If you are struggling with an eating disorder or are a chronic dieter, you know very well how loud the food police can become. It lives in your mind and imposes food rules and regulations, it judges every choice and it inflicts feelings of guilt and shame. The food police (which some refer to as the ED voice) can truly fuel our disordered thoughts and keep us from recovering. However, as with any issue that involves your brain, silencing this voice is not as easy as it seems. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and commitment. Here are 3 steps to help you quiet the Food Police.
1. Be Curious About Your Thoughts
Whenever you are confronted with thoughts around food, try to distinguish who is speaking: you or the food police. When we understand the food police is talking, we are then in a position to challenge it. Gaining awareness of our situation is often the first step to making any meaningful change. In the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, this is called being a « Food Anthropologist ». It comes down to being a neutral observer. To help with this, you may want to keep a journal and write down the different thoughts that come up.
2. Ask Yourself If The Thought Is Helpful, Kind and True
Once you’ve noticed the messages you are replaying in your mind about food, ask yourself:
· Is this thought helpful? Is it helping me move towards happiness and wellbeing?
· Is this thought kind? Does it consider my unique situation?
· Is this thought true? What proof do I have to support this idea?
3. Decide To Reject What Does Not Serve You
Once you’ve identified the thoughts that are not helpful, kind or true, mindfully decide to reject them. Better yet, replace them with an idea that counters this thought. After years of struggling with food, it takes a lot of time to undo the automatic thoughts we’ve come to learn. It can be helpful to experience self-compassion through this process. After all, we never invited the food police, it was forced upon us by a variety of different factors, including diet culture and a society obsessed with food and impossible beauty standards.
The food police can truly be a jerk, but there is hope. While you work towards shutting it down, it will slowly become quieter and quieter. Take things one step at a time and don’t forget to love yourself throughout the process.
Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.