Challenge the Food Police for Performance

challenge the food police

Sadly when the term “food police” is used, a dietitian or nutrition professional may come to mind for many individuals. In reality, most of us are far from it and advocate for eating patterns that frequently break the traditional trendy food rules touted by media and social media “wellness” influencers. As sports dietitians here at KJN, we know how important it is to challenge the food police for performance, so you can shift your mental energy from food obsession to stress-free optimized fueling habits with a side of food enjoyment.

carbs for performance

What does “food police” mean?

The food police are an internal problem housed in your psyche, often indicating you are “good” or “bad” based on certain eating behaviors. The standards of your internal food police may have originated from actual people, or simply an ad you saw for a new diet or product. Often the tips we hear and products we see also pressure people to feel they must look a certain way to be successful in. sport or in life.

Collectively, we refer to these seemingly normal attitudes and messages as “diet culture” and when it comes to athletes and highly active individuals, sport culture and fitness culture come into the mix, too. While this may seem normal based on the environment you are in, these attitudes can lead to undue psychological stress and other harmful consequences including hormonal imbalances, higher injury risk, poor performance, and more. At the very least, the food police make it nearly impossible to simply enjoy the food you actually want, when you want it, and in quantities your body needs.

Example Messages from the Food Polices

problems with the food police

You may have already identified some of these messages and thoughts, but. here are some other examples of how the food police tries to dictate your food intake and your worth:

  • Carbs are fattening
  • I can’t eat after 8 pm
  • Dessert is bad for me
  • I can only have the fat free version of _____
  • I had a light training day, so I can’t be this hungry
  • I really shouldn’t eat ____, it’s full of fat
  • Sports drinks have too much sugar

Who are the Food Police for Athletes?

When you think about influences on athletes versus the general public, the list becomes long, and starts at a young age. Many if not most of the pressures from those close to you are coming from a good place, but the influence of diet culture has clouded people’s ability to know where to obtain credible information.

Those in endurance, aesthetic and weight class sports are most likely to get advice for reducing body size from their coaches, trainers, and teammates, with the {false} idea that a smaller body size always leads to better performance.

Here are some sources of food policing thoughts:

  • Coaches providing diet advice or dictating meal/snack options
    • Coaches almost always have no background knowledge or training in nutrition or needs to support adaptation from training
  • Parents in charge of what athletes have access to
    • They want what’s best for their children, but typically aren’t getting information from the right sources
  • Teammates going on diets, living with food rules
    • Just because a teammate loses weight and improves performance doesn’t mean that is best for your body… or that they lost weight in a healthy way
  • Pro-athletes in your sport who discuss their diet in the media
    • Genetics and training have a lot to do with success! Many athletes would likely perform even better with a healthier relationship with food
  • Supplement companies and sports nutrition brands
    • Supplements not 3rd party tested promote “fat burners” that aren’t backed by science and can put you at risk of a positive test
    • Sugar free/low sugar electrolyte “hydration” drinks leading to under-fueling, risking injury and poor performance 
challenge the food police for performance

Who are the Food Police for Highly Active Adults?

Don’t think you’re exempt to higher risk of distorted thoughts about food and your body just because you aren’t an athlete. Former athletes and those who are part of fitness communities may be more likely to self-critique and assume they need to restrict their dietary intake to fit a certain “norm” or be “healthy”.

Here are some sources and examples of food policing thoughts in fitness:

  • Group exercise instructors stating that you must burn off what you ate over the weekend
  • A gym’s “biggest loser” competition
  • Personal trainers who are selling standardized meal plans to their clients
  • That person from high school trying to get you to buy into their MLM supplements (ie: Beach Body’s name itself is the food police!)

Who Can You Trust with Nutrition Information?

Understanding scope of practice is critical when we live in a world filled with misinformation about nutrition and stigma against many body types. We may understand and abide by the law daily, but if someone else needs help, we wouldn’t offer law advice for pay unless we were a lawyer. You also likely wouldn’t see a GI doctor for a sinus infection.

So, when it comes to nutrition information seek out individuals with – at the very least – a bachelors degree in nutrition or master’s degree in nutrition. When it comes to a credential that involved education in counseling and behavior change, supervised practice, and requires continuing education, find a registered dietitian. If you’re looking for advice on sports or fitness nutrition, seek out a dietitian who specializes in fitness and sports versus diabetes or general wellness. Sports dietitians have an extensive knowledge of demands for physical performance, but also a good understanding of sports psychology and what may be making it difficult for you to challenge the food police for performance.

You’re the Expert of Your Own Body

Instead of judging yourself for eating habits, pay attention to your eating patterns along why why you make the decisions you do. Tie that information to some basic sports nutrition principles, and how your food intake and timing affects you mentally and physically, and you’re on the road to retraining your body to eat intuitively.

By ditching food and activity logging apps that know nothing about your body, you can log your intake in a mentally healthy way to get in tune with what your body is telling you day to day! The hunger and performance log we use with clients is available to you if you’d like a template.

By having valid nutrition information from credible sources and looking at these details that impact food choices, instead of judging yourself for fueling poorly for training, or overeating at night again, it can sound more like “I overate tonight — I bet if I had eaten enough carbs at lunch and had my sports drink during training, I wouldn’t have been overly hungry. I’ll work on X & Y so I don’t feel that way again in the future.”

We at KJN understand that it can be hard to challenge the food police for performance. It’s complicated and can be confusing! If you feel like you need extra support in this process, reach out to us to hear about our 1:1 coaching program. We teach you how to merge the principles of intuitive eating with sports nutrition to help you achieve long-term success with your nutrition, fitness, and relationship with food. If you’re a female wanting to explore intuitive eating for fitness with more guidance on your own to benefit performance, consider the Fit Fueling full course, or the sports nutrition mini course.

Intuitive Eating for Performance Series

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