Food Shaming: What It Is and How to Respond
Has anyone ever made unwarranted, negative comments about your food or eating habits? These comments are examples of food shaming and this post will teach you how to respond and shut down the food-shamers with confidence.
What is food shaming?
The act of food shaming is to judge someone’s food choices and comment on them, making them feel ashamed of said choices.
It’s similar to body shaming which is the act of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size, but with regards to food choices or eating habits.
Food shaming doesn’t always come from an intentionally hurtful place. In fact, friends and family members may often feel they are helping you out by reminding you that the donut you’re about to eat will go straight to your hips. In reality, it’s not the intention behind these comments that matters, it’s the impact that they make.
The impact? Well, comments like “you’re going to eat ALL of that?” usually make one feel ashamed or guilty about what they’re eating, which isn’t great when a lot of us have to try hard to establish and maintain healthy relationships with food.
The reality is, most of us have probably heard food-shaming comments before. Whether it was from friends, partners, family, coworkers, or strangers at the grocery store. Many a times, it’s the food-shamers projecting their own food issues and diet woes onto you, but that doesn’t make it sting any less.
Before we can chat about how to respond to food shaming, let’s look at some examples.
Examples of Food Shaming
“You’re going to eat ALL of that?”
“Don’t you know how many carbs that has?” (Or in place of carbs, it could be calories, grams of sugar, grams of fat, etc.)
“Really? That’s all you’re going to eat? You really should have more.”
“I thought you were on a diet?”
“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips!”
“Wow, someone’s hungry today!” or “You’re eating AGAIN?”
“Oh my gosh, I could NEVER eat that.”
How to Respond to food shaming:
It can be really hard to stick up for yourself and your food choices when we’re constantly told to question every single thing we put near our mouths by society and diet culture. That said, getting more comfortable responding to food shaming comments may also help you feel more confident in your choices. Here are some different ways you can respond:
Politely kill em’ with kindness
The first approach is to kill em’ with kindness, of course. Nothing rattles a snarky commenter more than a polite, positive response. This totally goes for dealing with social media trolls too, by the way. Here are some examples:
Comment: “You’re going to eat ALL of that?”
Response: “I’m listening to my body and honouring what it needs.” (Insert smiley-face here).
Comment: “Don’t you know how many carbs that has?”
Response: “Yeah! Carbs help to give me the energy I need, and they’re delicious.”
Comment: “That’s all you’re eating? You really should have more.”
Response: “I’m happy with my plate right now, and everything looks so tasty!”
Sprinkle in some sass
If you really want to let someone know that food shaming is never okay, sprinkle in some sass. Personally, this is my favourite approach.
Comment: “I thought you were on a diet?”
Response: “I thought you were minding your own business?”
Comment: “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips!”
Response: “I’m not sure where you heard that, but that’s definitely not how the human body works!”
Comment: “Oh my gosh, I could NEVER eat that”
Response: “Well, good thing it’s on my plate and not yours!”
Ignore, walk away, and enjoy your food
If you’re not in the mood to address food shaming head-on, I don’t blame you. You’re only responsible for yourself, your response, and making the best choice for you. Sometimes, that means preserving your energy and simply removing yourself from the negative eating environment.
Now, it may seem rude to just walk away when someone’s talking to you. I totally get it. So this is why it helps to innocently pretend like you didn’t hear aunt Karen’s comment about your holiday dinner plate and that you’re being summoned in another room. Or, you can act like you’ve dropped your napkin and then change the subject on your way up from retrieving it.
It’s no ones business but your own what you choose to eat (or not eat), so don’t feel like you need to engage or respond to food shaming at all. Do what’s best for you, your body, and your relationship with food.
Connect with Hannah Magee, RD
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Hi Hannah! Thanks for the article. But I have a question . How would you recommend responding when you say you’re trying to eat healthy and you break that , your partner genuinely supports you and thinks it’s encouraging to say, there goes your diet again. How do I explain that it’s not supportive to say that?
Hi Samara, great question. I would be open and honest with them! Let them know that while you understand their intention is to be supportive, comments like that actually make you feel discouraged. You can let them know that while your goal is to eat well, you’re also learning that eating well also involves finding a balance and allowing room to enjoy the “fun foods” that you love as well!
Dear Hannah, I absolutely love your post on food shaming. At least once a
week, some of my coworkers make a comment that I’m eating grapes again.
What can I say, I’m addicted to grapes. I have to eat what’s good for me due to food allergies & IBS. I’m being shamed by the healthy choices I make.
I’m really tired of there comments. I don’t say anything regarding the food they eat. You are so right. Food choices that my coworkers make is there own issue with foods.
Thanks so much for giving pointers to say to them without being nasty.
Food shaming is no different than body shaming. Keep posting the helpful hints.
Greatly appreciated 😊
Hi Jackie, I’m sorry to hear that you’re dealing with food shaming comments in your workplace. It’s never fun to deal with, but I’m so happy you now recognize that the comments are just a projection of their own insecurity or challenges with food. Keep doing what’s best for you and your body! Take care!
Thank you. So food shaming is a thing! I spent the entire Christmas with an Aunt who kept saying “are you eating again?” She would say it while laughing and yet after the fifth or sixth time I just didn’t really want to ignore it anymore. I said once, “what would you rather me be doing?”. I think she understood that I was getting annoyed. I’ve no idea why she kept mentioning it.
Hi Deborah, so sorry to hear you had to deal with these comments over the holidays. I hope that this article helped you gain some confidence responding to them and I hope that your response to your Aunt helped her realize how inappropriate her comments were. Hugs!