Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
After you have made peace with food, you are ready to challenge the food police. Before we explore how to do this, let’s first discuss what “food police” is referring to. You know those thoughts and feelings that come up after you eat a food you consider to be bad for you? The crippling guilt you feel after eating a piece of chocolate cake, or the thoughts in your head that tell you you’re a failure for not being able to resist the fresh donuts at work? This is the inner food police many dieters have inside their heads, constantly criticizing each bite of food they take.
Unfortunately, the “food police” is also present as a collective cultural voice in our society. This is evident when we consider how certain foods and beverages, like salads and almond milk, are widely associated with slimness and “health.” And we always see people advertising “guilt-free” cookies or “guilt-free” pizza on social media, implying that standard versions of these foods should produce guilt. Food policing can also take the form of inappropriate comments from friends or family members such as, “you’re going to eat all that? That’s so fattening.” The messages we constantly receive from both the outside world and our own thoughts make it difficult to view eating as a normal, enjoyable activity. Thus, food policing can be emotionally and physically damaging and can negatively affect our behavior in many ways, by constantly reminding us to be at war with food and our bodies.
So how can you challenge the critical and judgmental messages of the food police? One way is to engage in positive self-talk. Start by identifying those unwanted inner voices and using a nurturing voice to talk back to them. For example, if you finish eating a cookie and the food police starts telling you, “you are weak for eating it, there’s so much sugar in it, you’re going to get fat,” you can challenge these thoughts by responding, “one cookie has no effect on my weight, it’s okay to enjoy a cookie, eating a cookie is normal.” It’s important to remember that our thoughts are not always truths. Be aware of the negative thoughts you have about food or your body and ask yourself, are these thoughts rational and reasonable? The answer is likely no!
Moving forward, pay attention to your inner dialogue during meals and snacks. The next time those unwanted judgmental voices are loud inside your head, examine and challenge them. As you become more intuitive, you will be able to catch and shut down any negative thoughts before they make you feel bad and unworthy. Furthermore, you will regain your body’s natural signals and will continue to build a healthier relationship with food and your body.
Critical food thoughts and beliefs develop throughout our lives when we are exposed to diet culture. As a result, it may be hard to return to the nurturing and intuitive voice that you were born with. Seeking help from a dietitian or therapist can be a great way to explore where your negative food thoughts and beliefs are stemming from, how to minimize their power over you, and ultimately how to regain trust in your body’s ability to tell you exactly what it needs. If you are interested in healing your relationship with food and your body, consider working with our team of therapists and dietitians who can support you on this journey!