The Differences Between Nutrition from The Food Police vs. Self-Love

One of the most common pushbacks I get about intuitive eating or a Health at Every Size approach comes from deeply rooted fear. Usually the comment or concern I hear tends to be argumentative and combative. I’ve learned that this is normal because I am rocking the boat of one of their firmly placed beliefs that forms their whole worldview when it comes to health and nutrition.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t black and white. The trouble with nutrition is that it is not fully understood or clear. There are way too many variables involved, which T. Colin Campbell does an excellent job of explaining in his book, Whole: Rethinking The Science of Nutrition (FYI: This is an affiliate link, if you purchase the book from it, I’ll get a tiny bit of profit).

Contrary to the worries of those I first present intuitive eating and Health at Every Size to, there is a place for nutrition and eating “healthfully” in these approaches.

Those in this field know though that we must be extremely cautious when presenting the nutrition. Individuals that struggle with eating disorders especially tend to obsess over the nutrition and take it as a black and white law to be followed to such an extreme that it becomes destructive to their well-being. (And hey, those of us that haven’t ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder can do this as well — especially those of us that love to be healthy and want desperately to be perfect.)

I’ve said it countless times: our well-being includes mental, spiritual, social, and physical health. This is what I think is lost in a lot of the health cultures we see online and in the media. Have you seen the wild influx of dieting happening after the New Year? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Remember, when I’m talking about nutrition, I am not talking about restrictive dieting.

How can we believe in Health at Every Size and practice intuitive eating while beginning to add nutrition concepts back into our lives after we feel like we have a good grasp on the basics of intuitive eating (like unconditional permission to eat, eating when we’re hungry, stopping when we’re full, ditching the diet mentality, etc.)?

One of the best tests I can think of is to ask yourself, “Am I choosing this food option because The Food Police* is telling me I have to? Or do I feel like I am compassionately choosing it because I want to feel best in my body and I lovingly have decided to eat this thing that I know promotes that goal?”

Here’s an idea of what The Food Police sounds like:

  • “I should eat a salad because that’s supposedly what is good for me, even though I don’t feel like one at all and I know I’ll get hungry again too quickly.”
  • “I shouldn’t eat those fries, but I guess I’ll let myself, only if I exercise an extra 30 minutes tomorrow.”
  • “Are you sure you should be eating that? Won’t it make you fat?”
  • “You can’t eat that, it’ll break your rule, and you were on such a roll.”
  • “You better not eat that bagel/pasta/muffin, the carbs are going to go straight to your hips. Carbs are so bad for you.”
  • “Butter? Really? You should eat it dry.”

Here’s an idea of what gentle nutrition** driven by self-love sounds like:

  • “I want to make sure I can do all the tasks I need to accomplish this morning at work, so I’m going to make sure I have a well-balanced breakfast, especially making sure I get enough fat and protein on my oatmeal today.”
  • “Even though that dessert sounds like it might taste good, I know last time I had it my stomach felt absolutely terrible later and I’d rather have something else that doesn’t ground me to the couch the rest of the night.”
  • “I’d love to eat that chocolate, but I know that I have this health condition that makes it so whenever I eat it, I have terrible heartburn, so I think I’ll take care of myself today and pass on the chocolate, even though I know I could have it.”
  • “I know I’m not physically hungry right now, but I haven’t eaten in over 5 hours, and I know I’ve been extra stressed and anxious today, so I need to make sure I’m getting my body filled with the energy and nutrients it needs, even though I’m not feeling hunger today.”
  • “Although I might not always feel like having yogurt on the daily, I know it helps repopulate my gut with awesome microbes that will help me absorb nutrients and feel better in my body since the drugs I was on when I was sick totally obliterated the good colonies in my gut.”

Can you see the difference?

The Food Police is rigid and all about following rules. It doesn’t matter what your nutritional needs are as an individual, at a particular time and place, it’s all about following rules (that may even be outdated).

On the other hand, the self-loving gentle nutrition is all about how you feel — before, during, and after a meal. It takes into account knowledge about health conditions too. This is a more advanced intuitive eating topic, and yet it still incorporates all of the basic intuitive eating concepts.

Let’s hear from you: what’s something The Food Police tries to tell you and trick you into thinking? What self-love nutrition practice do you incorporate into your intuitive eating? Or do you have a thought that you want my help checking? Share them all in the comments!

“The Food Police” is a concept from Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch’s book, Intuitive Eating.

**Same for “gentle nutrition.”

(Image from Unsplash.)

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