The food police are the dieting rules housed deep within your brain that monitor your food choices and judge everything you eat (or don't eat). You aren't born with these food judgements. This internal voice develops over years exposure to messages in magazines, on television or from friends and family.
The food police set the rules by which your eating behaviors are judged, like:
No eating after 8pm
You already had a cookie last night; you can't have another today
It's not time to eat yet, you have to wait for dinner
You can't have that bagel; it has too many carbs
Did you earn that treat?
That was too big of a meal- better make sure you go to the gym to burn it off
These "rules" may be harmful because they use external factors to dictate food choices rather than internal ones. Daily reminders like these make it tough to view eating as normal, pleasurable activity. Instead, with these "rules", any time you eat becomes a situation in which you've either succeeded or failed. This food police voice sets impossible standards and, when you do break a rule, sets you up for overeating (because what the hell- the day is already shot, right?)
Forget the food police so you can make food choices based on satisfaction and feeling your best rather than on diet rules or deprivation. If you make or reject a food choice in the name of health, but then feel guilty for eating the food or sad for not having the food, the food police still have a hold on you. But, once these policing thoughts are gone, you can be interested in healthy eating habits with no hidden agenda.
How to Get Rid of the Food Police:
1. Make observations without making any judgements
Thoughts like, "I skipped breakfast and was starving by 12 p.m." or, "I had those cookies last night but didn't pay attention to how they tasted" are free of judgement. Keep it factual!
2. Reframe your internal voice
Identify the food police's irrational rules and beliefs and challenge those thoughts. Remove absolutes like "must," "perfect," "should," "shouldn't," "bad" or "awful." Replace the thoughts and phrases with gentle and accepting ones.
Use words like "may," "can" and "is OK," as in, "I can eat whenever I'm hungry" or, "it's OK to have dessert two nights in a row." Come up with several positive affirmations you can repeat to yourself when you hear the food police voice. Here are a few to get you started:
I had many times this week when I honored my hunger
I am learning to trust myself with food
This is a process, and I am doing great
I am learning to include foods I find satisfying and enjoyable
I am learning to overcome past food rules
When I eat more at meals, I don't feel the need to snack because I feel full and satisfied
3. Utilize process thinking
Dieting is a form of linear thinking, with a step-by-step progression in which the focus is the result (and any misstep or perceived failure can set you up for overeating). Rather than focusing on the result, concentrate on continual change and learning. This means acknowledging there will be ups and downs, but also that there's a progression forward. For example, after a big dinner you might say, "I ate more than I wanted, especially dessert. But I learned that by permitting myself to eat dessert, it took away the urgency to have sweets again later that night. Usually, I would have eaten more at home." Focus on the small wins and know that these successes will add up over time to propel you forward towards a better relationship with food.
Do you relate to this? Let me know!
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