I thought today as we enter into the holiday period that we could discuss this concept of food police or food pushers because as we enter into this season, there's Christmas parties left right and center family gatherings treats coming into the office at work, all of the things and it feels like it's a time where we're constantly having to say no, no, no. Or saying yes because we're afraid to say no. And then feeling bad about it. And to some extent we have to take responsibility for living our values and sticking to our truth. But I think there is also a lot of inappropriate behavior that comes from friends and family. And I don't think that there's any malice behind it all. I think it's just you know, food is so much an important part of how we celebrate the holidays, and just how we celebrate together as humans anyway, that issues around food and conversations around food are bound to come up in social situations. And it just it feels like everyone has an opinion when you're trying or you know, in some cases not trying to lose weight or be healthy, or even if you just have certain certain food preferences. Like for example, I decided when I was 12 years old that I was going to be a vegetarian. I loved animals and I decided I didn't want to eat them. And I grew up in a small town rural Alberta where farming is a staple of the economy and Alberta beef is praised and nobody knew why the hell I would choose not to eat meat and there was commentary and criticism and teasing all of the time. So I just kind of grew up with that. And that was complicated by the fact that you know if you consider that this was the mid 80s It was impossible, at least in Alberta to even find vegetarian options on menus and restaurants and you would get commentary and criticism from the serving staff in restaurants when you're asking, you know like can I have the hamburger without the hamburger please? Or whatever it is, right? And so that's just been, you know, part of my life growing up and I also and you know, God bless her I grew up with a mother who was constantly pushing seconds. So at family dinners whenever someone had an empty plate mom would be right there with the serving bowl and the serving spoon ready to give more and she wouldn't take no for an answer. So we would always end up with seconds on our plates, even if we didn't want them and then of course would eat them so that we wouldn't offend mom and so behaviors like this are common in our families and in our societies as well. And food police as I like to call them they come in many forms and some of this can be a little bit subtle, but what they all have in common, I think is that they believe they know what's best for you. And they want to share their knowledge, their expertise, expertise and their concern with you. And their intentions may be good or they may also be bad, right? And sometimes it's a little bit innocuous but it makes you feel bad. Like when somebody asks like an honest curious question like can you eat that on your diet? Or you know my I love this like my friend lost 67 pounds, you know drinking this shake, you should try it too. And I think the you know people are just trying to be helpful when they're offering up you these statements but
you're listening to the mindful weight loss podcast episode 25. As we are here mid holiday season, Christmas parties are everywhere. I just had three of them over the past three days and family gatherings are coming up and people are bringing in all of the Christmas baking and the Christmas goodies into the office and there is just food everywhere. And in situations where there's food everywhere. There are also the food pushers and the food police and the people who think that they have to offer you all of this commentary around food. And so I thought today we would talk about different strategies for handling the food pushers or the food police in your life. Just seems that all year long. But particularly at holiday time. Everyone has an opinion when you're trying or even in some cases not trying to lose weight or be healthy, or even if you just have certain food preferences. Like for example I decided when I was 12 years old that I wanted to be a vegetarian. I loved animals and I didn't want to eat them. It was as simple as that. And I actually ate a vegetarian diet up until I was about 32 years old. So this was a long time for me. But I had nothing but commentary and chirping around this choice when I was a child. So if you think about it it was mid 80s I think yeah, mid a mid 80s When I was 12 years old. And back then at least in rural Alberta vegetarianism was not a thing. There were not vegetarian options on restaurants. And you know, I grew up in small town rural Alberta where farming was a staple of the community and we were praised for our Alberta beef and how dare I not support our farmers and eat beef. So I got this commentary all of the time. So it was just something that I I grew up with. And I also grew up with a mother who you know, God bless her love to push food as well. So at family gatherings, if anybody ever had an empty plate, she would be right there with the serving bowl and the serving spoon, ready to give you a second helping and God forbid if you said no, that just wasn't an option. And you know, so I just kind of grew up resigned to the fact that when mum put more food on my plate, I was just going to have to eat it. And then if you fast forward decades, you know into adulthood when I am seriously trying to lose weight. Then came all of the comments of you know questions like can you eat this on your diet or you know helpful suggestions like you know, my friend lost 67 pounds doing XYZ. So maybe you should give that a try to and although those things feel and sound so innocuous, they never sat right, right. They always just made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. And, you know, I think food police come in many, many forms. But what they all have in common, I think is that they all believe they know what's best for you. And I choose to believe that most of the time they're coming from a good place, you know, they just want to help you out. But I think sometimes there is a little bit of judgment and criticism underneath all of that as well. And, you know, I'm thinking, thinking back to times when I go out for dinner with a bunch of girlfriends, for instance, and I'm terrified about what they're thinking about what I order, right because I'm wondering, are they thinking, you know, what's the fat girl going to eat? And then I'm thinking you know, is it wrong if I order an appetizer if nobody else does? Or I'm thinking you know, maybe I just better order a salad and look good. And then if I'm still hungry, I can eat something else in my car later. Right and yeah, these are all thoughts originating from my own brain. But you know, sometimes those thoughts are there because these comments just slip out of my girlfriend's mouth every once in a while. And I really don't think they mean any harm, you know, but it still hurts. And I think I think it hurts more actually when those comments are coming from a place of love. So it's like you know, think about the classic example of grandma making your favorite cookies just for you. Right and you know, she puts this plate of fresh out of the oven. Beautiful chocolate chip cookies that smell so good and her faces beaming and you know, it comes from a place of love, and how the heck are you supposed to say
no to that without feeling bad or feeling bad about it? Right? Or it's like this happens in my household all the time. Like when your partner makes you your favorite treats after a hard day and you eat it even when you don't want to because you don't want to hurt his feelings after this kind gesture. Right? Like, my husband does this all of the time. Like when I come home from work like a shift at work that ends at three o'clock in the morning, or you know, some other ungodly hour. Most of the time I'll come home and he'll have a pair of pajamas and a love note and a little chocolate on the table waiting for me. And it is just such a beautiful kind gesture that like how can they not eat the chocolate? And you know, fortunately and we'll talk about this later in the episode, I had a conversation with my husband about this and and he doesn't do that anymore, but for a long time. I just did not want to hurt his feelings after doing such a beautiful kind gesture. So I would eat the chocolate. But here's the thing that I learned about all of that is that even though it was him leaving me the chocolate, the decision to eat it was all on me. It was all on me, not him. And so communicating about all of that with him just became so important and again, we'll talk about that in just a little bit. And I sat down and I thought about this and in terms of my own experience with food pushers, and I think there's there's just kind of four types of food police that I've commonly encountered over the years. And I'm sure some of these will sound at least a little bit familiar to you. And so the first one and the most common that I've experienced are the experts, right? These are the people who really believe that they know everything there is to know about how to eat and believe that this is the only way you should be eating too. Right. So I hear lots of chatter about this in my workplace, right? It's people these days are counting macros and eating keto, right, like you cannot throw a stone out there in the world without hitting somebody eating, eating keto, or counting macros, and I you know, I hear about this all the time. And you know, the experts are always following the latest diet trend trends and the latest fads or you know, they're really gung ho about a certain supplement or a pill or something like this and they're talking about it all the time. And they want to be helpful, right? Because they feel that they've had a little bit of success, and they've maybe seen some other people have success as well. And so they want to share this vast amount of knowledge they amassed from their experience with you so that you can be successful too. However, you know, because we talk about it all the time on this podcast that there is no one right way to eat for everybody. And it's up to each one of us to learn about our bodies to understand our bodies, and then feed it according to what our body needs. Not what the so called experts out there need. But so we encounter that first group the experts all of the time. Now, the second type of food police that we often encounter is you know, the critic, and these are these are painful when you encounter them. encounter them, right. These are the people who are going to criticize you no matter what you're eating, right and often in some kind of annoying, passive aggressive sort of way. Right and like this is when they're offering that unsolicited advice and commentary. Right? It's, you know, the woman who says, You know what, I used to overeat when I was a teenager and you know, my mom took me to Weight Watchers and I learned this than the other thing and you know, Weight Watchers really helped me so you should give it a try to write or you know, sometimes it's it's like are you sure you want another serving of that? You know, those those subtle little digging jabbing questions that hurt like health. Those are the critics. Alright, and then the third group that we commonly encounter are the bad influencers right? So be the these are all over the place and I just spent a bunch of time with that influencers over my you know, a few Christmas parties I've had over the last weekend. And you know, these are the friends that want to go out drinking all the time, right or, or like my mom always offering the second serving of food when you don't want it or saying you know what, just have one more cookie have one more? Right let's let's just have fun. Don't be such a stick in the mud. Don't be a fuddy duddy,
right. These are the bad influencers. They're just trying to drag you along into more more food more drank just for the fun of it. And you know, I think that can be subtle, right? Because it feels like you're just being invited out for a night on the town but it just sometimes feels like there's just this element of wanting to sabotage you underneath or perhaps even just this subtle sense of not being respected or not being heard, right. Like when your friends know that you're trying to lose weight or you're trying to live a healthier lifestyle and they're constantly suggesting that you come do things that are going to counteract everything that you're trying to do for yourself. It just leaves you feeling unheard and unseen and unloved and disrespected by your friends. So this group can be a painful group of food police as well. And then I think the fourth common type of food, food police is really just those food pushers, right and this is this comes back to grandma's cookies right or you know, here here's a good example I almost became a food pusher to a colleague at work the other day, so unfortunately, I have to work Christmas this year, but a catering company in the community has graciously offered to bring in these little food boxes, these COVID friendly pandemic safe food boxes for those of us working on Christmas and there's a vegetarian option. And a meat options. So I reached out to my colleagues who are also working on Christmas to ask them what their preferences are. And one colleague said to me, no thank you. I don't need at work and my instinct was initially to say, but it's Christmas. Surely you can make an exception. Right? And it was just so instinctual for me to want to say this to want to celebrate Christmas with him with this food on shift that I actually had to bite my tongue and remind myself you know, to respect his decision and not push this food box on him. So those are the four common types of food police that we commonly see the experts, the critics, the bad influencers, and those darn food pushers. And I think another very common and never really talked about form of food. Police are the thoughts that you have in your own head. All the stories that you make up about what you think you should or shouldn't be eating. And you know, this comes from a lifetime of labeling food as good or bad. And you know, saying I can't eat carbs, I can't eat sugar. I can't eat processed foods and this voice that you have in your head that tells you what you should eat and when you should eat it acts in the same way all of those external food police do and when you judge every single little bite you put in your mouth, that's when you start to create all of these stories around food. And these can be subtle thoughts again, that that may sound like they're trying to take care of you but are really sabotaging you at the end of the day. So these are thoughts like this has too many calories, or I shouldn't be eating at night. Or well I had that cupcake tonight. So I'm going to have to work it off tomorrow. Or it's only 11 o'clock. It's not time to eat lunch yet, right? All of these rules that we give ourselves around food. This self talk is really just another way of being food police in our own lives. And I think a lot of that comes from our diet culture, of course right? That's where we get all of these pesky thoughts from in the first place. And right, this pervasive idea out there that fat and food will kill you and that carbs will make you fat. And like all of the other food rules out there. They just get ingrained in us we start to believe them and then we start judging ourselves and making rules for ourselves around the way that we eat, which really isn't helpful in the long run. Because what do rules do? Rules put
the control over what we eat outside of ourselves. And what is so important is that we shut those voices down and tune and actually listen to what our body is telling us that it wants. That's the key to all of this. And to circle back to those external food police and you know link that into how we talk to ourselves. Here's what I know for sure that people including yourself, can actually change when you simply tell them what you need. When it feels like others aren't supporting us or when it feels like we're not really being supportive of ourselves. It's often because they just don't understand what it is that we need from them. And yeah, I mean, of course there's going to be exceptions, right? It's, you know, common scenario is you've got two girlfriends both are trying to lose weight one is doing really well. One is struggling and the struggling one is going to be feeling sorry for themselves and being just a little bit angry with you for being so successful that even if it's on a subconscious level, they're going to have those you know, little snide remarks, those little food police commentaries that are going to make you feel bad, because it's going to make them feel a little bit better. So it's important that we recognize when this is happening, and just have honest conversations about the people we love. And it also comes back to that example with my colleague and the food box for our Christmas meal at work. Also recognize when maybe you are being the food police in somebody else's life or in your own life as well. Right look at how you're talking about food with your kids. Are you forcing them to eat more when they're no longer hungry? Are you encouraging them to finish their plate, even if they're full? Like can you notice where you are maybe also being a little bit of the food police inside your own family? And then also think about you know when your friends and family are questioning you, you know, for example, when they were questioning me about wanting to be a vegetarian when I was a child, and it's not always because they don't you or your decisions or your abilities to succeed. It's often because they're doubting themselves. They just don't get it. And this is what diet culture has done to us is we all think that there is this right and wrong way to eat. But nobody knows exactly for sure what the right way is what the wrong way is. And there's all these questions and so I think a lot of us are looking to each other to see what's working for her what's working for her. What did she try once that worked or didn't work and how should I incorporate that knowledge into my life? So we're constantly watching each other and wondering, what can we take? What lessons can we learn that we can apply to our own life? And I think also that when some people have health goals in their own and in their own life that they aren't meeting and then they see you succeeding. They feel bad about themselves and they take it out on you. I just I've seen that happen in my own life and I watch it happen in the lives of my clients all the time. And the important thing to remember is that this is always about them. It is never
about you and so it just takes it just takes the courage to step back for a moment kind of watch the conversations unfold around you and really understand that again, this is about them. It's not about you. And I think what comes along with this is really developing a skill to look at your own behaviors and the decisions that you're making around food and decide for yourself how you feel about that. And then be confident in that when other people offer their commentary. And so in my coaching programs, I have my clients actually step on the scale every day. And I know a lot of people think that this is like a complete asinine thing to do. And we do it not to track the weight, but to monitor the thoughts that we're thinking when we step on the scale. It's really just an exercise to teach ourselves how to detach ourselves from that number and not make that number on the scale mean anything. And so in the program, we have a little ritual around stepping on the scale and that ritual involves looking at your day or your week. That has just gone by and asking yourself, do I feel good about the decisions I made? Do I feel good about how I showed up for myself? And then you've already decided how you're going to feel about how you've been showing up for yourself when you step on the scale? Right? And so that is a great practice to be doing whether or not you incorporate the scale into it is just thinking, like, do I feel good about how I'm eating? Do I feel energetic and healthy? Do I feel like I'm making food choices that fit within my ethics? My budget, all of the things right? How do I feel in my body? Am I losing weight? Am I meeting my goals and decide for you if it's working? And if you've made the decision that it's not working? The next step? Is not to go out and ask your friends or read more books or buy another program off the internet. It is to sit down with yourself. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths, check in and ask your body when it needs. Right. So if you turn that journey inwards rather than looking outside of yourself for all the answers, the food police are going to have so much less influence over you. And I think one thing that gets in the way of us doing this successfully is that sometimes there's a lot of fear around how your relationships or your friendships might change. If you do call your friends out on their food pushing behavior or their food policing behavior, right, it's like maybe your drinking buddies think they'll miss you at happy hour right? Or if your social circle only revolves around food and going out for dinner or related things like that, then those relationships might change if you put some boundaries around them, right and you know, think about you know, if you go out for lunch with a friend and you're full so you decide not to eat. You might worry that your friend will feel uncomfortable eating alone. And so you'll eat just to make them feel better, right things like this. And again, the solution to all of that is to trust in your own ability to succeed with all of this and commit to the plan that you've created for yourself. And, you know, sometimes when you reflect back on your own lack of self confidence, you may you may interpret that as a lack of support from your friends, but really, it's just reflecting your own lack of self confidence when you're not able to really have a conversation with your friends about why you're making the decisions that you are and sticking to that right. We're always so afraid of hurting other people's feelings, that we will hurt ourselves time and time again to protect the feelings of our friends and family around us.
But you also have to remember that you will often be faced with people who will want to take you down a notch or just don't really give a crap about the journey that you're on. Their you know, whether it's because they lack insight or because they are so wrapped up in their own lack of self confidence that you know, knocking you down a notch is going to make themselves feel better. And you know, that's okay. Right? That is okay if you encounter people who are deliberately trying to make you feel bad. Just remember that you are doing this for you and not them. And you are not responsible for their sense of self worth or their self confidence. You're only responsible for your own so if you commit to your fundamental strategies for losing weight, and if you make your own decisions based on your why, and your goals and your own health, what anybody else says or does doesn't matter. You really need to become your own biggest fan. And you can't expect other people to be the cheerleader for you all the time. Some of this needs to come from your own inner strength. It can be freaking scary to make big changes to your lifestyle and to your body. Right and those of us who are on that journey journey. We know that before we even see changes on the outside so many things change on the inside. And that is including how we relate to our friends and our families. So many of us over eat because of a lack of boundaries in families, right? And once we start putting those boundaries in place, of course things change. So it can be it can be very scary. And you know one way to become your biggest fan to become your biggest cheerleader and to step outside of that fear is to celebrate every single win. You accumulate along the way, no matter how small and when you do that it somehow makes it just a little bit easier to say no to the food pushers and to put boundaries in place around the bad influencers and all of the other things. And of course this really starts with practicing self awareness. And that starts with being aware of the dialogue that you have going on in your own head around food and the rules that you're putting on yourself around food and how you eat.
And a great way to develop some of this awareness is to start looking at your patterns, like pay attention to how you might eat differently in certain situations or around certain people. Right, like I totally eat differently when I'm at my mom's house, for sure. And I eat very differently when I am going out with you know a group of women. You know, for example, I was out with some colleagues for dinner last night and I was terrified to be the person to order first because I was afraid of being judged for my choices. And you know, I'm human, I still struggle. I still struggle with all of this. And so I noticed that I am very self conscious about my food choices when I'm eating in the presence of other women, especially women who I perceive as as having you know, thin healthy bodies and not struggling with food at all right and of course that is coming from me judging my own self. I'm quite uncertain that if I asked any of these women I was out for dinner with not a single one of them gave any thought to what I ate, right? It was all just me judging myself and lacking self confidence. And so the next step once you've developed that awareness is to see if there are places where you can start replacing some of your restrictive thoughts with more realistic ones. And one thing that I love to do when it comes to your your own thoughts is just asking yourself, Is it really true? And so this is what I actually did with myself at dinner last night with my friends. I caught myself thinking, are they going to judge me for what I'm choosing off the menu? They're judging me. I'm certain they're judging me. And I just felt so self conscious. And then I asked myself, is it really true? And I decided, You know what, it's probably not true. It's probably the case that they're not even noticing what I'm eating because they're focusing on their own choices and the amazing conversation that we were having. And then I decided if it even is true, if they are judging me, then that is on them, not me and I ordered my green Thai curry with shrimp and I enjoyed every bite of it. It was lovely. And so another part of developing that self awareness is also becoming aware of how other people are playing the role of the food police in your life. Notice where the critics are where the food pushers are where the bad influencers are, where the experts are. And, you know, see if you can notice where it tends to be more about them rather than you even when it feels personal and hurtful. Right. That is the key to stepping outside of the pain when people make these subtle little judgy comments to you. It's really just taking a step back and asking where those comments are coming from and noticing that it is all about them when people make those comments and not about you. And then finally as I mentioned earlier, you really want to take a look at how you're setting boundaries with your loved ones. And
I think it's important that we take the time to communicate these boundaries with the people that we love, especially the people we live with our families. So that they understand that you know some of these behaviors that they have or these comments that they make to you. They may not understand that it's hurtful or that it's making it difficult for you right. If they're really just coming from a place of love. They'll want to hear what they can do to make it easier for you and so it is okay for you to say things like it's not okay to comment on my food choices, right? You can choose to explain why you're asking this but you don't have to. And when it comes to communicating boundaries with your family or your friends it's also important to let them know the consequences of overstepping the boundary. So for example, with my mother, if I say if you talk about my food choices, I am just going to leave the table. And the key here is that that consequence has to be something that you're actually willing to follow through with and then you follow through with it. And this is how your friends and family learned that is that it is not okay to make commentary on your food choices or to push food. Right and so when it came time for me to have that conversation with my husband about leaving the chocolates for me after my late shift, it was easy as saying it hurts me when you do this because even though I know that you're making this kind gesture out of love, I don't feel good when I eat a chocolate at night. I don't sleep well afterwards. So I'm going to ask you not to do that anymore. If you want to still leave out the pajamas on a love note. I will take that with all the love in the world because I love you and I love the love behind this gesture. But if you continue leaving the chocolates for me, you know I'm not I'm not going to eat them. And he respected that and he started leaving me flowers instead. Which I mean what an amazing man, right? And then you know, one one final thing that I will leave you with is that it is also okay to practice your responses. ahead of time. So, you know, for example, I was at a party the other night where, you know, people were walking around with trays of hors d'oeuvres, right. And in that situation, it's easy to say you know, no, thank you. Lots of people are saying no, thank you. But occasionally when I am in a group of people, and the waiter came up with that plate and everybody else took one, I felt some pressure to take it as well. And recognizing full on that this was all about me, you know and feeling self conscious. But I did practice ahead of time saying you know thank you but I'm not hungry or just no thank you, or I already ate. And you know, just practicing those responses in my head that they don't see feel so foreign when the time actually comes. And so that's a strategy I encourage you to try as well is when you know that you're heading into a social situation where there will be food pushers or people making commentary on the way that you eat. Just practice ahead of time, what your responses will be so that you feel just a little bit more comfortable when it comes time to actually executing it and one thing I've learned over the years as well is that once you say you know no thank you. The very next thing that you should do is just change the topic, change it off off of food and go somewhere else. So you know start asking about their kids or their work or their lives or whatever it is to just get the topic off of food. Because I find I get really worked up when people want to have conversations around food in social situations. I write I'm an overweight woman. I obviously have opinions and issues around food, and I just don't want to talk about it with people I don't know very well, and I certainly don't want to talk about it in social situations when I'm trying to have fun. So it's a great strategy is just changed the topic of conversation. Alright, and one final thing and I realize I've just said one final thing three times but getting four ideas popping into my head.
One thing that has been helpful for me just in terms of friendships and navigating the food commentary around that is to suggest spending time with friends in ways that don't involve food. So I have a friend where we just choose to go on walks together, instead of going out for dinner, things like this, and I find that that has actually enriched my friendships. Partly because when I am in a social situation with food, I just feel so on guard and having to watch my thoughts and watch what I say and I'm often feeling very uncomfortable because I'm concerned about being judged for the way that I'm eating, that I'm not really fully present with the friend there in front of me. And so now that we have chosen to spend time together in ways that don't involve food, and this one girlfriend that I'm thinking of specifically understands, right we had the conversation. She understands why I made this request. But we have both realized that we have become closer because when we're doing other things together that don't involve food, we're focused on each other. And I am not living in that sense of security and our friendship has actually become much stronger and much more important to me. Because of that and along the same lines. Finding people who are on the same journey with you can help as well. So joining a Facebook community or you know, finding a group of women who are on a similar journey and who are thinking about food in the same way you are might be a great thing to become involved with just so that you can have that sense of support, and a safe place to explore all of these ideas and all of the things that you're experimenting in terms of food in your body with other women who are going to support you and not judge you or criticize you for that. Alright, so that is all that I have for you today. If you are looking for a community to help you through all this, definitely consider joining us in our nourish yourself body and mind program. This is a six month group coaching program. Where we really learn how to tune out the external voices and tune in and really listen to what our body is trying to tell us so that we can give it what it needs. As part of that we have the nourishment Lounge, which is our community where we go through this process. together and it is absolutely the most beautiful community of women ever. So if you're interested in joining us there just head on over to www dot nourish yourself body in mind.com and join us there. Alright, that's it for this week. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a very happy holiday season and we will talk again next week.