9 Ways to Challenge the Food Police

Did you ever eat a food you like only to be riddled with guilt after? With dieting, it’s normal to rate foods in terms of the level of guilt they will instill upon eating. For example, you’ve heard the term “guilt-free” probably used with diet products (i.e. sugar-free dessert). This principle calls you to challenge that notion; challenge the food police at the societal level, with others and within yourself. This practice is what eventually helps you make peace with food.


We all have an inner Food Police. Examples of “knowledge” and thoughts that come from inner food police/diet mind from actual clients include:

  • “I was so bad, I ate dessert.”

  • “I shouldn’t eat anything past 6pm.“

  • “I can’t eat fruits they make you fat.“

  • “Bread is bad for you.“

  • “I won’t lose weight if I eat that though.“

  • “I shouldn’t eat fat, isn’t it too high in calories?“

  • “Won’t bananas make me fat?“

  • “Don’t apples have too much sugar in them and make you fat?“

This list of fatphobic statements rooted in diet culture goes on. And while these statements can feel like the truth or factual, they are distorted. Intuitive Eaters take on an “all foods fit” mindset; meaning, you’re not good for eating a salad just like you’re not bad for eating a piece of cake. We have to challenge these cognitive distortions that are preventing us from accomplishing food freedom; we have to Challenge the Food Police.

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The Food Police is a strong voice in your head that has developed from dieting and its rigid food rules. It’s your harsh inner critic that determines if you are “good” or “bad” with regards to your food intake. By bringing awareness to its presence in your mind, you can learn to challenge its power and loosen its hold on you.

Authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resche spell out “Challenge the Food Police” as a call to action:

“Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.”

The Intuitive Eater trusts their body’s inner signals and trusts themselves to make the best decisions possible for nourishment.

Here are 9 ways you can challenge your inner food critic:

  1. Check your self-talk and use it to work with you in challenging the food police because often, negative self-talk can lead to feeling despair which can lead to self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Examine your food and diet beliefs and the influence they have over your life.

  3. Challenge your distorted beliefs and replace them with more rational and reasonable ones.

  4. Ask if the rules you have in place are effective at creating a balanced, healthy life.

  5. Replace negative/exaggerated thoughts with positive/accurate ones.

  6. Keep in mind your helpful coping statements.

  7. Nurture yourself.

  8. Engage your compassionate thinker. Speak kindly to yourself!

  9. Observe your diet thoughts and food behaviors with non-judgment, neutral awareness and curiosity and you will be on your way to creating a much better relationship with food and your body.

When the food police is coming from other individuals or in social settings, you can reply “I do what I feel is best for my body. I listen to my inner cues and make decisions based off of that.” You are doing the right thing, don’t let others disturb your progress. Keep moving forward.


To practice self-awareness, listen for the different voices that arise during an eating experience. Do they serve or hinder your intuitive eating progress? Try catching the distorted thoughts that are making you feel bad regarding your eating and replace with nurturing, compassionate thinking. You can write these down, they may become more easy to recognize.


Principles of Intuitive Eating

Food Voices: Help or Harm


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