You walk into Panera for lunch and start looking at the menu. Breakfast was quite awhile ago now, so you're pretty hungry. A sandwich sounds great but, just as you think that, you notice a voice somewhere in your head: "You can't order a sandwich, that's too much bread. Bread is carbohydrates and those are bad." Okay, you think, I'll have a salad. The voice in your head responds "Great choice, you're being so good!" You go to order and they ask what you want for a side. Chips sound fantastic, but the voice has a strong opinion on that. "No chips. Those are bad. And no bread either! We've already covered this. You were being so good! Better get the apple."
You get your food and finish it all. You're honestly still a little hungry and not quite satisfied. The voice returns: "You cleaned your whole plate! What a pig. Don't even think about getting anything else. It's good to still be a little hungry."
Yikes! What is this voice and where did it come from? That would be the food police and you can think of it as a collection of all the rules you've accumulated over time from past diets, media, or people around you. The more you've dieted, the stronger the food police voice becomes. It's the inner judge that determines if you've been "good" or "bad" based on all those diet rules.
The food police is good at one thing: keeping you at war with yourself over food. Recognizing the food police is the first step to getting rid of it. Even as you start to reject the diet mentality and make peace with food, the food police can still pop up here and there. Here are a few tips for recognizing the food police.
Labeling as "good" and "bad". This is the main objective of the food police - to classify your eating behaviors as "good" or "bad" and then to transfer that classification to you as a person. There are no "good" or "bad" foods and you are most definitely not a "good" or "bad" person based on what you ate. Any time you notice this type of judgement coming up, that is the food police.
Strict rules. Keeping or breaking one of these rules is usually what leads to the "good" or "bad" label discussed above. Whenever you notice that type of labeling coming up, it might be helpful to trace it back to find out what diet rules the food police is trying to enforce. Some examples might include:
--> "Don't eat after 8:00p"
--> "Stay away from that bread. Carbs are bad."
--> "Ignore that hunger, it's not time for your next meal. Snacking is bad."
--> "Dessert is bad for you, don't eat any."
--> "You've already eaten ____ calories. You're not allowed to eat more, even if you're hungry."
--> "You didn't exercise today so you can't eat ____."
--> "You shouldn't eat that because it has added sugar in it."
--> You've been good this week, so you can have a cheat day."
All of the diet rules the food police tries to enforce are based on external factors and take you away from being able to hear and honor your internal cues. You may be able to obey the food police briefly but then you find yourself in a downward spiral of guilt, overeating, and discouragement when you break one of the rules.
Banishing the food police is possible. Once you've recognized the food police, you're able to start challenging these thoughts and, with time, they will diminish. If you haven't already, click below to sign up for our intuitive eating tip series and receive tips on how to challenge the food police, in addition to practical tips for incorporating all the other principles of intuitive eating! And, if you've missed any of our previous intuitive eating series blog posts, you can find them all HERE.