I used to get really uncomfortable when someone started casually asking me diet questions. In the early days of my career, it was because I hid behind disordered eating patterns but wanted to appear as though I had a “normal” diet. Questions about diet preferences or food choices felt like an affront on my own behaviors—were my secrets that obvious? It stressed me out to simply do my job.
I didn’t want to be the Food Police; I didn’t want my Food Police thoughts revealed.
After I had been through most of my own personal Orthorexia recovery process, diet questions just started to annoy me. On one hand, I was scared I might answer with something triggering. (It’s damn near impossible not to.) On the other, I’m like Who the F cares? I carefully crafted answers so as to not offend anyone for inquiring about Intermittent Fasting, or the latest low-carb craze, or whether Halo Top is “good” for you. I spent a good couple of years wanting to avoid these questions altogether—I didn’t have a response that felt satisfying to me, so I claimed to not care what you eat altogether. (Which is still true, unless we’re working together on your recovery process.)
I don’t want dietitians to be thought of as Food Police.
I do want you to recognize that you have your very own Food Police, and they’re always recklessly on patrol. You don’t have to conform to their laws, though.
Listen to my conversation with Emily Fonnesbeck, discussing Intuitive Eating Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
The eating disorder mind is full of Food Police thoughts, much like the diet mentality. These police are primed to question your every food move. They are armed with questions that second-guess your intuition and food preferences—too many calories? too much saturated fat? is that healthy for you? are you gaining weight? didn’t you have a cookie yesterday? have you earned that pastry? how many carbs are in that sandwich?
This could go on and on. And in some cases, you might not recognize this policing as a “bad” thing. Isn’t the recommendation to eat less saturated fat? To balance carbs, proteins, and fats with every meal and snack? To stay within a “healthy” caloric range? To only enjoy “treats” in moderation?
I mean, isn’t this all in the name of better health?
Only to an extent.
This constant policing—this obsessive worrying about food—takes a toll. It backfires. More often than not, the “health” results are the opposite of what we were going for in the first place. During my experience with orthorexia, I lost my menstrual cycle, couldn’t maintain core body temperature, had trouble sleeping, had mood swings, and was constantly thinking about food. Does that sound healthy to you? Does that sound like my Food Police had my best interests in mind? Because to me, it sounds like quite the opposite.
Enter: Your Ally.
“The Ally helps you care for yourself.” Emily explains the difference between policing food thoughts and your personal nutrition ally in this podcast episode. Does your thought about food feel empowering, or restrictive? Anxious, or excited? Something that values your needs, or questions them? And as she says, “It doesn’t matter what your answer is. You’ll find what’s normal for you.” (Because I’m not a fan of calling anything “normal”,or “healthy”, eating.)
My ally prioritizes my hunger, food preferences, and the times I just want a glass of wine because I want one–not because I have a reason to celebrate or moderation to spare. My ally doesn’t police my food thoughts, it appreciates them. She’s not judgmental, she couldn’t care less about calories, and she’s a big fan of sourdough bread. My ally isn’t obsessively concerned about my health, because she trusts that everything balances out. My ally did a damn good job growing a tiny human, and for that, I will always be in awe of her.
My food police got fired a long time ago.
I hope you know that dietitians who practice and believe in Intuitive Eating are not here to police your plates. I hope your personal food police see the warning signs, and learn to back off. I hope your ally is feeling strengthened with each episode of the Intuitive Eating RD Real Talk podcast series, each body-positive social media account you follow, each confidant you trust in this process, and each day you put a little deposit in the self-trust bank. When you’re ready, it’s okay to fire your food police and move on.