Food-shaming comes in all shapes and sizes. Who hasn’t heard at least once, “you’re not eating that are you?” or alternately, “you’re really going to eat that?”.
Let’s face it, judging is judging, whether we’re being shamed for not drinking or for what one is or isn’t eating.
The holidays are an especially popular time for cheery warnings and dire predictions about how our food choices will lead to ruination and worse. But any time is a good time, apparently, for food-shaming, what gives?
According to psychologist Susan Albers, “When people make negative comments about other people’s food choices, it’s often a direct reflection of their own insecurities.”
Albers, the New York Times bestselling author of “Hanger Management,” adds, “It’s like holding up a mirror to all the insecure thoughts about their weight and eating choices percolating inside of them.”
Think about it, how many times have you been encouraged to eat just one piece of fill-in-the-blank because “it’s not going to kill you!” These verbal extortions are an unwelcome trend we refer to as food peer pressure.
While it’s really no one else’s business what you eat or why that won’t stop the more enthusiastic out there from giving it a go.
So, how best to respond to the people who would have us eat like them, instead of what, when, and how we want?
There are a few suggestions that experts recommend when dealing with the foodie police. We can’t guarantee they’ll bring your critics to heel, but at the very least you’ll have the satisfaction of having a ready response when the censors come calling!
First of all, do you believe that your nutritional choices are the best ones for you? If so, try sharing that bit of wisdom with your detractors—it’s a hard concept to argue with.
Still, there will be those who try!
In that case, you may want to consider telling them, gently of course, that this is your body and you alone get to decide what goes into it.
In other words, they aim to respond rationally rather than react defensively. There’s no need to conjure up an elaborate story, fake an illness or lie.
There’s really nothing wrong with saying, I don’t like rhubarb pie, brussels sprouts or whatever concoction you don’t fancy. We all have different tastes (in this case literally) and saying so shouldn’t be taken as rude or offensive.
We don’t expect people with food allergies or sensitivities to eat problematic food, so why should anyone expect another to eat something that doesn’t agree with them?
It really could be as simple as saying, “When I eat fill-in-the-blank, I get a stomachache, headache, fill-in-the-blank.”
With that being said, the point isn’t to feel as if you have to justify your food choices.
According to Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietician, it’s perfectly acceptable to simply say, “No, thank you” or “I’m not in the mood for that right now.”
To paraphrase, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, although that is sometimes more easily said than done.
In other words, if you must, go ahead and explain yourself!
“If the situation seems appropriate, you can share why you decided to make the food choices you made,” said Rumsey. “Sometimes this will initiate helpful and even insightful conversation!”
For example, maybe you’ve incorporated healthier food choices based on your doctor’s advice or because you’ve noticed you feel better when you cut out certain foods. Understanding the reasons why you’re eating the foods you do will make it tougher for others to sway you into doing something that goes against your health goals, priorities, and values.
If that route doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can always turn the other cheek and brush off the criticism, constructive or otherwise.
On the opposite side of the coin, there are situations and individuals that seem to get the better of us no matter what we do or how prepared we are. In cases such as these, the above suggestions are rendered moot, and the best strategy may be to calmly and politely walk away before the situation becomes contentious.
If that seems harsh or drastic, acknowledging an unwelcome comment and then changing the subject might be the way to go. Especially if you know the food police are waiting at the party or family gathering you’re going to.
In this case, it helps to have a list of topics in your head ready and waiting for when someone pounces. The weather, sports, and pets are good neutral topics, although there’s usually one person in any group who can find something to argue about no matter what’s being said.
If this happens, maybe the best course of action is simply to laugh off the comment and situation, since you can please some of the people some of the time (and you know the rest) as the saying goes!
Lastly, I would encourage you with another popular saying, and that is to be the change you wish to see in the world.
Said a different way, be a good role model. Nobody likes unwanted advice and likewise the opinions of the food police. If you want others to honor your food choices, model this behavior by not commenting on what others are eating and definitely “don’t criticize anyone else’s food choices.
Hopefully, focusing on your own plate and nutritional choices will set an example for others.
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