Diet shaming: the act of making someone feel bad for something they did or did not eat
You could probably expand the definition to making people feel stupid for choosing to follow certain diets or for judging people for their food choices in general. For the this blog post, I will be using the definition I created at the beginning.
You’re actually eating that? Imagine two friends going into Mcdonalds for lunch. One gets a salad, the other gets a cheeseburger. Should the one who got a salad look down on the one who got the cheeseburger? Should the person who got the cheeseburger assume the one who got the salad thinks he/she is better for getting the salad because “obviously” he/she is more health conscious?
Start of January was a time lots of people make goals and resolutions of what I was and wasn’t going to do to be a better person and Personal Trainer. For many people, there goals include their eating habits, but for others, it doesn’t. We should respect that we all have different goals and encourage, not discourage, others for how they are trying to improve.
“Should I eat the brownie to prove I believe all foods fit, or will they judge me for eating a brownie because I should be health conscious?”
“If I eat the cookie will I lose credibility as a health professional, or will it make my friends/peers/coworkers feel more comfortable about what they are eating if they see I am eating the dessert too?”
“Right now I am so full I don’t want dessert, but if I skip it, will they think I think I’m too good to eat dessert because I’m a Personal Trainer?”
“I really want a second piece of cake, but will people not trust my advice if they think I don’t have self-control?”
I think everyone of all professions and ages can relate to some of my thoughts. A good example is when someone is trying to lose weight and doesn’t want to make a big deal about it but then feels obligated to eat a dessert a co-worker brought into work in order not to be rude. Saying “No, thank you,” is not always enough because people tend to either want an explanation or feel like they have to justify why they are eating the food themselves. This shouldn’t happen. People shouldn’t be made to feel bad for eating or not eating certain foods. We shouldn’t do it to ourselves or to others.
Eating is Personal
What we choose to eat really is personal. We all have foods we like and don’t like. We all have foods that tend to make us feel sick and foods that are just so tasty that we have a hard time holding back.
What if I have a medical condition or medication I’m taking that restricts what I can and can’t eat and I would prefer not to disclose all of that information to you or justify my food choices?
We all need to learn to trust and encourage each other. If you make a big meal and offer it to a roommate who politely declines, or if you bring your favorite treat to work to share with co-workers, and only a couple of people try it out, don’t take it personally because it really isn’t personal against you, it is personal for the person who chooses to eat it or not.
Eating is Often About More Than Food
Emotional eating is a real thing, and while it is not necessarily good to eat in order to escape reality or relieve stress, we should realize that everyone is struggling with other things in their lives, and sometimes, people use food as an escape. Disclaimer: This does not mean we should automatically assume that because someone is eating ice cream straight out of the carton that they must be depressed. Instead, what this means is to not judge people If we notice a close friend or relative seems to be over- or under-eating, we should kindly and appropriately talk to him/her and see if he/she is willing to open up about if something is the matter. We should never judge someone negatively for what they choose to eat.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~Plato
Eating Healthfully and Exercising Should Be Encouraged
Just like we shouldn’t judge people for choosing to eat dessert, we shouldn’t judge people for choosing to decline! Encouragement is always better than discouragement, so if we notice a friend trying to improve his/her eating habits in a healthy manner, we should be encouraging and help him/her know he/she CAN succeed with the set goals! We should also remember that just because he/she may decide to eat the cake sometimes, that the person can still be healthy.
This blog is intended to help all of us achieve wellness by finding the balance of eating, physical activity, and self-acceptance that makes us feel our best. When we stop diet shaming ourselves and others and pay attention to why we are eating the foods we eat, we can achieve self-acceptance and are probably going to be eating pretty well too.