Challenging the Food Police
Written by: Megan Hardi, August 2020
Who is the Food Police?
To keep it simple, everyone has a personal food police who fills their minds with food police thoughts that leave us second-guessing our intuitive food choices. Our food police can influence our perception of food and their effects on our bodies (1). “Does this contain too many calories?”, “Can I have dessert?”, “Will I gain weight for having this chocolate bar?”; these are some thoughts that we have because of our own food police.
We can also view the food police as thoughts that dictate which foods are labeled as “good” or “bad” for us.
Our own food police is influenced by diet culture and food restrictions due to economical, social, or cultural backgrounds. Although taking your food choices into consideration is important, the inner critics of our food police can affect how we feel about ourselves when we consume foods we deem “bad”(2). These thoughts can result in us antagonizing food and punishing ourselves for craving the fuel our body needs. Furthermore, they can result in eating disorders or disordered eating patterns.
Food: Friend or Foe?
Constantly policing our food choices will result in us obsessively worrying about food. When we put food into categories, food is turned into a foe instead of a friend.
For example, some food police see eating chocolate as “bad” which results in restricting ourselves from having a slice of chocolate cake because we fear weight gain. This toxic judgement has cascading effects because when we do listen to our body’s craving for chocolate, we label ourselves as “bad” (5). Moreover, we miss out on all the benefits chocolate can give us, such as a source of antioxidants, doses of minerals and fiber, stress-relief, and a rise in our feel-good chemicals! (3).
Restricting certain foods due to fear of weight gain or obesophobia also feeds our food police(4). Consuming foods that your food police labels as “bad” does not automatically cause weight gain, rather, over-consuming calories do. Similarly, eating “good” foods and under-consuming calories is not healthy and deprives our bodies of the energy we require to do daily activities.
Bottom Line: We cannot treat some foods as friends and other foods as foes. Food is food!
How to Challenge Our Food Police
Whether consciously or unconsciously, we have been feeding our food police and give into their unhealthy demands. In order to stand up to them, we should be aware of their presence and challenge their power (2). Chelsea Caravella describes helpful ways to challenge your food police in this Well Made Nutrition article.
Believe it or not, your greatest ally in challenging your food police is your body! Understanding your body and its cues can help you rise above your food police. One way of listening to your body is through intuitive eating.
Intuitive eaters trust their bodies and allow themselves to enjoy the food their body requires(2). They trust their food choices and do not feel shameful about their choices. Here are some (of many!) intuitive eating principles:
- Reject the Diet Mentality: Do not give into buying weight loss pills and going on yo-yo diets that falsely advertise quick and easy weight loss!
- Listen to your Hunger: Denying your body from nutritious food is a prime way to drive over-eating and stresses your body out. Try to recognize your hunger cues and allow yourself to eat when your body needs it.
- Make Food an Ally: Prevent labeling food as your friend or your foe. Like mentioned, food is food. Making food your foes can fuel uncontrollable craving and eventually, binge eating.
- Differentiate Fullness and Satisfaction: It is important to remember that satisfaction does not always signify fullness. Remember to listen to your body if it tells you that you are full even though you might not be fully satisfied. Food can be satisfying in relieving hunger cues but should not be a reason for overeating.
- Accept Your Body: Each body is different. Thus, we should not compare our eating patterns to someone else’s. Accept that we require different foods to fuel our own body and it should not be a point of comparison with others’ requirements.
For more on intuitive eating, check out this article which will help you understand the science behind intuitive eating.
Caplan, Heather. “Once You Know Your Personal Food Police, It's OK to Fire Them.” Heather Caplan, 31 Jan. 2018, heathercaplan.com/nutrition/the-food-police/.
Caravella, Chelsea. “Challenge the Food Police.” Well Made Nutrition - Nutrition Counseling in Montclair, NJ, Well Made Nutrition - Nutrition Counseling in Montclair, NJ, 23 Sept. 2019, www.wellmadenutrition.com/blogposts/2019/9/23/10-ways-to-challenge-the-food-police.
Gunnars, Kris. “7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 25 June 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate#section1.
Nunez, Kirsten. “Obesophobia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 Feb. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/obesophobia#causes.
Rosen, Beth. “The Food Police: I Am Not One, You Don't Need One, and Neither Does Your Food.” Goodness Gracious Living Nutrition, 14 Sept. 2016, goodnessgraciousliving.com/food-police/.