Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police

I hope you’re finding this Intuitive Eating series helpful.

We’re already onto principle #4:

Challenge the Food Police. 

The “food police” are the voices in your head trying to make you feel guilty for eating “unnecessary” calories, having dessert, being hungry, or wanting a certain food. They scrutinize every eating action to keep you, food, and your body at war. The food police want you to follow the dieting rules you’ve been bombarded with for years, but you need to chase them away.

Scream “NO” to these thoughts. You’re not “good” for eating minimal calories or resisting a craving. You’re not “bad” for eating a piece of cake. These are guilt-provoking lies, but the truth is that food and weight have nothing to do with morality. Accept that there is no morality tied to nourishing your body a certain way or for enjoying any kind of food. Your weight, shape and the way you eat are not, in any way, a reflection of your worth as a person.

Friends and family that offer judgment or “advice” about what and how you’re eating are also “food police”, and it’s time to tell them no, too. Our entire culture has normalized and reinforces judgmental diet culture thinking, but when this turns into rigid rules and makes you feel negatively about yourself, they need to go. 

The voices that we hear in our head about food can be identified as five things:

  • Food Police

  • Nutrition Informant

  • Diet Rebel

  • Food Anthropologist

  • Nurturer

Each voice can be harmful, hurtful, or both. Here’s a chart that explains each, adapted from the Intuitive Eating book:

food voices.png

One key practice to start challenging negative self-talk and changing the way you think about yourself is this:

Banish the absolutes and replace them with permissive statements. 

Carefully listen for “absolute” words that you use: musts, oughts, should, need to’s, supposed to’s, and have to’s.These words and thoughts cause anxiety about not being able to carry out the command. Thinking in this way does not guarantee the behavior you desire, so they often create self-sabotaging behaviors and feelings of failure. Use permissive words such as can, is okay, and may.

The next time you think that you must go on a diet, or you need to lose weight, or you ought to skip lunch, or you shouldn’t eat before bed…


Replace the thought right then and there.

-It’s okay if I don’t lose weight before XYZ. I don’t need to lose weight.

-I can eat whenever I’m hungry.

-I may have any foods that look or sound good to me.

Rules and thoughts are a byproduct of your mind, and I challenge you to explore your food beliefs and rules. Think long and hard, and be honest with yourself:

  • What are your food rules?

  • Where did you first hear these messages, and how did they get reinforced?

  • How do you feel when you “break” one of these rules, and how does it affect your eating behavior?

Chase away the food police so that you can learn to eat intuitively again. It’s impossible to view eating as a normal, pleasurable activity when the food police are governing each and every food decision and unreasonable rule that dieting has created.

From Evelyn Tribole herself:

“Remember to approach your thoughts with curious awareness rather than critical judgment. Be patient and gentle with yourself.”

Stay tuned for principle #5!