Principle 4, challenge the food police, is about getting rid of those pesky guilt-based thoughts that we have around food.
In principle 1, rejecting diet mentality, I talked to you about where diet culture is, and hopefully now you’re starting to see it, to spot it as you go about your day, and to understand the nonsense that it is.
However, you’ve been subjected to diet culture for a very long time, and all of the messages sink in. They create the beliefs we have around food.
Messages like, you can only eat bread once a day, you can’t have Greek yoghurt because it’s fattening, you shouldn’t eat a whole pizza (even if you’re really hungry and enjoying it and there’s a heap of great stuff on there!).
That all stems from diet culture. They are all rules that have been made up by diet companies. Diet companies spread this message that these things are bad for us, and in one way, shape or form, it gets in our head and lives there rent free for many years to come. This is how we end up with food rules.
And it’s not just about explicitly what type of food you’re allowed. It’s also messaging about how much exercise you should do, and how you should exercise to be able to eat more.
The guilt that comes around food ends up being voices in our heads. They end up being this niggling thought that any time you even contemplate going near any food that is supposedly not good for your diet or not good for you to eat, then you end up with this horrible voice in your head that’s telling you that you shouldn’t eat it, and how you’re gonna make up for it after.
These thoughts in your head are what we call the food police in intuitive eating, and let me tell you, those food police are mean.
That little voice that’s telling you how many calories is in that donut you’re about to eat. Food police.
That voice in your head when you come out of your exercise class telling you that you can now go and have something to eat because you’ve burnt off some calories. Food police.
That voice on a Monday morning that’s telling you you’ve had a hell of a weekend, you’ve eaten far too much food, better cut back this week, diet starts today. Food police, food police, food police.
So here’s the thing. This is what I want you to remember. Guilt is for people who steal, or lie, or murder someone, that sort of thing. Guilt is not something that should be involved with food.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating, but the food police, they make sure you do feel guilty. They are judge and jury. They are scrutinising everything you eat.
Every time we put a food rule in place, we give them power. Every time we decide we’re not going to eat after a certain time in the evening, we’re not going to eat until a certain time of day, we’re only going to have this many calories, or we cut out food groups, that’s putting a rule in place that the food police can then enforce.
They’re not helpful. They don’t bring you any kind of assistance. Our good old local Bobbies on the street, you’d like to think if you went and talked to them and asked for some assistance, you’d get some assistance. The food police, however, are a different kettle of fish. They’re not there to help you. They are there to criticise, and to judge, and to make you feel bad.
So now is the time to turn that around. Be interested in your thoughts. Be interested in where they come from and why you think them.
They might derive from rules on diet plans, or things your old consultant used to say. It might be old family stuff – messaging from your parents about how much chocolate you were allowed, or how you couldn’t leave the table until you’d finished your meal. There may be other reasons for you. Be curious about those thoughts.
But also be kind to yourself in those thoughts. Turn it round and make it a compassionate voice and say, “I know right now I think I’m not allowed to have another piece of toast, but actually that’s what I need to have right now in order to feel satisfied”.
And if you do go ahead and you eat this food, that you’ve been telling yourself that you shouldn’t eat, and afterwards you feel awful for it, again, have some compassion, change your thought process. You can acknowledge it. The feelings are only temporary.
There is nothing to be gained from beating yourself up because you feel physically rubbish after eating food. You’ve done it. You can’t change it.
You can’t really do much about the magazines and people around you that are talking about food and guilt and making you intentionally feel bad about things, but you can challenge the food police and change the thoughts in your head. You can change the way you think about food. You can choose to enjoy it. You can choose to feel the satisfaction and the pleasure in food. You can choose to honour your hunger.
You can choose your behaviour after you’ve eaten. You can turn your thoughts around. Even if you catch yourself with a negative thought, you can turn that around and replace it with a compassionate one.
So, to hell with the food police. Don’t give them the power or the control.
Can you imagine what life would be like if we managed to shut out all those messages, the diet companies, the magazines and newspapers, the adverts, the food packaging, the influencers? Imagine if you could make it all stop!
Today I’d like for you to start to notice these messages. Take note of when they come up, what foods they relate to, and how they make you feel. To be aware is to make a step in the right direction.
I’m here to help, support and guide you.
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I’m here to help you to get rid of the stress and worry around food, eat more intuitively, and find compassion and love for your body, whatever shape or size it is.
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