Food has become a pretty judgmental topic even when foods are described as being “bad or good”. Others can try to put healthy foods in a black or white category, but it really doesn’t work that way. What’s good for one person may not be so good for another person based on their health history, food allergies, etc… Even judging others’ portions on their plate has gotten out of control. That is an example of what we call food shaming. So, What is Food Shaming & How Do We Stop It…
Let’s define food shaming…
What is food shaming?
Food shaming is feeling bad about what you eat or making others feel bad about what they eat. The tendency to judge others’ food choices can come from family generational trends or even social media. And speaking of social media…social media influencers remain at the top of the list for people most likely to “food shame” with family and friends being a very close second. Food shaming can have a negative impact on someone in terms of how they feel about themselves. Approximately, 88% of people carry a long lasting impact from food shaming.
Examples of food shaming (and even body shaming) can include:
- “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips!”
- “Are you really going to eat that?”
- “What are you eating? It smells bad!”
- “I wouldn’t get seconds if I were you!”
- “Is that all you’re eating? You need to put some meat on those bones!”
How should you respond to food shamers?
Dun-dun-dun. The next time you find yourself in a situation where someone comments on your food in what you feel is shaming, consider saying this:
“When you say ____, it makes me feel _____. It’s not helpful”
I’d like to suggest another perspective to this. Sometimes, comments from family members or friends aren’t meant to come from a critical or shaming place. Sometimes, it’s really just coming from a place of concern, but they haven’t figured out the appropriate way to voice their concerns. Either way, you could still address those comments in a positive way.
You could say “I believe your comment is coming from a good place, but maybe next time find a better way to say it.”
Also, eating behaviors associated with emotional eating or alcohol abuse are on a totally different level than food shaming and should be treated as such. It’s helpful to have people around you who care enough about you to point out these types of behaviors that not only can harm you, but harm others around you.
Factors that influence which foods we purchase
There are so many things that go into which foods we purchase. These factors can be social and economic. Food purchases are influenced by our income level, the cost of food, transportation (or the lack thereof), local grocery stores and what they carry in the store, cultural preferences, family size and how you were raised, as well as individual preferences and beliefs. I want to highlight a few of these factors in more detail.
A food desert is a geographical area where access to healthy foods is lacking because of distance to the store and/or issues with transportation. Another huge defining factor of a food desert is that they are usually in low-income areas, specifically black and brown communities. Issues with transportation can include that the store is just a long way away or that the person does not have a vehicle. In 2009, 2.3 million Americans lived more than 1 mile away from a supermarket and did not own a car. It’s not surprising to say that there are important health consequences associated with food deserts. People living in a neighborhood with access to healthy food have a 45% less chance of developing diabetes over a 5-year period.
Lower income households
Lower income households have more barriers that can get in the way of how a person eats and their health/nutrition goals. Some people have the desire to eat better, but financially it is a real struggle for them. Households that make <$50,000/year struggle with cost of food, lack of motivation and where to start more than households who make more than $50,000/year. “Lack of motivation” and “where to start” are other factors that affect food decisions that we may not always think about. But they are very real and very prevalent.
Fun side note: Did you know that Registered Dietitians favor taste and cost as the top two reasons to purchase food just like consumers?
At the end of the day, you know your body better than others. Whether you choose to eat something based on its nutritional value, or simply just for pleasure, you should never feel shame or guilt about those choices or accept food shaming from others. And if you ever feel like you need professional help with your choices then don’t be afraid to reach out to registered dietitian.