Tomorrow (November 13th) is world kindness day! Which to me is the perfect time to have a conversation about food shaming. Two years ago I had someone at Thanksgiving first tell me, “wow, you look great!” They watched as I filled up my plate and when I was about to sit down they said, “But you’re going to eat all that!?” Yes, yes I am now shut up and pass the pie.
Food shaming comes in multiple forms and unfortunately I feel like I see it every single day. It may be something you’ve experienced but never clearly defined. You might even find that by reading this, you’ve inadvertently food shamed someone or yourself for that matter in some way, shape, or form. Let’s talk about the five different food shaming methods out there.
- The superior – This person thinks whatever plan, diet, or method they’re following is MUCH better than yours and they’ll let you know it. I’m all about talking with others about what they believe in, much like religion, but I simply can’t see one thing being superior than another, sorry. There simply is no one size fits all for nutrition or activity for that matter.
- The Analytical Food Thinker – Just like they recommend not keeping score in a relationship/marriage, don’t keep a running tab on what someone is eating. This person will make remarks like, “you’re really getting a third helping?” It’s your choice what they eat so don’t make someone feel ashamed for the food/amount, focus on yourself instead.
- The Clean Plate Club Champion – I’ll admit, I used to food shame my sister in this way. I couldn’t fathom why she’d leave just a couple bites of food left on her plate and I’d tease her about it. I’ve learned now that teasing someone to finish their fries or eat their left over ice cream cone, is not helpful or necessary. Let others and yourself practice regulating their intake through intuitive practices.
- The High Fiver – This person is the one I interact with the most, it’s when someone loudly “high-fives” you at dinner for “choosing something SO healthy.” This person doesn’t cheer for anyone who they think hasn’t made as healthy as a choice. This could then make someone self-conscious for their own choice. For example, at a group dinner I’ve often heard things like, “Jessi got veggies as a side instead of fries! She’s SO healthy!” It’s not because I’m healthy, vegetables just sounded good on that day – I love me some fries and especially sweet potato fries. These kind of comments could make the person next to me who DID get fries feel guilty, even if they weren’t called out on it.
- The Body Language Shamer– The person who rolls their eyes, raises their eye brows or watches you as you eat or get seconds with a certain look on their face. I’m lucky that I don’t feel I’ve experienced this much before but I know it happens and it’s heart breaking.
I’ve been food shamed so many times in my life for taking too much, making TOO healthy of a choice, or mocked because I’m a dietitian eating a slice of pizza or a big bowl of pasta. In the past I did not deal with it as well – I’d get hostile, annoyed, hurt or feel like I’m not able to eat the way or how much as I wanted to. Now I try to address and inform the other person gently how those comments/judgements can affect someone. So let’s set a record straight, it’s not okay to food shame anyone. Period. End of story. If you are experiencing food shaming, it is okay for you to say something – being assertive can help you feel more confident in whatever choice you’re making and it could help the other person too.
I am not perfect, I mentioned above a very clear example of when I have food shamed in the past and did not even realize it. Food shaming is literally everywhere in our culture and it does not help achieve anything except increased judgement, guilt, and feeling disconnected from yourself. Food shaming continues to project the idea that there are morally “good or bad” foods and the downward spiral goes on from there.
Have you ever been food shamed or shamed yourself? How has it affected you or what have you done in reply? Share your story in the comments below OR tag me on Instagram @the_beer_RD…in the words of Ellen Degeneres, “be kind to one another!”