How to Challenge the Food Police

You’re done with dieting! You want to be an Intuitive Eater! Except there is this voice in your head that tells you not to let go of diets just yet…Because there is one out there that has got to be “the ONE” that will work – right?

It can be nearly impossible to improve your relationship with food and body if the diet culture voice is still being obnoxiously loud. The authors of the Intuitive Eating framework call this voice “the food police” because they enforce diet culture’s rules and make you feel guilty if you fail to follow them.

In this article you will learn who the food police are, why they are harmful, and how to challenge the food police so that your intuitive eating voice can take back the reins.

Who are the food police?

There are actually two types of food police – your inner food police voice, and the external food police.

The inner food police voice

Your inner food police voice is the one that tells you to follow all diet rules. You weren’t born knowing and following these rules. They come from our culture, diet culture that is, and are inherited, taught, and learned.

The food police voice may enforce diet rules such as:

  • “Don’t eat after 7pm”
  • “Never eat simple carbs like bread, pasta, rice, or desserts.”
  • “Only eat organic.”
  • “No processed foods. Make everything from scratch.”
  • “If you go over your calorie budget, you’ll be exercising extra tomorrow.”

Notice how the rules are absolutes – it’s all or nothing. When the rules are broken, the food police voice makes you feel guilty or ashamed. You may
feel like you need to compensate for breaking the rules by restricting more or exercising as punishment.

Or you may say “I give up!” and completely ditch the rules. This leaves you feeling like a failure. Maybe you feel out of control with or addicted to food. Eventually, diet culture always manages to rope you back in with promises of health and thinness. Then the cycle repeats…

The external food police

The external food police are people in life who pass judgment on your food choices or body. Their comments are unwelcome and make you feel embarrassed or like you did something wrong.

These food police voices could come from anywhere – family, friends, co-workers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and even random strangers.

A past client of mine once told me that she had to hide food or clean out her kitchen any time her mom came to visit. Her mom would say hurtful things about her food choices and always ask what diet she was on. That client had a hard time practicing intuitive eating until she learned how to deal with the food police.

Growing up in diet culture means that we all have developed biases when it comes to food, health, and body size. Your internal and external food police need help unlearning these biases.

Ways to challenge the food police

To practice Intuitive Eating, you must remember to embrace the first principle: reject diet culture and the diet mentality. Intuitive Eaters do not need diet rules because they trust their body to know what foods it needs.

Here are 5 tips to help you start challenging the food police:

  1. Identify your inner food police voice. Recognize the “all or nothing” mindset you carry around food, exercise, body, or health. Acknowledge that this way of thinking is not working for you. The food police voice has caused you to give up pleasure and joy around eating. It has caused you to become too rigid and strict with yourself which is not sustainable for anyone.
  2. Call it out! Use your Intuitive Eating or healthy-self voice to call out and challenge the food police. Ask yourself: does the diet rule help me make peace with food or give me restrictions? Is the food police telling the truth? Is it an undeniable fact that you will gain weight if you eat after 7pm? Probably not – there isn’t good research that supports this. Be critical of nutrition research and don’t take nutrition headlines at face value.
  3. Give yourself permission to make peace with food (principle #3). Practice breaking the food and diet rules. Allow yourself to enjoy food. Push away feelings of guilt – you are allowed to have those foods!
  4. Set boundaries with the external food police in your life. Ask them not to comment on your weight or food choices. Let them know that diet talk makes you uncomfortable or that you are choosing not to diet at this time while you pursue Intuitive Eating. As hard as this is, you need these boundaries. Ragen Chastain, a fat dancer and writer, has come up with a lot of great verbiage when it comes to setting boundaries (and what to do when you get push back).
  5. Find a dietitian trained in Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size to help you use your Intuitive Eating voice. You have one! Sometimes it takes a little coaxing and practice to get your healthy-self voice to take back the reins.

You were born an Intuitive Eater. Your healthy self voice is in there waiting to bring you peace, forgiveness, and compassion. It’s your turn to find food freedom!

This article was written by Brandy Minks, Anti-Diet Dietitian and author of The Anti-Diet Workbook.

Are you worried that giving up on weight loss means giving up on your health? Read Brandy’s article Weight – Not The Best Indicator Of Health.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also love Intentional Eating: Using the Hunger Scale

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