When you're eating out with friends or family, there's always someone who will say something about what you’re eating or how much you're eating. Maybe someone will try to get you to eat some of their fries or will comment about how “healthy” your food choice is or will say they are “being bad” because they are eating something sweet.
Food shaming is when someone criticizes or judges what another person is eating.
Food shaming can be intentional but even when unintentional, can lead to guilt, shame and embarrassment. Constant examination of what you are eating or what someone else is eating are all part of the diet mentality and diet culture. Diet culture endorses the importance of staying thin which then leads to the compulsion to feel you have to watch every calorie that goes into your mouth and eat foods that fit into diet culture where it’s all about the calories.
Food shaming can consist of comments about what you’re eating by others, or you can shame yourself by having the internal dialogue that is constantly judging what you eat and obsessing about whether or not you should eat certain foods and avoid others. Food shaming can also lead to your letting other people influence what you eat or don’t eat. Sometimes well-meaning comments are made that make you feel pressure to eat more, eat less or eat something different than what your body needs to nourish itself.
Here are some examples of food shaming:
· Wow! Are you going to eat all that?!
· Are you sure you want to eat that?
· Do you realize that what you’re eating is not healthy for you?
· Haven’t you had enough cake?
· You’ll never lose weight if you eat that!
· Is that all you’re eating? You’re already skin and bones.
You might be more susceptible to food shaming if you’re a person who has been yo-yo dieting since childhood.
Being on and off diets and being a fad dieter leads to a black / white mindset. This leads to thinking that food is either good or bad. You may even have a list of foods that fit into the “bad” category that you try to avoid. However, inevitably, you will find that depriving yourself of foods you want only sets you up for your next binge. Social media can also be a purveyor of food shaming with “influencers” touting “detox” teas and “healthy” diets and pictures showing idealized (and probably photo-shopped) photos.
You may also have food rules from childhood. Rules that tell you that you need to clean your plate at every meal or that you should never eat dessert, for example. In some families, food was used as a reward. For some of my patients in the Anchor Program, sweets were a forbidden food in their families and so they would binge on sweets when they went to a friend’s house. Some also came from homes where their mother or father was always on a diet and this led them to believe that depriving themselves of certain "bad" foods is “normal.”
What can you do to stop food shaming:
1. Firstly, speak up for yourself no matter who is the source of food shaming. You can politely request that discussions about what other people are eating be prohibited around you as they can trigger your eating disorder thoughts. You can also ask that people don’t push second helpings or leftovers on you.
2. Recognize that what you eat is no one’s business and set boundaries with your friends and family about what makes you uncomfortable when sharing a meal with them.
3. Start to become aware of your internal voice that engages in food shaming thoughts and come up with a statement you can use to interrupt those negative thoughts. You can use an affirmation such as: “I’m healing my shame around food.”
4. Reassert your own right to enjoy what you eat – FULL STOP. If you can, just allow yourself to mindfully eat whatever you choose to eat and try not to judge what you eat. In other words….EAT THE CAKE! And then resolve not to let your inner voice shame you about what you ate.
Your goal should be to take pleasure in what you eat, while nourishing your body and enjoying the experience of eating. Eat the foods you love and take joy in every bite!
All the best,
PS - don't miss your chance to address your food and body image issues. Schedule a free consult NOW.