Banishing the Food Police

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.

This article is part of a series 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.

The Food Police, we all know them: the voices in our heads, from family and friends and the media that say you’re being bad when you eat a dessert and good for staying hungry even though you want to eat something. The Food Police turn simple food choices into a moral decision. A normal, pleasurable activity, choosing and eating foods, becomes labeled good or bad, depending on what is consumed. The Food Police’s job is to tell you why you should or shouldn’t be eating “that.”

“Judge-y” sums it up. These voices try to ambush the budding healthy relationship you may be cultivating around your body, its cues, and your food choices. This constant, unasked for, sometimes subtle and sometimes mean advice is tiring. Being “good,” to keep the verdicts of the Food Police at bay, eventually ends with being “bad,” as normal hunger turns into ravenous hunger and overeating occurs.

These are some thinking styles that signal the Food Police are at work:

Black and White
Eating that is bad, it will blow everything.

My life is ruined because I’m fat.

Straight-Line Thinking
All I have to do is follow this meal plan exactly and I will lose two pounds a week by my target date.

Counteract the Food Police messages you receive by asking yourself: “What is true about this, and, what is false?”

For example, a Food Police thought might be, “If I eat that brownie, I’ll gain weight and I’ll never be thin enough to go to my reunion.” Your interrogation of this thought might be, “One brownie is not going to make me fat; one brownie doesn’t do that. I am working on losing the dieting mindset, and I am hungry. Those are really good brownies. I will take the time to savor it slowly. I am also working on loving my body as is, right now. I will put together an outfit that I feel fabulous in for the reunion.”

With practice, you can turn up the volume on the nurturing voices and turn off the constant judgments about your food choices. Replace old repetitive tracks about being “good” for choosing no-fat or low-calorie or low-carb with positive, body-honoring thoughts.

When you lose the black-and-white thinking about food and dieting, you have more ways to think about eating, hunger, and fullness. You can create your own Body Positive Chorus to drown out and eventually replace the negative messages. Listening to your own nurturing food and eating messages instead of negative self-talk can eventually lead you back toward intuitive eating and paying attention to internal signals of hunger and fullness.

These are some messages to try, adapted from the book, “Intuitive Eating.” Adding your own twist to these messages may be more powerful for you:

I’m feeling good about myself.  I’m doing better about loving myself as is, right now.

Many times this week I honored my hunger, instead of waiting until I was ravenous to eat.

I tried a new vegetable with my meal today- that kale salad was delicious!

I paid attention to my fullness signals at dinner almost every night this week.

I ate dessert tonight at the restaurant—and that is ok. (No moralizing negative observations. Just the facts.)

For More Information

Intuitive Eating

Ellyn Satter Institute

Health At Every Size:

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Allan Reetz is the Co-op's Director of Public and Government Affairs. Contact Allan at areetz at coopfoodstore dot com.