- by Jared
Understand Why We Our Own Worst Critics in “Challenge The Food Police” Principle of Intuitive Eating
Food companies, magazines, and commercials are capitalizing on consumer eating morality with absolving themes:
• “Be bad. Snack well, they let you be bad, and still be good” (an ad for SnackWell’s Fudge Drizzled Caramel Popcorn).
• Guiltless Gourmet (a food company that specializes in fat-free snacks)
• It’s like you dieted and went to heaven (a magazine ad for Bailey’s Light).
• Butter Paroled, Margarine Charged (an article in Eating Well magazine).
With these daily reminders it becomes difficult to view eating as simply a normal pleasurable activity; rather, it becomes good or bad, with the societal Food Police chastising each blasphemous bite of food.
The Food Police are alive and well—both as a collective cultural voice and at the individual level, in the thoughts of our clients.
Learn About The Food Police
It’s important to remember that even when you reject dieting and begin to make peace with food, the Food Police will often surface.
But it’s not always obvious—just like a weed cut above the surface.
A weed that is strongly rooted can easily flourish, even when there are no green tendrils peeking through the soil.
Here are some common rules by which the Food Police may judge your eating actions:
• Don’t eat at night (therefore if you eat at night, you are guilty of a violation).
• Better not eat that bagel—it’s fattening, too many carbohydrates.
• You didn’t exercise today, better not eat dinner.
• It’s not time to eat yet—don’t have that snack.
• You ate too much (even though it was based on being hungry).
HOW IT HURTS: The Food Police scrutinizes every eating action. It keeps food and your body at war.
HOW IT HELPS: It doesn’t! This is one voice that does not turn into an ally. By identifying its strong presence in your mind, however, you will learn how to challenge its power and loosen its hold on you.
What rules does your inner Food Police judge your eating actions?
Learn About Nutritional Informant To Challenge The Food Police
The Nutrition Informant provides nutrition evidence to keep you in line with dieting.
The Nutrition Informant voice may tell you to fastidiously count carbohydrate grams, or eat only fat-free foods, often in the name of health. While this may seem innocuous or even healthy, it’s a facade.
The Nutrition Informant makes statements like:
• Check those fat grams, anything above one gram of fat is unacceptable.
• Don’t eat foods with added sweeteners.
Please note the Nutritional Informant turns into a Nutritional Ally later down the line!
One distinguishing factor between the Nutrition Ally and the Nutrition Informant is how you feel when you respond.
If you make or reject a food choice in the name of health, but feel acquiescent or guilty, then you know the Food Police still have a strong hold on your Nutrition Informant who’s guiding your decision.
How does your Nutritional Informant speak to you?
The nutritional informant voice is very quiet! Learning to differentiate this voice from the food anthropologist is one of the keys to learn how to challenge the food police.
Learn About Diet Rebel
The voice of the Diet Rebel often bellows loudly in your head. It sounds angry and determined.
Here are some typical statements of your internal Diet Rebel:
• You’re not going to get me to eat that plain broiled chicken!
• I’ll show you, you think I should lose five pounds, huh—I’ll put on ten.
• Let’s see how many cookies I can stuff in before Mom comes home.
• I can’t wait until my husband goes out of town so I can eat whatever I want, without his chastising glares.
HOW IT HURTS: Unfortunately, these rebellious comments reside in your head, because you’re usually too scared to confront your “space invaders” and tell them to bug off.
Feeling powerless over their messages, you feel resigned to merely possessing the thoughts you wish you could say out loud, and then end up carrying out the “threats” just to spite them.
HOW IT CAN HELP: You can turn your Diet Rebel into the Rebel Ally ( <- Please remember this!)
Use the Rebel Ally to help you protect your boundaries against anyone who invades your eating space.
Use your mouth for words instead of food in a direct but polite way—it’s surprising how powerful it can make you feel, while giving you a tremendous release.
• Ask your family members to stay out of your food choices or amounts. For example: “Aunt Carolyn, please don’t push that second portion on me. I’m full, thank you.” Or, “No thanks, Mom, I don’t like macaroni and cheese. You know I’ve never liked macaroni and cheese.”
• Tell your family and your friends and people on the street that they may not make comments about your body. For example: “Dad—my body is my business!” Or, “Joey, you have no right to comment about my weight.”
How does your Diet Rebel speak to you?
The diet rebel is usually pretty easy to spot. Standing up to the internal rage of the diet rebel is the tough part. However, this is also an integral part of learning how to challenge the food police.
Learn About The Food Anthropologist To Challenge The Food Police
The Food Anthropologist is simply the neutral observer.
This is the voice that makes observations without making judgment.
It’s a neutral voice that takes note of your thoughts and actions with respect to your food world, without an indictment—just like an anthropologist would observe an individual or culture.
It’s the voice that will let you explore and discover. The Food Anthropologist will help pave the way to the world of Intuitive Eating.
For example, noticing when you’re hungry or full, what you ate, the time of day, and what you’re thinking, are the actions of the Food Anthropologist.
This voice simply observes and shows you how to interact with food both behaviorally and inwardly.
The advantage to developing this voice is that only you know what you feel and think. No outside observer could possibly know this.
The statements of the Food Anthropologist are purely observational such as:
• I skipped breakfast and was ravenous at 2 P.M.
• I ate ten cookies. (No judgment here, just the facts.)
• I experienced guilt after eating dessert with dinner. (No condescending statements, just an observation of how you felt.)
One easy way to call your inner Food Anthropologist into action is to keep an Intuitive Eating journal.
Sometimes simply noting the time of day and what you ate can give you some interesting clues about what drives your eating. Or note your thoughts before and after you eat.
Do they affect how you feel? Does your feeling state affect how you behave or eat? If so, how?
Consider this one big experiment, not a tool for judgment.
Many of our clients have had negative experiences with food journals because it was a requirement of past diets.
But in those cases the food journal was used as evidence to convict bad eating! We use the Intuitive Eating journal only as a learning tool.
How do you feel about keeping an Intuitive Eating Journal for the purposes of learning, instead of judgment? What obstacles will come up? How will you shift your thinking to overcome these obstacles?
Learn About The Nurturer To Challenge The Food Police
The Nurturer’s voice is soft and gentle and has the soothing quality that might be associated with the voice of a loving grandparent or best friend.
It has the ability to reassure you that you’re okay and that everything will turn out fine. It never scolds or pressures.
It’s not critical or judgmental. Instead it is (or can be) the vehicle for most of the positive self-talk in your head.
Here are some of the messages you might hear from the Nurturer in your head:
• It’s okay to have a cookie. Eating a cookie is normal.
• I really overate today. I wonder what I was feeling that could have made me need more food to comfort myself?
• When I take care of myself, I feel great.
• I’m doing so well this week. There were only a few times that I didn’t honor my hunger signals.
• I’m getting more in touch with myself every day.
What does your Inner Nurturer Voice sound like to you?
About The Intuitive Eater
The Intuitive Eater speaks from your gut reactions. You were born an Intuitive Eater, but this persona has probably been suppressed for most of your life by the voices of the Food Police (prevailing in your family and in society), the Diet Rebel, and the Nutrition Informant.
The Intuitive Eater voice might say some of the following things:
• That little rumble in my stomach means I’m hungry and need to eat.
• What do I feel like eating for dinner tonight? What sounds good to me?
• It feels so good to be out of that dieting prison.
I also had a powerful with Evelyn Tribole, one of the founders of Intuitive Eating. You can read more about her advice to me here.