“Are you sure you should be eating that brownie?”
“Why aren’t you finishing your pasta? Are you on a diet or something?”
“You aren’t going to eat that last slice of pizza, are you? You’ve eaten so much junk food lately.”
Does this sound familiar? Unwanted, unnecessary and unwarranted comments on what you are, or are not, eating? This is known as Food Policing and no-one, including your dietitian, should take on this role. Whether it’s your thoughts or someone else’s, it can be a way of passing judgement on the foods we choose to eat. You are allowed to have the freedom to make choices on what you’d like to eat without feeling guilty. When normalizing eating habits, especially during disordered eating recovery, it is important to silence those negative thoughts inside our head and stand up to the comments of others that tell us what we should and shouldn’t be eating.
Everyone’s their worst critic. This is a common saying which refers to the idea that we primarily judge ourselves the harshest for our actions – but do we need to? We often categorize foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy”, which only leads to guilt when we eat foods that would be labelled as the latter. Feeling pleased with your food choices, as well enjoying a variety of food in your diet, is an essential part in making peace with food1.
Sometimes dietitians get a bad reputation for being called the Food Police. In this field, we sometimes feel as though friends and family treat us like the Food Police – someone who judges what others eat and categorizes foods as healthy or unhealthy. We wish this didn’t happen and make it our mission to correct this belief. In actuality, dietitians are here to help individuals create a healthy relationship with food, to assist in creating a neutral, judgement-free eating environment and to normalize eating habits and behaviours. The act of changing your mindset on food is very important, and should be promoted instead of discouraged. Rather than abiding by what the Food Police are telling us, we need to challenge them and disregard the negative thoughts that come from your head or others.
Guilt should not be associated with the foods that you choose to eat. Mealtime can provide many opportunities, whether it is to try something new, treat yourself, or provide your body with energy. Using the terms “healthy” and “unhealthy” may lead to feeling guilty or prevent exploration of new foods. Many individuals feel dissatisfied due to not living up to expectations set up by society2. Whether in small or large quantities, a critical point that many forget to consider is that all foods provide nutrition, so we need to stop slapping labels on foods and enjoy eating for what it is. Food is food. It should not matter what it is, as long as you are providing your body with fuel to keep it running throughout the day.
Intuitive eating allows unconditional permission to consume any desired food, regardless of nutritional value. Understanding that all foods provide nutritional value, whether small or large, is important to developing a healthy relationship with food. Restricting yourself by controlling what you eat is not intuitive eating. Feeling sad, stressed, or having a guilty conscious based off of what you ate is also not intuitive eating3. Meals should be approached with a sense of joy and excitement, and should be a positive experience. Enjoy the foods your body desires, and don’t let the Food Police determine your happiness!
- Bays, J.C. (2009). Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. Boston: Shambhala.
- Derenne J.L., Beresin E.V. (2006). Body image, media, and eating disorders. Acad Psychiatry, 30(3):257-61. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.30.3.257
- Denny, K.N., Loth K., Eisenberg M.E., Neumark-Sztainer D. (2013). Intuitive eating in young adults: Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite, 60(1): 13–19. doi: 1016/j.appet.2012.09.029