Intuitive Eating – Part 5

Posted: April 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Click the following for the first parts of the Intuitive Eating series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Reject Diet Mentality
  3. Honor Your Hunger
  4. Make Peace with Food

That brings us to Principle #4 of Intuitive Eating - Challenging the Food Police.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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19 Comments to “Intuitive Eating – Part 5”
  1. Girl I am sooo loving these posts. Seriously, I know I keep saying how great they are, but they truly are. They are great reminders and your #4 post helped me a ton when I went to the ballgame. Now, I ended up indulging at home rather than the game. I snacked my way through the kitchen. But I remembered your post and did not in any way beat myself up. It was such a liberating feeling. I LOVE the apple and cookie comparison here. Keep ‘em coming.

  2. Lindsey says:

    Great post! I am a strong proponent of not limiting myself or cutting out any foods in particular (unless of course I’m allergic to it). I think once I start banning foods, I’ll stop enjoying eating as much or valuing it properly.

  3. I love your Intuitive Eating blogs! I think you should write a book about it but seriously I learn so much and my eating habits have definitely changed for the better. Please post more because I LOVE them and I’m going to print them out.

  4. homecookedem says:

    I’m totally guilty of letting the food police in my head take charge! But I’ve gotten better about it recently and I’ve found that I naturally do gravitate towards healthier food because I do enjoy eating it and it makes me feel so much better. Junk just makes me feel weighed down, gassy, and bloated.

  5. rc1001 says:

    I just got caught up on this series and it is great! I can’t wait to read more!!!

  6. Kelly says:

    This is a great post Tina! I learned this lesson the hard way. When I restricted foods and labeled them as good and bad I would always inevitably binge on those foods. But when you stop labeling and just start living it becomes a lot easier to make healthy choices and not feel bad when you eat one to many slices of pizza with the hubs! :)

    • Tina says:

      Agreed. It’s amazing how you end up wanting the healthier stuff because you know it feels good and is delicious too. When you aren’t obsessed over the cookies and pizza they don’t matter as much. Then enjoying them sometimes is more than enough.

  7. lisaou11 says:

    *loves* Thanks Tina for the well thought out and put together posts.

  8. So true! No food is bad food! Eating should be fun, and my heart hurts for people that find it stressful.

  9. I just found your blog for the first time and I’m so glad I did. I love this post, it is so informative and helpful. I also don’t like labeling food good, bad, etc.

  10. Jessie says:

    This is such a tricky subject, but you did a fantastic job of explaining it, Tina! I just posted about a KFC sandwich and how its nutritional stats are poor, but the truth is, those are “sometimes” food, not “good” or “bad” (perhaps I should have said that :) ). Thanks for the great post, Tina!

  11. cardiopizza says:

    It’s amazing how your thinking can change everything. I am able to have ANY kind of food in my apartment and not worry about eating it all at once.

    When I would restrict my eating and categorize foods into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or only allow myself “x” amount of calories, I could not keep certain foods in my house like cereal, ice cream, or chips. Those would be the first foods I would “binge” on when my body would fight back against me wanting to restrict.

    I don’t restrict my eating anymore or have food rules and my thoughts on food have totally changed. I eat whatever I want, when I want, and what I crave. It’s great! I have boxes of cereal and chips in my pantry and it doesn’t bother me. I eat it when I want. I don’t obsess.

    • Tina says:

      Those same changes have happened to me. We have cookies, icecream, pretzels, and soy “chips” in our cupboards. Most of it is thanks to Newman’s Own stuff…but it doesn’t bother me. And 3/4 of it is still here (if not more) because I don’t just go to town by having it around. I can’ portion it out nicely when I know its “allowed”.

  12. Ohh the food police. I’ll be honest – as much as I live by the “everything in moderation” mantra, I still have “good versus bad” foods in the back of my mind to an extent. I like the idea of being an anthropologist. I feel like we so often base eating as being either a helpful or a harmful experience, when in reality it should be viewed as neutral.

  13. katie says:

    I agree…you need to write a book on this! :) Keep it up..You are giving people knowledge on a subject that is rarely talked about (vs all the diet info out there uhhh)…ROCK ON GIRLFRIEND! :)

  14. I read Intuitive Eating for a nutrition class in college – I love re-reading the ideas here and hearing your take on them!

  15. Jennifer says:

    Wow, I never thought of calling bad eating a sin or almost pure evil. But you are so right! When we do eat bad out of emotions and then if we punish ourselves the next day and restrict ourselves, it is exactly like calling it a sin. The bad thing is, we’d almost rather choose to make this so called “sin” right but changing the way we eat drastically and in a non-healthy way, then to change our ways on sins that seem more important. Like changing our ways to be a better a Christian.

    • Tina says:

      Yes!!! Although sometimes food can be our biggest sins. I know when I battled binging it was by far mine because it took my focus away from God. But I agree. People put way too much emphasis on food when there are so many other things more worth our efforts and thoughts.

  16. I love this, especially the part about eating an apple! I struggle with, “Well, I SHOULD have an apple and not X,” although sometimes I really do want an apple! I need to let go of the “shoulds” and “should nots,” and get a better feel for what I just might be craving mentally.

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