Hi, everyone! In last week's blog post, "Destructive Dieting Voices: Part 1 - Challenge the Food Police," we explored how the Food Police is a destructive dieting voice that symbolizes our beliefs and thoughts that label what we eat - and ourselves - as "good" or "bad" depending on our food choices.
Well today, let's talk about a second destructive dieting voice, the Nutrition Informant voice! As the Intuitive Eating Workbook states, "The Nutrition Informant voice aligns with the pervading cultural myths about which foods are healthy (not fattening) or unhealthy (fattening)." The Nutrition Informant voice encourages us to obsess about the nutritional content of food. The Nutrition Informant voice rattles off nutrition-related information to the Food Police voice. Then the Food Police voice responds by either making us feel "good" - if we're following the Nutrition Informant voice's recommendations - or "bad" - when consuming foods that the Nutrition Informant voice deems as unhealthy.
NUTRITION INFORMANT AND FOOD POLICE CHATTER
Here are some common examples of the Nutrition Informant voice working with the Food Police voice:
Nutrition Informant Voice: "Don't you know how much sodium is in that dish? You're going to develop high blood pressure if you eat that!"
Food Police Voice: "I can't believe I ate something so high in sodium. I am so bad."
Nutrition Informant Voice: "That piece of cake is so high in calories! Eat those celery sticks instead."
Food Police Voice: "Here I am trying to be good, and I blew my diet by eating that piece of cake! I'm such a loser."
Nutrition Informant Voice: "Don't eat that. It contains fat!"
Food Police Voice: "I messed up. I consumed fat! I'm so mad at myself!"
Nutrition Informant Voice: "Be good and skip those carbohydrates. Eat a piece of meat instead."
Food Police Voice: "I couldn't take it anymore. I ordered spaghetti! I can't believe I ate those carbs! I have no willpower."
Clearly, the Nutrition Informant voice is exaggerating in the examples above! For example, the Nutrition Informant voice is falsely suggesting that eating one meal is going to cause high blood pressure. The truth is that a variety of risk factors are associated with primary (essential) hypertension. This type of health condition has a pattern of developing during a time span of several years. In the case of secondary hypertension, which can develop quickly, the high blood pressure is actually caused by another health condition. The main point here is that one meal is not going to cause either form of high blood pressure.
As for cake, consuming a piece is hopefully going to result in loving every bite. If you're craving a piece of cake, but decide to eat celery sticks instead, it's highly likely that you won't feel mentally or physically satisfied. You'll probably crave the cake even more. This can lead to raiding the pantry in search of different foods to try to quench the cake craving - which is usually unsuccessful. If you feel like you're obsessing about cake in general, or are feeling guilty after eating cake, I encourage you to work on creating peace with food.
The Nutrition Informant voice above is also against consuming foods that contains fat. We actually need to consume fat. Fat helps us absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat enhances the appearance, flavor, and textures in food - and therefore makes food more satisfying. Fat helps us feel full for longer periods of time, in addition to slowing down the rise of blood sugar levels. Additionally, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are associated with promoting heart health.
Finally, let's talk about the Nutrition Informant's encouragement to not consume carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not bad. They are the gold standard of energy. Among the many positive qualities that carbohydrates possess, they are fabulous for fueling our activities and helping us recover from having exerted our energy. Carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods, like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, sweets, etc. Eating a wide variety of foods can make eating more pleasurable!
Hey I've talked about nutrition a lot here. But what I really want you to get out of this is that when it comes to nutrition - our eating pattern over time is what matters. I also want to help you stop viewing food as "good" or "bad," or labeling yourselves as "good" or "bad," based on your food choices. Instead, here are some important questions to ask yourself: Are you eating regularly? Are you honoring your hunger? Are you eating a variety of foods? Are you really eating enough to feel comfortably full? Are you listening to your body and exploring how different foods make you feel? Do you feel comfortable around food? Do you feel relaxed and at peace with food?
WHEN THE NUTRITION INFORMANT CAN BE BENEFICIAL
As the Intuitive Eating book points out, the Nutrition Informant voice can become a Nutrition Ally when it ditches the Food Police voice. Meaning that people who are living with a particular health condition or are really listening to their bodies can make an informed decision about what to eat next without feeling "good" or "bad" - as long as the Food Police voice is out of the picture. For example, if you continue to feel guilty or extra virtuous when you consume certain foods, you'll know that there's still some opportunity to overcome the Food Police voice.
STRATEGIES FOR TURNING THE NUTRITION INFORMANT INTO A NUTRITION ALLY
Challenge the Food Police: When the Food Police no longer exists in your mind, the Nutrition Informant can become an ally. I've provided some strategies for overcoming the Food Police in my blog post, "Destructive Dieting Voices: Part 1 - Challenge the Food Police," which revolve around compassionately challenging our beliefs and thoughts about food. As you might imagine, Rejecting the Diet Mentality is also an important part of being able to shoo away the Food Police.
When the Nutrition Informant voice collaborates with the Food Police voice in your mind, challenge the Nutrition Informant's messages: Let's say the Nutrition Informant voice says, "Don't buy frozen produce. Fresh produce is always better for you than frozen produce!" Question this statement. Ask yourself, "Is fresh produce really better for me than frozen?" The truth is that fresh produce is actually flash-frozen when it's ripe. In many cases, frozen produce is just as nutrient dense as fresh produce. At times, frozen produce may offer more nutrition because produce that's traveling for thousands of miles in a truck to a grocery store will lose some nutrients. If you're trying to save some money on groceries, frozen produce can help you do just that!
Talk with a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor about your food beliefs and thoughts about food: It can be difficult to do this on your own when there's so much misinformation out there. We're surrounded by diet culture - which regularly deems food as "healthy" or "unhealthy," and people as "good" or "bad" based on their food choices and body sizes. As a non-diet Registered Dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I work with clients to explore their beliefs and thoughts about food. I partner with clients to acknowledge their beliefs and food-related thoughts - and bust nutrition myths. Certified Intuitive Eating Counselors use an evidence-based approach (Intuitive Eating) to help our clients make peace with food and their bodies. It's possible to really make peace with food when we overcome the Food Police voice.
The bottom line is that you deserve to look at food and not view it as "good" or "bad." You deserve to listen to your body and consume foods that sounds good and help you feel well - without judging yourself based on your food choices. By letting go of the Food Police voice, you can more easily enjoy food and view it for what it is. Food.
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.