This article is part of a series of detailing the science-based approach to healthfully nourishing ourselves known as Intuitive Eating and the sensible approach to good health described by: Health at Every Size.
Though it may take some repetition and work, it is possible to change the soundtrack in your head to one that is nurturing and supportive and that encourages respect for your natural body signals of hunger and fullness.
In their book “Intuitive Eating,” Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch explain the food voices that help and those that harm efforts to eat intuitively. The harmful voices line-up includes the judgment-dispensing, “diet-or-else” Food Police; the Nutrition Informant, who uses calories and fat counts to keep you in dieting mode; and the Diet Rebel, who self-sabotages with mindless overeating in response to judgmental Food Police edicts. There are others you may have listened to—these are just a few of them:
The Food Police: Do not eat that dessert. One bite and you know you will eat the whole pie. This kind of message keeps you out of control around food and does not support mindfully tasting and experiencing food.
The Nutrition Informant: That meal has too much fat and too many calories in it. I don’t care what you are hungry for, eat some salad. This voice encourages you pay attention to the nutrition label and to use this information to ignore your body’s signals.
The Diet Rebel: You don’t think I should eat a cookie? I am going to eat the whole bag!
This voice also ignores signals of hunger and satiety by letting others control what and how much we chose to eat in our mindless rebellion against them.
It takes practice to turn down these negative messages and replace them with nurturing, body-respecting ones. Using positive voices shuns and quiets the Food Police and their ilk and helps you to navigate your way to a more peaceful journey with food and eating. Try replacing negative messages with these voices:
The Food Anthropologist:
- I ate that bag of ten cookies. They were delicious. Now I feel a little stuffed, though.
- Even though I ate breakfast at 7 am, I was hungry at 10 am. So I ate a snack.
These self-messages simply state the facts, with no judgments or condescension. This voice can help you to sort through the facts without getting caught up in emotions. It can help you to observe your behavior and keep you in touch with your inner signals as you experiment with your personal intuitive eating style.
- It’s ok to eat dessert. It’s normal to eat dessert sometimes.
- I am doing great at honoring my hunger signals today.
- I really ate too much at dinner. I wonder what I was feeling that could have made me eat beyond fullness to comfort myself?
This soothing and positive voice might be the way a loving friend or encouraging grandparent would speak to you. It reassures you that you are ok; never scolds or criticizes.
The Nutrition Ally:
- That is so personal—my weight and food choices are my business, not your concern (in response to unwanted comments about weight and personal food choices).
- I’m full, thank you (to someone pushing second portions on you that you don’t wish to eat).
This is the positive flipside of the Diet Rebel voice. As Tribole and Resch suggest: use your mouth for words instead of food to respond in a direct but polite way.
The Intuitive Eater:
- I am starting to feel hungry and I am not able to concentrate. That means I’m hungry and need to eat.
- What will taste good for dinner tonight? What sounds good to me?
This voice occurs naturally, it is instinctual and you were born with it. Through attention and practice, you will be able to hear it more easily again.
Each of these positive voices may be used depending upon the situation. Intuitive eating is fluid and adaptable. The goal is to get to a place where you make neutral, self-aware, adult decisions about how you will feed and take care of yourself.