in The Whiteboard by Lindsay
The more I’ve spoken with people about the topic of food shaming, the more I realized that it’s incredibly common, and it’s a real issue that is rarely ever addressed. This may be the first time you’re hearing about this, and that’s not surprising. This is the first time I’m talking about this outside of my group of fitness-minded friends and clients who have experienced the same kind of frustrating commentary on what they eat.
So, what is food shaming?
This is what I consider to be any type of negative, unwarranted commentary/vocal judgements on what [or how] someone else chooses to eat. I’m not referring to extreme cases of people who are on a dangerous path to diet-induced diseases (these people are obviously in need of a food intervention.) I’m talking about your average person, making day-to-day personal decisions about their diet and lifestyle.
We’re lucky because we spend our time working out in our CFNH community, surrounded by people who have similar fitness and healthy lifestyle goals. At the very least, we can appreciate the motivation that others have to pair a particular diet with their performance goals. We may not agree, or we may be on a different path, but we can support those choices made by our fellow athletes. This is because we understand and appreciate our individual fitness journeys. For example: I may not follow a paleo diet, but if you find that it’s been working for you (you feel great, your performance in the gym is top notch, you’ve lost some body fat) then you better believe I’ll support you however I can. Chances are, I’ll try to track down some paleo snacks for you to try. However, outside of our fitness safe space, you might not be greeted with as much support and acceptance.
Consider this: You’ve been killing it with your nutrition this summer by eating fresh, whole foods and making dietary choices that make you feel energized and balanced. Maybe you’re on your meal prep game and you’re coming prepared to some summer BBQs with a few of your own foods that you know agree with your digestion (you’d rather not derail your progress.) Perhaps you decided to ditch the bun for your hamburger, or you opted for fresh sliced veggies instead of potato chips. The unfortunate truth is that you’ll probably be faced with at least one guest at that BBQ who has something to say to you about this:
“You really can’t enjoy yourself for just one day?”
“What’s wrong with the food we’ve got here?”
“Why do you always have to eat so healthy?"
A more common situation that you might find yourself in is when you’re eating out with a group of friends. You’ve been feeling great with your workouts, nutrition has been on point, and that salad on the menu seems like it’s right up your ally. You order it, with dressing on the side and a serving of plain grilled chicken. What follows is a barrage of rolling eyes and comments like:
“You can have a salad anytime!”
“We’re here to celebrate! Why don’t you enjoy yourself?”
“At least share this order of fries with us?"
The other day, I had a discussion with a fellow CFNH athlete who’s been experiencing food shaming at work. She recently started a new nutrition program, which she was excited about. However, when she’s crunching on some veggies in the lunch room at work, she’s almost always presented with commentary along the lines of, “is that 8 slices of cucumber your whole lunch?” She told me that she recently was at a restaurant for a business dinner with coworkers and some potential clients (all of whom were male.) She ordered the salmon and vegetable entrée off the menu, and a coworker swiftly announced to the table that she was “on a special diet” and is “always watching what she eats." The fact is, it's nobody's business why she chose the salmon, and that information certainly has no place at a professional work event. The only reason why the coworker decided to share this, was to embarrass or "shame" her for her food choices.
This type of reaction can certainly sting a bit, especially coming from friends and family. It can leave you feeling isolated and questioning the choices you’ve made. I’m here to tell you that being proactive with your health and wellness should never be something you feel ashamed of. Whether you’re making changes for health concerns, aesthetic or performance reasons, it makes no difference. You don't have to justify your methods of self-care. You know better than anyone else how to take care of your own body, and you know exactly why you’ve made these choices.
At the end of the day, the only reason why someone will harshly judge or criticize you is because they're hard on themselves. You’re choosing the path that they know they should be choosing, or you're embodying something that they lack in themselves. What you decide to eat (or not eat) is a deeply personal choice, especially if you have struggled with body image issues, weight or your relationship with food.
So how do we end the food shaming, and how do we avoid projecting these judgements on someone else?
Honestly, it all starts with self-love. If we practice self-compassion, then we won’t feel the need to unload our fears/insecurities on others. Don’t beat yourself up after you’ve mindlessly eaten too much one day, or had something that didn't agree with you. Encourage yourself to keep pushing along. Be comfortable in the choices you make for yourself, and be your own support system. If you truly want to help support those around you, then you need to commit to listening to your body and staying true to your own needs, desires and goals. From self-compassion comes tolerance, and the ability to support others in their unique journey.
Be confident in your choices, eat what feels right for you and enjoy your food- whatever it may be.
As always, if you have any feelings/questions/concerns to share, then don't hesitate to email me. I have a lot to say on the subject. --> firstname.lastname@example.org