Emily Chau is a fifth year dietetics student at UBC. Her interest in nutrition and connecting with others through food has led her to pursue a career in dietetics. She strives to learn more about culturally-safe care, food security, and supporting positive relationships with food.
Who (or what) are the food police?
The food police are the thoughts that judge what and how much we eat. They also make sure that we’re following “food rules”. Some examples of food police language include thoughts or comments such as “that has too many calories” or “I will gain weight if I eat that”.
By challenging the food police, we give ourselves emotional permission to eat all foods. It involves challenging the way we think when society tells us that we're “good” for eating certain foods and “bad” for eating others.
How do I challenge the food police?
It can be helpful to address one food rule at a time. One way you can do this is to write down all the common food rules you follow, and then pick one to try to address for a day and see how you feel. For example, if one of your food rules is to avoid eating between scheduled meal times even if you feel hungry, one way to address it is by allowing yourself a snack in between two meals. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s an important step to help you understand where those feelings are coming from.
It can also be helpful to practice re-framing your thoughts from those that are negative, to ones that are more flexible and stem from compassion. Instead of telling yourself that the cookie you want to eat has “too much sugar”, re-frame your thoughts into something more positive, such as “I am going to enjoy every single bite of this cookie!”
Focusing on how much you have achieved and what you’re learning allows for a lot more self-compassion than focusing on failures. This also applies to being more flexible with your eating behaviours. When you allow yourself to be more flexible during mealtimes, it can help you put less moral value on foods and free you from the guilt and shame that can come with it.
Getting rid of the food police can help us learn to trust and develop respect for our bodies, make food choices that are based on satisfaction and inner needs, and be more in tune with ourselves rather than influenced by external sources such as diet culture. Being gentle with yourself and having patience is crucial in taking those next steps, as it will take time to experience all the unlearning and relearning that happens in the intuitive eating journey.
Notice how you speak to yourself or how you speak about certain foods. What are some thoughts you can start to re-frame?