "bad" or "good."
By challenging the food police, you will take a big step forward towards developing a healthy relationship with food - and letting go of judgmental thoughts about your food choices and yourself. In other words, more time to think about things that bring you JOY. You are so much more than your food choices or your body.
I hope you've found this information to be helpful! In the next blog post, I'll explore a second destructive dieting voice - the Nutrition Informant.
If you would like to work with me to develop a healthier relationship with food and your body, or address general wellness concerns, click here to learn more about my virtual private one-on-one sessions.