There can be so many factors that influence the food decisions that we make on any given day…and the food police, those mean little voices in your head shaming you for your decisions, shouldn’t be one of them.
Hi! Are you new here? Welcome! My name is Colleen, and I am an Intuitive Eating dietitian here to help you make food choices that feel good physically…and mentally! Your noshing should not come with guilt (nor should your eating choices be made to avoid guilt).
Boundaries are a beautiful thing, gorgeous. And the food police do NOT deserve a seat at the table (or any space in your noggin).
In this blog post, I’ll help you shine a big ‘ole Maglite® on your food police and escort them to the door.
What are the Food Police?
For this blog post, we are talking about those judgemental voices in your head that make you feel bad for eating a specific food – like cake or chicken tenders – or making the rule that your meals need to have a workout to burn them off.
The voice might sound like your mean twin, your mom or a judgemental Aunt Brenda asking “should you really be eating that?”
Eyes on your own plate, Brenda!
No matter what, the voice is making you feel bad about what you’re eating (or drinking). And quite frankly, it’s BS.
We don’t have time for that kind of micromanaging energy here!
Banishing the food police is one of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating. I walk you through all ten right here in this post: What Are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating (And How They Can Help You).
Food policing is common
According to the OG Intuitive Eating book, as many as half of us have guilt after eating foods that we like.
And food companies play into your mental chess board, offering foods that will supposedly not make you feel bad…but also might not actually satisfy your mental or physical hunger.
Have you ever tried “guilt-free” cookies?…they probably don’t have guilt in them…since that isn’t actually an ingredient at all. But… they are also probably not going to satisfy your actual food cravings either.
And if you want a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie, and then eat a cardboard sugar-free, gluten-free, “guilt-free” substitute, it isn’t going to taste good. At all. So you eat a few more (enter: guilt) and still don’t feel satisfied. But, you might have a belly ache.
This cycle doesn’t feel good mentally (unnecessary guilt) or physically (bellyache).
Food policing is harmful
Food thoughts and judgments run rampant through our minds. We are so used to these familiar voices that we don’t tend to question them.
“Don’t eat after 7:00 pm or you’ll gain weight”
“Don’t eat that bagel; it has too many carbs”
“Don’t eat lunch yet, it is too early”
“Try this pretend candy bar made with dates; you won’t be able to tell the difference” (Spoiler: you can).
Food policing is harmful. When we say something is “bad” or “off limits”, we want it more. This is human nature, my friends.
When we micromanage our own hunger and weight we are living with stress and tension, instead of in harmony with our own biology.
We may try to control these urges by keeping those “bad” foods out of our house because we believe that we can’t control ourselves around them. Then we change our mind and give them a try and end up striking the bottom on the box of cereal, the pint of ice cream, or even, the entire chocolate cake as I did.
This restriction and binge cycle only reinforces your own internal belief that you’re less than and out of control.
You, my friend, are amazing. It’s the food rules that have gotta go; they’re making your life smaller and less vibrant.
The real reason that these foods seem to have an iron grip on you is because of the food rules, not because of any measure of your own worth. I go over that, right here: The Real Reason You’re Obsessed With Food [& How To Stop!]
The kicker is that we tend to internalize these food rules because our goal here might actually be health. But unfortunately, our societal belief that being thin is automatically healthier isn’t actually true.
I know that can sound like a really out-there statement when our society prioritizes thinness at all costs, but there is actually a lot to understand about what actually measures health. And for sure, it isn’t the scale: Can You Really Be Healthy At Every Size? (HAES Explained!)
Three steps to stopping the food police
When you’ve been co-existing with food rules for a while, it takes practice and persistence to unlearn them (psst: this is exactly what I walk SociEATy members through), but here are the three main steps to banishing the food police on your way to food freedom.
Step 1: Ask for ID
The first step to banishing the food police is to recognize that they’re there at all. This is easier said than done when you’ve been co-existing with them for a long while.
If you make food decisions on autopilot, get curious about your whys.
In a lot of ways, food is simply a tool. It is how you use it that matters.
Quick example: protein powder. Are you using a protein powder to make a low-calorie, appetite-suppressing meal replacement in pursuit of weight loss? This is a food rule in effect and not something that I’d recommend.
But on the other hand, are you adding some protein powder to a muffin so that it has a bit more staying power and makes a product that you still genuinely enjoy? In this case, we’re looking at a little bit of gentle nutrition in action.
Same product – protein powder – used in two different ways. One for food freedom and one for diet culture. I’m rooting for food freedom forever!
Step 2: Talk back
When the food police come knocking, you get to talk back.
And you should.
Take your power back and don’t let those food rules stay. Push back.
Want to eat after 7 pm but hearing the food police? “My metabolism runs 24/7 and I’m allowed to eat when I’m hungry!”
Ready to toast a bagel and hear the carb police? “My body needs carbs for energy and I love bagels! I’m going to enjoy this for breakfast!”
Talking back, whether it is to your own internal monologue or to squash comments from well-meaning friends or family, takes practice. But with practice, talking back will feel more natural and your confidence will grow.
For a few more ideas about quieting the food police at family gatherings, check out this post: Food Comments: How To Handle Them.
Step 3: Make your own damn choice
Now: you’re the boss.
What do you actually want and need to feel good mentally and physically?
In order to banish the food police for good, you have to take charge of your choices. You’re a grown-up; you’re allowed to eat (and enjoy) anything you want.
When you stop micromanaging your biology, you make space for your own internal wisdom to shine.
With practice and the abandonment of food rules, Intuitive Eaters learn to find eating patterns that give them lasting energy to fuel their days which also includes pleasure and enjoyment.
It is an oversimplification that Intuitive Eating is the “eat anything diet”. Yes, you can eat chocolate cake for breakfast whenever you want, but you might not actually feel very good or energetic if that was your daily habit in the long run.
This is where your own internal wisdom comes in with something called gentle nutrition.
Once you’ve kicked your food rules to the curb, gentle nutrition is learning a framework of eating that fuels your body well in a way that feels good. This is the 10th principle of Intuitive Eating: Getting Started With Gentle Nutrition.
I do want to be clear that making your own choices isn’t just about doing the opposite of what the food police say. You don’t want that voice to turn into a diet rebel where you just do the opposite of what diet culture tells you to do. Why? Because that behavior is still letting diet culture dictate your choices!
That would kind of be like spending a lonely Friday night scrolling through your ex’s Instagram and driving slowly past their house…or dressing in a way that really used to bother them and going out on a night on the town as a big “I’m SO OVER YOU” rebel roar.
In these cases, your actions are still tied to what you’re trying to let go of. Getting angry is part of letting go and grieving. Move through it and feel all of those feelings. But eventually, you want to get to a place where you’re making the right choice for you.
This takes time. And practice.
Finding food freedom is a journey that includes getting in touch with your own hunger and fullness cues, breaking your food rules, and no longer seeing food as “good” or “bad”. With this food freedom, you get to decide if you truly want that cookie or not. Or the salad. You’re making choices in harmony with your body and finally get to feel real peace with food, eating, and your body.
Buckle up buttercup, this journey is not all sunshine and rainbows.
To make it easier I have this complete step-by-step download that will tell you what to do to get there so you can learn to stop letting the food police make your food choices and learn to make your own – sometimes that will be eating the cookie and sometimes it won’t!
5 Steps To No Food Rules!
Whether you’re brand spanking new to Intuitive Eating or you’ve tried it before, you’ll identify your next steps—or the missteps that left you bingeing and thinking Intuitive Eating wasn’t so intuitive for you!
No food rules allows each decision to be neutral.
Intuitive Eating fosters real health
The process of getting rid of the food police is a process of literally rewiring your brain. You’re creating new neural pathways in your brain and teaching it a new way to think.
It won’t happen overnight.
This rewiring is a necessary part of the process to heal from past dieting and move towards food freedom. It’s one of the first things I teach my clients in The SociEATy intuitive eating membership community.
The first step to banishing the food police and food rules is to realize that they’re there, to begin with. Call a spade a spade.
All foods are neutral; there are no good or bad foods. But when you’ve been on more diets than you can even count, this unlearning can feel really overwhelming. And the loss of the structure of diets can feel unsettling. I totally get that; I’ve been there too. That’s why I created The SociEATy so that you can find food freedom for yourself, with a supportive community and an expert guide, i.e., far fewer bumps in the road.
If you’re looking for more guidance and a step-by-step process to follow to let go of the food police while bypassing the endless eating and bottomless binges phase so many people experience then The SociEATy is for you!
The SociEATy is your Anti-Diet safety net! Diet culture is appealing because of the community, structure, and goals. So it MAKES SENSE that it’s hard to leave behind. I created the SociEATy—the community that actually EATs!—with all the GOOD things dieting has to offer baked in. So you don’t have to free-fall into this new way of life!