Eating Behaviors: Two Parts That Fight the Food Controller

The Food Controller is an inner critic part that tries to regulate your eating behaviors and other health-related behaviors. It believes that without its efforts, you would be out of control and ruin your life.

It can be hard, cruel, and demeaning—often resulting in depression and low self-esteem. It can lead to…

  • Being obsessed with what you eat or don’t eat
  • Constant worrying about your weight and your body image
  • Feeling bad about your eating habits
  • Going on fad diets
  • Making behavioral resolutions
  • Feeling shame about lapses in meeting your eating goals.

When we have an Inner Critic part operating to make us feel bad about ourselves, it is natural to also develop parts that try to fight off its impact. Generally these parts are not coming from a grounded place of self-care and nurturing (the IFS Self). They are usually more immature–mimicking a child or adolescent’s reactions to a controlling parent. They function as protectors; trying to keep wounded inner child parts (exiles) from being reinjured.

Clients have often found it helpful for me to identify these parts so they can channel their energy in a positive, self-supportive ways to promote healing.

The RebelThe Rebel is the part that behaves in direct opposition to the Food Controller. Naming it always helps people clarify previously mysterious eating behavior. The Rebel bristles at the commands of the critic and refuses to be bullied or bossed around (overtly or covertly). Because of its knee jerk reaction to being controlled, its actions may not be in our best interest. In trying to deflect the impact of the critic, it often behaves in direct opposition to the Controller’s demands. It fights the rigid controls with an attitude of, “Oh yeah, you can’t tell me what to do.” or “Oh, you say I can’t eat that cookie, watch me eat the whole box!”

Inner-DefenderThe Inner Defender reacts to the criticism of the food controller by coming to your defense. It can’t tolerate the injustice of the criticism and tries to plead your case. It enumerates all the good things that you have done and how hard you’re trying. The Defender wants you to get credit for your efforts and be appreciated for what you are trying to do.

Sometimes your Inner Defender tries to argue with the Food Controller. If the Food Controller says that you are worthless, the Defender tries to prove that you are a good person. If the Critic says you are fat and lazy, it will give evidence of how you were able to stay on a diet yesterday. The Defender may the critic to “Leave me alone,” but it often doesn’t feel powerful.