What is that negative, judgmental voice in your head?
You can call it what you want; I often hear it described as Ed, the eating disorder voice, or the Food police. This voice follows you around all day judging what and how you eat, criticizing your body, and constantly comparing yourself to others. It often sounds like “don’t eat that,” “there are too many grams of sugar in that,” “that will make you fat,” “you haven’t exercised enough to deserve that.”
You are not alone with these critical thoughts.
One study showed that nearly half of people experienced some guilt after eating foods they like. This completely makes sense as our culture often labels food as good and bad and associates certain foods as “guilty pleasures” or “sinfully delicious.” We all have internal belief systems, which affect our thoughts. Your core food beliefs are likely a culmination of the information you have learned and cultural influences. Unfortunately, with so much misinformation in the media about food, your core beliefs are likely to be cognitive distortions.
Cognitive distortions can feel so real it can take a long time to really root them out and challenge them or replace them with healthier thoughts. The first step is to become aware of the distorted thoughts. Mindfulness is a helpful tool in becoming familiar with the thoughts that you have related to food and your body. Intuitive Eating (the book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch) labels different food voices to help you better understand your thoughts.
Judgmental (non-supportive voices)
Food Police: Culmination of all the food rules and myths that you have developed over your life
Nutrition Informant: provides nutrition information to keep you in line with your diet or in line with the current cultural myths about what is and isn’t healthy
Diet Rebel: the part of you that wants to rebel against any food rule placed on you, especially if placed on your by another person, ex; when your husband asks why you are eating something if you wanted to lose weight, you tend to say “screw you” and eat even more than you intended – that’s your rebel!
Compassionate (supportive voices)
Food anthropologist: neutral observer that states facts about food and your food experiences without judgment
Nurturer: Compassionate and supportive voice used for positive self-talk
Nutrition Ally: Helps you make food choices that make you feel your best without judgment or criticism.
Intuitive Eater: The sum of all or your supportive voices, the intuitive eater is the voice you can use to challenge the food police, and make the best choices around food to support your body.
You can use these voices to see when you are having cognitive distortions, and then work on replacing your distortions with compassionate, non-judgmental thoughts.
To challenge the food police you need to use several therapeutic techniques from different therapeutic modalities including CBT and DBT as well as nutrition education to replace food myths not backed by science or that are leading to a harmful food relationship. If you are having trouble with these skills it may be time to get additional support from a dietitian and therapist trained in work with disordered eating and intuitive eating.