Don’t Succumb to the Food Police BECAUSE If You Do You Are An Uneducated Terrible Awful Insensitive Human!

As a nutritional professional, I feel gaslighted right now trying to hold a line of maybe just maybe it isn’t a bad idea to have a vegetable at every meal.

Maybe it isn’t a bad idea to drink some water, eat a portioned amount of nutrient-dense food with adequate protein before smashing chips.

Maybe it isn’t a bad idea to attempt to avoid being exposed to a variety of hyper-palatable food items in one sitting.

Maybe it isn’t a bad idea to have everything over an energy density of 1.5 kcal/gram out of sight or out of the house.

Maybe it isn’t a bad idea to have some useable food heuristics and an environmental design that allows you to think about food LESS, to trust your limbic system LESS in the face of our current obesogenic capitalistic consumer-based food environment.

Relying on our ability to continuously self-regulate in an environment with a high variety of easily available energy-dense food options seems like a poor decision.

“The preponderance of evidence in adults and children suggests that greater variety in high energy-dense foods is positively associated with energy intake and energy imbalance promoting excess weight.”
-Raynor and Vadiveloo, 2018 [1]

“This review suggests that policies and practices that alter the availability or proximity of food products could contribute to meaningful changes in the quantities of food that people select or consume.”
-Hollands et al., 2019 [2]

“Larger than necessary meals promote passive overconsumption, and research has demonstrated a positive association between the portion size served and the amount consumed, though no association between ratings of hunger and satiety and the portion size served was found.”
-Poelman et al., 2014 [3]

What bothers me most is that some individuals in the anti-diet community are currently advocating for children and adolescents to try to figure it out on their own based on their hunger and satiety signals inside a built environment that hacks at all of our evolutionary weaknesses.

I have been having discussions with multiple neurobiologists and this No Rules No Goal Posts ideology makes absolutely zero sense when you think about the development of the prefrontal cortex and executive functioning. Imagine sending a 14-year-old boy to Vegas without any rules and a black card. “Figure it out…good luck…no judgment…see you Sunday.”

How is our current freshman in college food environment experiment going?! We collected over 1,000 dietary recalls in Freshman [4] and let me tell you between the all-you-can-eat cafeterias and the late-night pizzas/EasyMac it ain’t pretty and trying to unsuccessfully figure this out on your own is likely a poor choice psychologically as well. Read [5]

Having food rules that set you up for success is not bad. Thinking dichotomously about food rules is hypocritical and unhelpful.

How can we design our environment for success? How can we have more understanding and less authoritarian conversations while objectively acknowledging that our current food environment is a problem when it comes to human health.

“Mealtime structural practices, parent modeling of healthy food, and household food rules were positively associated with calorie-adjusted daily servings of combined fruit and vegetables…household food rules were positively associated with children’s diet quality….Household food rules were negatively associated with added sugars.”
-Lopez et al., 2018 [6]

“Evidence in adults and children suggests that greater variety in lower energy dense foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables) is mixed in regard to energy intake and non-significantly or inversely associated with excess weight.”
-Raynor and Vadiveloo, 2018

We can’t put nutrient-poor hyper-palatable convenience items back in Pandora’s box and overly restrictive food practices and dichotomous thinking about food can absolutely be harmful.

This is an insanely complex problem and shame and judgment are not the answer. I am trying to utilize research to have a better conversation about possible best practices and I also understand that I must be extremely careful about imposing my will, my narrative, and my relationship with food on others.

“These findings suggest that restrictive or overly controlling feeding practices may contribute to the development of dietary restraint and disinhibition in young girls, ultimately impeding their ability to self-regulate their eating.”
-Kral and Rauh 2011 [7]


1. Raynor, H.A. and M. Vadiveloo, Understanding the Relationship Between Food Variety, Food Intake, and Energy Balance. Curr Obes Rep, 2018. 7(1): p. 68-75.

2. Hollands, G.J., et al., Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2019. 8: p. CD012573.

3. Poelman, M.P., et al., Behavioural strategies to control the amount of food selected and consumed. Appetite, 2014. 72: p. 156-65.

4. House, B.T., et al., Decreased eating frequency linked to increased visceral adipose tissue, body fat, and BMI in Hispanic college freshmen. BMC Nutr, 2018. 4: p. 10.

5. Schaumberg, K., et al., Dietary restraint: what’s the harm? A review of the relationship between dietary restraint, weight trajectory and the development of eating pathology. Clin Obes, 2016. 6(2): p. 89-100.

6. Lopez, N.V., et al., Parenting styles, food-related parenting practices, and children’s healthy eating: A mediation analysis to examine relationships between parenting and child diet. Appetite, 2018. 128: p. 205-213.

7. Kral, T.V. and E.M. Rauh, Eating behaviors of children in the context of their family environment. Physiol Behav, 2010. 100(5): p. 567-73.

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