Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate

One of the chief aims of 99% Fit is to perpetuate the idea that people can be healthy at any size. This is central to helping people rebuild their relationships with fitness. If you believe that health and body type are not always intrinsically tied together, you can cultivate a fitness practice that’s about much more than losing weight – one that’s about personal wellness, self-care, and self-expression.

I’ve written previously about fat shaming and the damage it does to people’s sense of self, as well as how it makes it harder for people to break out of unhealthy behaviors. Today’s post is somewhat related to this, and talks about a subject many, many women have encountered: food shaming.

A wonderful piece from a 2014 issue of Women’s Health tackles this topic. The author begins with an anecdote that sounds all too familiar:

“I'll never forget the time that a co-worker at a former job invited me to go to our office cafeteria with her one afternoon to get an ice cream sandwich…Since the express purpose of our little outing was to get dessert, I ordered my ice cream sandwich right away. But as the other women saw the giant scoops of vanilla ice cream being heaped onto my sandwich, something shifted. Suddenly, they couldn't stop talking about how ‘massive’ it was. And while I offered to split my sandwich with one or both of them, some intangible jury had already ruled that the ice cream sandwiches were now gross. So after all of that, I was the only one who went back to the office with an ice cream sandwich. And rather than bonding with my co-workers, I now felt more isolated from them.”

Reading this, I was instantly reminded of the number of times in my life people have made unsolicited comments about my food choices: “Wow, a bag of gummy bears? You’re so lucky you’re so skinny and can eat whatever you want!” OR “Oh, look at you being so healthy, getting a salad!”

Later on in the piece, Dr. Michelle May, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat drops some insight about this pervasive, but unhelpful behavior: "It's normal in our culture to obsess about food this way and to judge our choices and to label foods as 'good' or 'bad.’ Here's the problem: When we judge food as being 'good' or 'bad,' we also judge ourselves and other people as 'good' or 'bad,' depending on what we ate."

Over at Mind Body Green, health coach Alison Dryja describes her own process to discovering how unproductive food shaming is: “I found myself constantly telling people how to eat healthier, and caught myself rolling my eyes when I saw people eating what I considered junk food…But the more people I worked with, and the more I got to know my own body, the more I realized how individual our relationship with food really is. What we eat is intimately personal. It’s not up to me — or anyone else — to determine what someone should or shouldn’t eat.”

There’s no doubt that our society has a fairly disordered relationship with food, and certainly the food industry doesn’t help – our food is chock full of trans fats, sodium, and sugar, a lethal but addictive combination of unhealthy additives. Most of us could probably benefit from making better choices in one way or another, but as Alison says above, relationships with food our OUR business, and not anyone else’s. Let’s all try to be more mindful and kind to one another, and remember that everyone’s health and wellness journey happens at their own time, at their own pace.