Click the following for the first parts of the Intuitive Eating series:
That brings us to Principle #4 of Intuitive Eating – Challenging the Food Police.
What is the food police? It is that inner voice that tells you you can’t have certain foods, should be following particular dieting rules, and have to pay time in the prison of guilt for not eating the “right” thing. Almost all of us have a food police voice in our heads. It comes from all the information that we get over the years and adopt as law for how we eat. Starting at a young age you might have had rules in your house that you had to clean your plate or that certain foods were bad for you. Then in high school and college, you might read fitness magazines listing off all of these ways to get quick results for a flat stomach, including a 1200 calorie/day diet and a new lemon juice or cabbage detox. As you get older, you might research all the diet tips like limiting carbohydrates, having no fat in your diet, and that you simply MUST eat NO sugar.
Have you ever realized that we often describe food in terms of morality? Foods are sinful, tempting, good, bad, evil, and the list goes on.
Having some dessert or eating a hamburger is not going to cause us to shoot straight to hell! However, the inverse may be true. Labeling food good or bad could have us focusing so much on food and allowing it to have power over us is what will feel like hell. So why do we go there? Why do we suffer for eating? Something that is natural, a need, and should be pleasurable?
Intuitive Eating discusses some mindsets that we should adopt to help us challenge the food police. To stand them down. Let’s take a look at them.
1. The Nutritional Ally – There are many people who will claim to have rejected the dieting mentality, but still use eating healthy as a way to diet and “be good”. Without a doubt, nutrition is important. I am not denying that and neither do Resch & Tribole, but you aren’t eating intuitively if you are making yourself follow rules on how you should eat.
Without a doubt, foods like the above should be limited as much as possible. But not ever allowing yourself to have something you enjoy because it isn’t the healthiest option out there is still living under the food police. Choosing healthy items with no other agenda (such as eating a big bowl of veggies because you enjoy them instead of because they are good for losing weight) is the key. You have to continue to honor your hunger and eat enough of the healthy items, but not be afraid to have a lower nutritional value item if you truly desire it.
Katie recently wrote a great post about the difference between mental and physical cravings. If you listen to your body you might think you are craving a cookie, because mentally it sounds good. But if you consider your physical cues, you realize an apple still sounds just as good, so you can choose the apple. That is still intuitive eating. Choosing the apple only because the cookie is “bad” is not. It’s a fine line, like so many things in life, but one worth figuring out. Plus, by eating intuitively, you will figure out foods from across the spectrum that you enjoy and will naturally come to eat them in a balanced manner.
2. Be a food anthropologist, which simply means be observant of your eating habits.
After you eat consider all the facts. Don’t put judgments or labels. List out what you ate, like you would in a food journal but it is simply stating facts, not saying you did “good” or “bad”. List out how you felt before, during, and afterwards. What led you to eat what you did? Did it truly satisfy? Was it emotionally or physically driven? Think about when you ate. Were you hungry because you had a small breakfast and therefore ate sooner than normal? And lastly, how you ate. Was it a free-for-all stuffing session because you were overly hungry? Was it a social experience where you savored every bite? Was it in a rush before leaving for work? Writing down all of the facts will help you consider what ways of eating and foods work best for you and your body, a key part to eating intuitively.
3. Be a food nurturer. This can be summed up in a nutshell. Consider your feelings and your emotions. You deserve respect. Allow yourself forgiveness if you ever feel guilty related to your eating habits. Take a look at the facts and then move on. Nurture yourself and build yourself up.
Are you ready to take a stand against the food police? Unlike in the real world where challenging the police will get you a fast ticket behind bars, challenging the food police will set you free. Free yourself today.