Updated: Aug 27
How many times have you said to yourself, “I shouldn’t eat that,” or “I should be satisfied with this ‘healthy’ snack…why am I still hungry?” Maybe you’ve berated yourself for indulging in something that you wanted but didn’t fit your diet.
Any holistic nutritionist or wellness coach trained in Intuitive Eating will tell you that dieters have a very active inner critic. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the creators of Intuitive Eating, call this inner critic “The Food Police.”
Intuitive Eating Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Any thoughts that judge food to be "good" or "bad", or associate food/eating habits with morality are made up of the Food Police.
These thoughts are formed by comments heard from parents, friends, other family members, or media. Cultural pressures also contribute to creating our Food Police. Often, your own narrative can be crueler than the voices around you. This self-talk keeps you in the same cycles that you are desperately trying to escape.
We all have beliefs that are reflected by our self-talk. Have you ever stopped to notice them or think about those beliefs? Are they actually your beliefs? Or are they repetitions of things that others have voiced through the years?
Sometimes, the culmination of these external messages is a set of unhealthy standards that construct our internal critical voice.
The Food Police can be challenged and expelled.
Three types of inner critic voices:
1. The Food Police is comprised of all of the messaging you have about diet culture. It makes sure that you follow the food rules you have developed and/or internalized. The Food Police monitor what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, and what you do when you break a rule. This voice keeps you in conflict. It is completely unhelpful.
2. The Nutrition Informant uses macros, calories, or other nutritional information to keep you hostage to your food rules. It is predicated on food being “good” or “bad.” It echoes the teachings of popular magazines or clickbait articles. This is the voice that is weighing the amount of fat, calories, and satiety from an avocado against the caloric intake of a celery stick. This voice shames you for eating over your RDA of calories or fat grams.
3. The Diet Rebel does exactly what it sounds like. It angrily turns eating into acting out. Overeating out of rebellion occurs here. For example, if your mom shames your snacking, you might secretly (or not so secretly) binge on that food later.
NO PART OF THE FOOD POLICE INNER CRITIC IS HELPFUL.
However, once those voices are recognized, they can be adjusted into more helpful voices.
As an Intuitive Eating coach, I help clients banish the Food Police and take some of the unhelpful voices and change them into allies.
For example, the Nutrition Informant becomes the Nutrition Ally. The Nutrition Ally helps you choose foods “based on health and satisfaction, not deprivation or dieting (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.130).”
Another example is the Diet Rebel becomes the Rebel Ally. The Rebel Ally helps you use your voice to enforce your boundaries or communicate violated boundaries instead of using food. For example:
“Please stop commenting on what I choose to put in my body.”
“Please respect my choice not to have seconds.”
In addition to the Nutrition Ally and the Rebel Ally, there are two other parts to develop to help keep the Food Police out for good.
The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer. This voice notices data without attaching any value judgments to it. It stays detached. It notices what you’re eating and whether or not you are satisfied. It observes from an experimental view instead of a judgmental view.
The Nurturer helps cope with the critical voices of the Food Police. An interaction may look like this:
Food Police – “I shouldn’t eat that now. I already ate a snack.”
Nurturer – “I feel better when I honor my hunger signals. Eating snacks is normal. It’s ok to eat when I’m hungry, no matter the time of day.”
We all are born with the ability to be an Intuitive Eater.
Unfortunately, we run into the food police and distorted relationships with food and our bodies in our thin obsessed environment.
Three ways to banish food police include:
Identify when the Food Police are talking. Be aware of those critical, diet brain thoughts that creep in.
Determine where that criticism comes from. Where did you learn that?
Lean on Nutrition Ally, Rebel Ally, Anthropologist, and Nurturer to combat negative self-talk.
A certified Intuitive Eating coach and holistic nutritionist can help you identify your Food Police and negative self-talk brought on by the rules and distorted thinking of diet culture. You can break free from the standards and beliefs that someone else decided for you.
You can get your power back!
Intuitive Eating has created help for every step along the way.
Did you miss the articles on the first three Principles? No worries, you can check them out below:
Principle #1: Rejecting the Diet Mentality
Principle #2: Honor Hunger
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. St. Martin's Essentials.
Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.
Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.