Challenging the Food Police

Diet culture has created unreasonable rules in the realm of declaring certain foods “good” and certain foods “bad.” This often causes non-dieters and dieters alike to feel guilty after eating a food they categorize as “bad” even if they like to eat it!

Say, for example, it’s your birthday and you want to eat some chocolate cake. Whether or not you are currently participating in a diet and/or restricting, foods like chocolate cake have fallen into the “bad” food category because diet culture has deemed that “sweets are bad for you.” 

This perpetuation of good and bad leads to different voices in our head that can be referred to as “Destructive Dieting Voices,” three of which make up the chronic dieter:

👮 Food Police: This is the voice, developed by diet culture, that determines whether a food is acceptable or not. The Food Police thus sums up all the food rules that you have manifested throughout your lifetime, and can cause guilt and other negative feelings around food and eating. Unfortunately, with every diet, this voice gets louder, and the number of rules that the Food Police enforce begin to increase. 

👮‍♂️ Nutrition Informant: This is the voice, similar to the Food Police, that uses “nutrition evidence” to keep you following the food rules that the Food Police has engrained in your brain. For example, this voice may tell you to never eat sweets, to stay at or below certain macronutrient ranges (deviation is unacceptable), etc. This conceals dieting as a healthy practice, using societally accepted nutrition information to justify the rules.

👮‍♀️ Diet Rebel: This is the voice in your head that tries to make you rebel or defy the rules set forth by the food police. These combatting thoughts can make you feel powerless, and often, people may feel defeated in giving into these voices, which can simply end in more guilt.

Once these Destructive Dieting voices can be challenged and understood, four new responses can appear and hopefully cultivate eating more intuitively. These are referred to as powerful Ally Voices.  

🍒 Food Anthropologist: This voice is a neutral observer, and allows you to observe all food without judgement. For example, this can help to acknowledge your natural hunger and fullness cues, observe the different tastes/textures/smells of the food you eat, etc. 

🍒 Nurturer: This voice takes on the role of a close friend, parent, or ally. It reassures you that you will be okay and perpetuates positive self-talk. For example, this is the voice that says: “It’s okay to have cookies. Eating cookies is normal.” 

🍒 Nutrition Ally: Once the Food Police are challenged, the Nutrition Informant, which was once a destructive dieting voice, then becomes the Nutrition Ally. This voice tends to call attention to the benefits of certain nutrients, but doesn’t have a hidden agenda. Only encouragement and acknowledgment of the ways you’re caring for your body!

🍒 Rebel Ally: Similar to the Nutrition Ally, the Rebel Ally is a derivative of the Diet Rebel. The Rebel Ally has the same energy and loudness of the Diet Rebel and can help you protect boundaries that you set forth to allow yourself to eat intuitively. 

These voices all exist to help make up an intuitive eater. In leaning into these more, the hope is that it helps honor your natural hunger and fullness cues, and allow you to bring joy back into your eating. 

Resource: Intuitive Eating (4th Edition), Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Written By: Nicky Chapman, RD2B and ULowell Dietetic Intern

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Welcome! I’m Kelsey, a Registered Dietitian and young woman on a mission to contribute to anti-diet culture. I’m so excited to have you along for this journey!