As I sit writing this, I am waiting for my breakfast a local restaurant. I ordered a fruit cup to start, coffee and OJ, and a super vegetarian omelet with English muffins and sweet potato home-fries. To put it bluntly, I love to eat. To put it more bluntly, it is one of favorite things in the world. 🙂 And one thing I dislike with a passion is food shaming.
Food shaming is when a person judges or criticizes another person for their food choices. This is mean, spiteful and totally unnecessary. I believe strongly there are no inherently “good” or” bad” foods. We need to stop thinking of food in this simplistic and dichotomized way. We also need to realize that food and eating are a part of life. It is no surprise that so many people love food and love to eat. But this simple reality is threatened by the food shamers.
Of course, this is related to two phenomena: healthism and weightism. Healthism is the imposition by society and government of a so-called “healthy lifestyle.” In fact, imposition is too weak a word. A synonym for healthism is health fascism. Thus it often feels like this thinking is being aggressively forced upon people. At this moment in society, we are battered with constant messages of “health” and “healthy eating” that criticize the way we eat, including our very natural cravings for particular foods. Apparently these cravings are meant to be overcome by simple discipline and sheer self-control. And what drives food shaming and healthism? Weightism is a big part of it. Weightism is the institutional discrimination against people of size. As a person of size [I weigh over 400 pounds] this is something I face on a regular basis. It is one of the “isms” that is seldom talked about even though it is ubiquitous. Fatphobia and the fear of becoming fat drive weightism and food shaming. We have a very guilt-ridden and shaming approach to food, to eating, to “health” and to weight in our society.
Food shaming also comes from applying one’s own eating habits onto other people. As Aner Tal states in an article from Marie Claire: “In some cases, the internal monitoring that goes on with one’s own food choices gets projected onto the outside world. In a way, being critical of other’s choices is just externalizing the criticism or self-control you apply to yourself.” People need to stop assuming that everyone will eat like them or wants to eat like them. People’s eating and food preferences are highly individualized and unique. Rather than viewing some people’s eating habits as “bad” or “unhealthy” we need to see them as personal preferences and leave them the hell alone. Food shaming has been proven to be very injurious to people and it needs to stop.
It’s actually kind of sad and telling that I have spent the bulk of this post writing about the abuse associated with food rather than how wonderful it is! I have just finished my breakfast and it was absolutely delicious, including my serving of veggies and fruit. It saddens me greatly that we have taken one of life’s great pleasures and turned it into a site of panic, criticism and judgment. The good news is that there are plenty of people who are challenging these hegemonic norms based on food-shaming, healthism and weightism. Fat activists, size acceptance movement, body positivity folks and Health At Every Size [HAES] proponents are some of the cultural warriors who are combatting these discriminatory attitudes and transforming our culture in regards to weight, food, fitness and health. So, eat up! Mangiamo! Bon Appétit! Eat without apology, savor and enjoy.