Intuitive Eating Principle # 4. The Food Police

Updated: May 5, 2020

young woman listening to the food police and having a dilemma with her food choices


Who are the Food Police?

The Food Police are the inner voices you have in your head telling you what, when and how you should be eating. The food police monitor all the unreasonable rules that dieting have created over the years. They will criticise or praise your food choices.

In this week’s blog we will be talking about some of these inner voices, how they help or harm you and what to do about them. We will start with the unkind inner voices in our heads, the Diet Enforcer, the Nutrition Informant and the Diet Rebel.

The Diet Enforcer really is the food police, monitoring every food choice. It will remind you of all the eating rules you have taken in over your lifetime. Some of the things might seem like common sense. Like when it says to eat a healthy dinner before you have dessert. But depending on your eating and dieting history, your diet enforcer might have more extreme ideas, like chewing food 40 times before you swallow, or only eating after 11 am and not after 7 pm, or never eating foods with white flour or sugar.

The Diet Enforcer voice is backed up constantly by another inner voice, The Nutrition Informant.

You might be thinking to yourself, well that is not about me. I don’t diet, I just try to eat healthy. This is the voice of the Nutrition Informant. It is judgmental and will be giving you all the nutritional facts to justify your food choices. It will lead you to believe that you are not dieting, you are just being healthy. This voice will stop you making food choices based on what you really want and feel like at the time. It will encourage you to make “healthy Choices”.

These two voices, the Enforcer and the Informant work together, For example, you feel hungry and the Informant tells you to eat some carrot sticks, because that is a “healthy choice”; but that was not really satisfying and an hour later you are hungry again. The Enforcer then chips in with “you have just eaten, should not feel hungry now. Wait until you get home”. Then you get home and you feel so ravenous, you just eat anything you can find in the fridge. By listening to the Enforcer and the Informant, you have set yourself up for overeating later in the day.

And, you can only listen to the Enforcer and the Informant for so long before you experience feelings of rebellion. This is the point when you inspire this next voice, The Diet Rebel.

The Diet Rebel is our inner rebellious voice that compels you to break the diet rules, and really tells you off for this when you do. This voice is loud and angry, and it is entitled. It can leave you feeling powerless. The Diet Rebel voice is self-destructive and has no limits. It can lead to severe overeating episodes, followed by intense feelings of shame.

You rebel because you are tired and exhausted, because you are hungry. You rebel because you never really feel satisfied from our food choices and feel like you are being deprived of food and missing out. When you rebel, you tend to get really frustrated with yourself and think you lack the willpower. But really you have unrealistic expectations. You have other needs that are not being met. This is your body fighting back against restriction and it is willing to do anything to get you what you need.

The three voices, the enforcer, the informant and the rebel are the food police; they are harmful voices from diet culture and they rob you of the joy of food. So, now you can recognise these voices, what can you do to tame them and stop listening to them altogether?

There are other voices that you can nurture and listen to. These voices are helpful and kind. The first is The Natural Observer, it is a helpful voice that observes without any judgment. It simply notices things, like hunger and fullness levels, satisfaction levels and generally eating experiences. It observes the past and reflects on feelings, experiences and sensations. The neutral observes is looking for patterns and useful information. The difference between this voice and the two other voices is it is telling you about what has already happened, not about what should or might happen. It is non-judgmental and does not give opinions about whether what has happened is good or bad.

The Nurturer is the second helpful voice. Think of the kindest person you know. How would they talk to you if you had a problem? If you made a mistake, they probably would never be harsh with you. This is the voice of the Nurturer, it is reassuring, kind, patient and compassionate and offers positive self-talk.

A way to start to find a kinder voice, is to focus on your feeling and needs rather than your behaviour. For example, if you find yourself in the fridge, mindlessly eating, ask yourself, “How you are feeling in that moment?” and given how you feel, what would be the best thing you could do to take care of yourself? . What is it that you really need?

If you are not used talking to yourself like this, it might be helpful to bring your kind person to mind and imagine what they would say to you if they were with in this moment.

The helpful voices are your real inner voices, the real you. When the Neutral Observer and the Nurturer work together they help you become an Intuitive Eater. Getting the unhelpful voices out of the way, increases your ability to discover what is really going on inside of you.

Figuring that out is no small undertaking, but the more you practice the better you will get at it. Next time you catch yourself having diet rebel or diet enforcer thoughts. Stop, breathe and take note of the thoughts. Listen to the voice and really hear the unkind words. Detach from the voice and let it go. Journaling the voice will help you here. Write it down and think about how helpful this voice is? Is it helping or is it making you feel bad about yourself? Is this voice causing you to feel ashamed? Try to respond to this voice with your Neutral Observer voice and your Nurturing voice.

Be kind to yourself, self-compassion is the key to change. This is a non-judgmental exploration process. There are no right or wrong answers; you are just building up your skills to understand and get back in touch with your body. Self-Awareness is the greatest weapon to silence the food police. Remember THOUGHTS lead to EMOTIONS which lead to BEHAVIORS, so if you can change your thoughts, you can ultimately change your behaviours and your relationship with food.

If you would like to learn more about Intuitive Eating and how it can help you, book an appointment with us. We offer consultation both in rooms and via Skype.

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Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012) Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press

Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this or any other blog posts on this site may not be suitable or apply to you, depending on where you’re at in your mental health and/or eating disorder/diet recovery journey. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to be a substitute for medical or psychiatric advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before making any changes.

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