Welcome to week four in the 10-week intuitive eating series. If this is your first time we would like to welcome you you are new to this series let me start by reminding you that I’m basing this series on the intuitive eating book and workbook. So if you’re interested in really taking a deep dive into this work you can find the links to both of those books at the bottom of this page. Also if you missed the first three videos there are also links below.
All of these videos build on each other so we suggest you watch them starting at video one.
This week is all about the food police.
Intuitive Eating Video – Week 4
Now what exactly is the food police? The food police is a combination of a collective cultural voice. A voice that lives inside our our head that’s always telling us what we should and shouldn’t be eating. It’s that voice that is telling you that this is a good food and this is a bad food. Or this food is right and this food is wrong and if you eat this food you’re good and if you eat that food you’re bad.
Many of us tend to have this food police living deep down in our psyche. It has all kinds of judgments and critiques around the food that we’re eating and the foods that we shouldn’t be eating. Many of these thoughts and beliefs have been unconsciously absorbed from our environment. They come from our diet culture, from magazines, from things you watch, from things you read and from advertising.
We also get it from the people we are around. Maybe you grew up in a household that was very focused on food or always in a diet type of mentality. Maybe it was your friends or your peers.
This information can be coming to us from a lot of different places. For many of us we absorb the belief systems and the thoughts unconsciously. We have touched on this before, but what happens for so many of us is when we start labeling foods as good or bad then when we eat those foods we are labeling ourselves as good or bad. When we eat one of the bad foods then that follows up with feelings of guilt and shame. The irony is that our internal desire to soothe ourselves from the discomfort of those emotions can actually lead us to eating more foods then we would have initially eaten if we had just stayed moderate and kind inside of our minds.
People who have a history of dieting are especially prone to feel guilty when they eat foods that they have decided are bad foods. Foods like a cookie or a bagel or a french fry. The food media knows this and they know how to take advantage of this. For instance if you feel guilty when you eat a certain food you start to notice how companies are trying to sell us guilt-free options. These companies know how to tap in to that emotional need.
Really what we want is to not feel the guilt or the shame. That change is going to come from our minds. But the hook is, they sell us a product that is apparently going to give us a guilt-free experience. For example Snackwell’s tagline is, “Be bad Snack Well” or there’s a company called Guiltless Gourmet and they sell a line of fat free products. So with this type of marketing constantly coming at us it makes it hard for eating to just be normal without being good or bad.
The first thing that we want to do is become self-aware of our internal food talk. Self-awareness is the ability to be able to observe and notice your thoughts without being one with them. We can actually stand back and see the thoughts without being attached to the thoughts. We want to continue to practice to create a non-judgmental awareness of the thoughts that we’re thinking. Because the thing is, it’s very difficult to change something that you don’t understand. So step one is always going to be this level of awareness.
Some of the very popular food thoughts that can run through one’s mind would include things like, I really shouldn’t eat past 6 p.m. or bread is fattening or I shouldn’t have any carbs or salt is bad for me, I can’t have any salt or fat is bad for me, I shouldn’t be having any fat. Those are just some of the popular ones, but they really do go on and on. So the very first step is to become aware of some of these internal food thoughts that you carry in your mind. Once you have that awareness begin to gently redirect these thoughts to thoughts that are more aligned with your intention of creating a kind and nourishing relationship with food and your body.
Something that I really do not believe is reiterated and/or taught to us often enough. And I believe that this is something that should be taught in elementary schools is that our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings drive our actions and our actions ultimately create our results.
So when we want to approach change for ourselves we have to know what’s going on inside of our minds. For instance let’s say that you have a thought that cookies are bad. If you are thinking to yourself cookies are bad and then you are around a cookie there is a good chance that that’s going to evoke feelings of being uneasy, maybe nervous or a little bit anxious. You should actually take a bite of that cookie. Than we start to question ourselves. Like what is wrong with me? Why did I do that? I should know better. I’m never going to get this right. I’m never going to figure this out and then the stress of that thinking is going to make us feel guilty. And make us feel ashamed of ourselves. Those feelings often drive us to either overeat or to go into extremely restrictive patterns of not eating enough. What I want you to see is that both of these are driven by the initial judgment around the cookie.
Let’s say on the flip side of that you had a thought that it’s perfectly normal to want to eat a cookie sometimes. That thought creates a very different emotional response. It’s much more at ease and a lot more relaxed. Then when you are with that cookie you can just eat the cookie and be done with it. Enjoy the cookie where there does not have to be a lot of pressure and stress and charge around the cookie. So you can see now that what we think about food can really affect how and what we end up eating.
If you have a lot of rules and judgments around specific foods and foods that you are eating then you’re going to create a lot of uneasy emotion for yourself. It’s that uneasy emotion that drives weird habits with food. I want you to notice that this doesn’t mean that if you eat a food and your body gives you feedback, you can then say maybe this food doesn’t work for me. What you really want to practice is separating the difference between feedback from your body and the thoughts and judgments from your mind. This is a practice of learning to tune in to your body. Then to honor and respect what it is telling you versus collecting all of this nutritional data in our mind and trying to micromanage and control the whole show.
The first thing we have to do is create that self awareness. Become aware of the thoughts that we’re thinking and then we can begin to slowly and kindly and gently shift them so that they are in better alignment with what our true intentions are right. Again those intentions are creating that kind and nourishing relationship with food.
I am not suggesting that this is an overnight fix. As a matter of fact I know that some of these food rules and the ideas we have in our head can be hard to shake loose. When thinking about something for a long time it becomes like an ingrained habit. It can take some time to shift those things, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth the effort. By simply setting intentions to start moving in a different direction is how the process begins.
The last thing you want to be on the lookout for is to be aware of and be conscious of all-or-nothing thinking. The goal is not for you to become the perfect intuitive eater. That would just be another attempt at dieting.
If there’s anything I’ve discovered for myself is that dieting is ultimately a way of thinking. It is a all-or-nothing perfectionist approach to food, but you can have a Dyers mentality around other things in life, it’s not only food. I just want you to be aware of that and always make kindness and self compassion priority number one and then things will flow a lot easier from that space.
For those who want to have some exercises to practice for the week I want you to grab that pen and pull out that journal. The first thing you’re going to do is start to become aware of the food police that is in your mind. I want you to start writing down some of the thoughts and the judgments that you have around specific foods. What are they? Are they in your mind or is it something you grew up with? Is it something you remember reading? Wherever they came from it doesn’t really matter. What matters is they’re now inside of your mind and we want to get them out and onto paper so we can really become aware of them.
The second thing I want you to do is pick out the heavy hitters. Those thoughts that you find yourself thinking over and over again. The ones that are really common to you. Write them out and then we are going to counter them. What I would like you to do is write the heavy hitters on the left side of your paper and then on the right side you will redefine them for yourself.
For example if you have an idea that a cookie is bad, you could say here’s the heavy hitter. And then you can come over onto the other side of the paper and say, it’s totally normal to sometimes want to eat a cookie. What you are trying to do is to soften that statement and create more ease and relaxation for yourself so that when you’re around these foods they don’t have this charge that is ultimately being driven by the restriction and the deprivation. So that is what I would love for you to practice this week.
If you have any thoughts, ideas, experiences or those aha moments please don’t hesitate to come and share them below. If you know anybody who could benefit from this series pass it along.
The next video in this 10-week series is all about feeling your fullness. So once again we really just want to begin to create an awareness around these thoughts so that we can then gently begin our journey.
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