Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police

What is Food Police and why it’s important to challenge it?

Food Police in intuitive eating refers to all the strict rules about food and eating, inflicted by the diet culture, which we have internalized from dieting. It’s located in our heads, making sure we follow its rules and “writing us a ticket” every time we don’t.

“Enjoyed a brownie? – 50 push-ups!”

“Had an I extra slice of bread? – skip your next meal!”

In times of crisis, when we are isolated from others and surrounded by our worries around food, eating and weight, Food Police voices can become extremely loud. They would monitor us closely and constantly, reminding us with every bite we take that we have to “watch” what we eat, comply with food rules and make sure we don’t gain an ounce as we are “not enough” already.

Food Police operates on cognitive distortions, such as dichotomous thinking (food is either “healthy” or “unhealthy”), catastrophic thinking (“if I eat that, I am one foot in a grave”), linear thinking (“calories in – calories out”) and others. If they tell you “you have been eating all day, you will get fat!”, it’s a distorted interpretation followed by an assumption, rather than a concrete fact (chances are you have done at least a couple of other things besides eating and even if you ate more than you were physically hungry for, it may or may not affect your weight). 

Despite their protective nature, these voices can present a significant barrier to healing your relationship with food and achieving food freedom. Trying to ignore those voices usually don’t make them any quieter. What you can do, though is start to acknowledge their presence, reflect on what they say and re-frame it.

Recognizing a cognitive distortion in this statement (pessimistic-catastrophic thinking) and re-phrasing it by stating something like “Today I have been eating more than I usually do, as that was the optimal way to take care of my needs from what was available to me” can bring more objective lenses to the situation and help restore your emotional balance.