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Do you ever feel like you’re being watched when you eat? Like people are judging your every bite and making assumptions about what you’re eating? If so, then you’ve probably encountered food shamers. Food shamers are the people who judge others for their food choices, and they can be really annoying.
As a Registered Dietitian, I find many of my clients refer having to deal with unwanted food shaming, especially as they start on their intuitive eating journey and start making peace with food. While you might not be able to stop people from saying things, you can learn how to deal with them. Here are some tips that can help you deal with food shaming.
What does food shaming do?
Food shaming is when someone judges or criticizes another person for the food they are eating. It can happen anywhere, from the workplace to the grocery store to your own home. And it’s not just about what you’re eating – food shamers will often comment on how much food you’re eating, or how quickly you’re eating it.
Food shaming is often perpetuated by the food police, who are those people who think they know what’s best for everyone and feel the need to share their opinion on what others should and shouldn’t be eating.
This type of shaming is harmful in many ways. First, it can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, which can damage your self-esteem. Second, it can make you less likely to make healthy food choices, as you become afraid of being judged.
And finally, it can create a sense of division between people, as those who are food shaming others may be seen as superior. So next time you’re tempted into food shaming others, think about the potential harm you could be causing.
Why is food shaming harmful?
Food shaming is harmful because it creates an environment of judgement around food and eating. This can lead to people feeling anxious and stressed about food, which can lead to disordered eating (1).
Food shaming can also make people feel like they are not worthy or deserving of food, which can lead to feelings of low self-worth and depression.
Food shaming is also harmful because it perpetuates the idea that there is a “right” way to eat, and that certain foods are “good” or “bad.” This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame when people eat “bad” foods, and can also lead to restriction and yo-yo dieting. It creates a negative relationship with food and body image.
Finally, food shaming ignorantly assumes that everyone has the same access to healthy food and lifestyle choices. In reality, food insecurity and poverty are major barriers to eating healthy, and shaming only makes these problems worse.
Food shaming examples
Unfortunately, food shaming has become all too common in recent years. The food police are everywhere, from tv shows and magazines to online forums and social media. And food shamers are quick to pass judgment on what others are eating, often without knowing the whole story.
There are all sorts of food shaming examples out there. People have been shamed for eating fast food, for having food allergies, and even for bringing their own food to a potluck. No one should be made to feel bad about their food choices, no matter what those choices may be. We all have different dietary needs and preferences, and we should all feel free to eat what makes us happy and healthy, without judgement from others.
Here are some common food shaming examples you may have come across before:
- “You’re eating too much sugar”
- “Should you really have that second piece of cake?”
- “You should be eating a salad”
- “Did you know that junk food is super bad for you?”
- “Whoa! Are you really going to eat all of that?”
- “That has too many carbs”
- “A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”
What to do when people comment on your eating habits?
Food shamers can appear in different ways. Perhaps your partner tells you that you have too much food on your plate. Or maybe your mom tries to give you more food, no matter how many times you’ve told her you’re already full.
While these comments are often well-intentioned, and food shamers may even believe that they are supporting you, this does not mean that they are helping you. It also does not mean that you have to tolerate this inappropriate behavior. Read on for tips on how to deal with these situations.
How to respond to food shaming
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal, and no one should feel ashamed for eating what they want. However, sometimes you might encounter people who shame others for their food choices. This can be very rude and can make you feel uncomfortable.
If someone shames you for your food choices, the best way to respond is to stay calm and confident. You don’t need to justify your choices to them, and you definitely don’t need to apologize. Simply say something like “I’m enjoying this meal, thanks for asking” and move on.
Remember that you don’t need to listen to anyone who is trying to shame you, and you don’t need to change your eating habits based on what others think. Here are some tips to consider:
- Try not to take things personally. If people are commenting on your food and your body, they most likely have insecurities of their own. It’s not about you.
- Look for positive outlets of social support. Find a friend who understands your situation or someone you can vent to about Aunt Bertha’s inappropriate comments.
- Remember that only you are the expert on you, and nobody else knows what’s best for you. Stand in your own truth.
- Consider other conversation topics lined up so you can quickly change the subject.
Food shaming scenarios
Here are some sample scenarios and strategies to help you deal with food shamers:
Scenario #1: “Should you really be eating that considering all the weight you’ve put on recently?”
- Focus on the impact of the statement: “Lately it feels like everyone around me wants to comment on my weight. I’m exhausted from having to explain myself all the time.”
- Use self disclosure to help people understand what you’ve been going through: “I’ve actually been going through a rough time recently and I’ve gained weight due to stress”.
- Set boundaries: “I’d prefer if we didn’t talk about mine or other people’s bodies. Please don’t make these comments anymore.”
- Call out the inappropriate behavior: “Whoa, that’s a rude thing to say.”
Scenario #2: “That looks delicious but you shouldn’t be eating all those calories“
- Use self disclosure: “I’m working on feeding my body with care instead of counting every calorie that goes in my mouth. I feel so much more in tune with my body now”.
- Set boundaries: “When we get together for meals, it would mean a lot to me if we didn’t talk about how many calories are in our food. Is that cool with you?”
- Change the subject: “Let’s change the subject. I don’t think this is a great conversation for a family dinner/birthday/cookout”.
- Educate: “Dieting and counting calories is proven to be ineffective. I choose to listen and trust my body instead.”
Scenario #3: “You know that processed food isn’t good for you, right?”
- Focus on the impact of the statement: “I feel (emotion) when you point out what I eat. It’s not helpful.”
- Use self disclosure: “I’m listening to my body and honoring what it needs.”
- Sprinkle in some sass: “Well, good thing it’s on my plate and not yours!”
- Empathize: “I know that most people who comment on my eating habits are struggling with their own food issues. Have you ever struggled with this stuff? I’m totally here to talk if that would be helpful.”
So, what can you do to deal with food shamers and the food police? The best way to deal with these people is to try to understand them. What are their motivations for shaming others about their food choices? Are they trying to help, or are they just trying to make themselves feel better?
Once you understand their motivations, you can start to have a more productive conversation with them. You may not be able to change their minds, but at least you’ll be able to have a respectful discussion. And remember, there’s no need to respond defensively – simply smile and walk away if things get too heated. What tactics have you found work best for dealing with food shamers before?
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…