Intuitive Eating IV: Stand Up to the Food Police

Contributed By: Amber Sullivan UGA Dietetic Student


Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
The first step to intuitive eating is to disregard everything you've learned about nutrition from diet culture. No more counting calories, eating certain foods and feeling bad about it, or classifying foods as good and bad. And obviously, no more dieting, that's over and done with.

Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
The second principle of intuitive eating is listening to your hunger cues. This entails eating when you feel hungry despite what time it is and stopping when you feel full to avoid feelings of discomfort.

Principle 3: Make Peace with Food
The third part of intuitive eating is being able to make peace with food. Truly making peace with food is when you can eat any food imaginable without feelings of guilt, shame, or fears of overeating attached.

Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police

The fourth principle is about understanding your inner voices and knowing which voices are beneficial to eating intuitively and which voices are detrimental. Eating voices are the unconscious thought you have on food. These food voices can help by challenging the dieting rules that have been engraved into you by the fitness industry, or they can echo the ideas of fitness and dieting.

What is the Food Police?

  • The food police are the thoughts in your head that nag when you eat "unhealthy" according to diet culture rules, and as a result, causes feelings of shame and guilt when eating. 
  • The food police isn't always your inner voice. It can take the form of unsolicited food and nutrition tips from friends, coworkers, family, and strangers.
  • The food police may say things like "you shouldn't eat after 9pm," or "you overate earlier, so don't eat again even though you may be hungry."
  • The food police is tricky, not always obvious, and always exist even if you are no longer dieting and have made peace with food. 

What is the Nutrition Informant?

The nutrition informant provides nutritional information based on evidence or previous research to make decisions that perpetuate and coincide with diet culture rules. Especially the part of the diet industry that has rebranded as being "healthy" or being a part of a lifestyle. This can mean counting calories, refusing or turning down foods with added sweeteners, or trans fat. The nutrition informant is only there to assist the food police in demonizing foods considered harmful by diet culture.

What is the Nutrition Ally?

  • Closely related to the nutrition informant, the nutrition ally is the voice that wants to eat "healthy" without any hidden agenda like losing weight. It helps you choose based on satisfaction and nutrition rather than dieting, deprivation, and weight loss goals. 
  • One way to discern between the nutrition ally and the nutrition informant is whether or not choosing one food over the other causes feelings of deprivation or not. If no deprivation occurs, then that's your ally and not the informant, but if feelings of deprivation arise, that was your informant influencing your choices. For example, choosing between two different cookies and choosing one based on one having a lower amount of trans fat than the other. You're still eating the food you want, and as a result, you won't have restricted or deprived yourself.

What is The Diet Rebel?

This voice can be angry and loud, and headstrong. It's vehemently against all dieting rules and ignores the second principle, honoring your hunger. The diet rebel influences you to eat out of defiance and not out of desire or wants. The diet rebel can lead to binging and cause discomfort. The diet rebel says things like, "I'm going to eat this whole container of cookies!!!" Or "I'm going to empty this gallon ice-cream container that my parents admonished me for eating earlier!"

What is The Rebel Ally?

  • Instead of eating out of contempt like you would with the diet rebel, the rebel ally helps by protecting you from and fighting against the food police. It helps you to respond to unsolicited comments on your eating habits. 
  • The rebel ally allows you to say things like "My body is my business," "Yes, I'm getting seconds. I'm still hungry.", or "No, I don't want to eat the casserole. I don't like it."

What is The Food Anthropologist?

  • The food anthropologist only makes observational notes about the food being eaten or just makes observations about your hunger cues without any feelings attached. It takes note of when you're hungry, full, stuffed, and whether you enjoyed the taste of the food or found it unappetizing.
  • Thoughts like "I ate 2 slices of chocolate cake earlier today," "This food tastes kind of bland," and "I'm hungry after eating 2 hours ago" are your anthropologists noting things down.

The Nurturer

The nurturer is the cheerful voice in your head that gives you affirmation on your food choices and permission to eat demonized foods. It manifests in thoughts like "It's okay to eat some apple pie" and "I'm so proud. I listened to my hunger cues all day-to-day."

The Intuitive Eater

  • Finally, the intuitive eater is simply a combination of the nurturer, the food anthropologists, the nutrition ally, and the rebel ally. The intuitive eater helps you eat foods you enjoy while providing your body with the nutrients it needs to do the things you love. The intuitive eater does everything. It challenges the food police, defends against comments about your eating habits, supports your food choices, and takes note of your feelings.
  • The intuitive eater asks, "What do I want to eat for breakfast today?", and says "I have a slight headache, meaning I'm hungry."
  • Your intuitive eater is simply your instinctual reactions and thoughts about food.

Like several of the principles of intuitive eating, challenging the food police can be difficult and, as a result, will take time. There's no rush since the food police will always be there and constantly have to be challenged. Because of this, sometimes you may end up listening to the food police. But that's okay!!! Intuitive eating is not a strict diet that you have to follow, and there's no shame or guilt to be had if you listen to the food police. Just remember that though it may be challenging initially as you progress, the food police becomes quieter and quieter until all you can hear is your intuitive eater.

Tips: How to Challenge the Food Police

No more binary thinking when it comes to foods. Foods are no longer healthy or not healthy

No more absolutist thinking. Thoughts like I have to eat perfectly "healthy" or I won't look good anymore need to be purged

No more catastrophic thinking: I'll never love my body

No more pessimistic thinking: Not just when it comes to eating choices but in all aspects of your life. Takes a toll on your mental health, and that's no good

No more Linear Thinking: I have to do this before the end of this week, or I won't be successful



Tribole, Evelyn, and Elyse Resch. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. Fourth Edition ed., St. Martin's Publishing Group, 2020.