Diet Shaming

Food Shaming: What Would You Do?

Have you ever been mocked or made fun of because of your food choices?

Have you ever been lectured by family members or friends because you eat mostly plants?

Perhaps you've heard mean comments like:
“Gluten-free is just a fad.”
“Are you really eating that?”
“You're just being too picky.”
“Come on, a little of this won't hurt you.”

Or maybe you've seen people roll their eyes when you ask for special requests from waiters or flight attendants.

For a lot of us, people with chronic illness, food can be medicine or poison. We eat certain types of food for more energy, to manage, arrest or reverse our symptoms, or to support our healing process. We minimize, eliminate or avoid some food because they make us sick or they can kill us.

With the holidays right around the corner (with lots of food and gatherings), let's create a conversation so we can face this dilemma with a little more confidence, empathy, and compassion this season.

What Would You Do?

Here's the scenario: You're eating in a restaurant and you overhear a couple criticizing and lecturing a mom (that they haven't met before) because she and her kid are ordering vegan food. Worse, when the mother steps out quickly, the couple tempt and force the kid to eat a hotdog because they believe her diet is not healthy. The kid is uncomfortable and doesn't want to eat it. 

Please note that I'm not promoting veganism. The same scenario can happen to anyone making conscious food choices and decisions because of health reasons.

Now, that's out of the way, I'd like to invite you to watch the video clip taken from the TV show “What Would You Do?”. Check out how the people in the restaurant reacted.

Food shaming: If you were in this scenario, what would you do?

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Your Turn

If you were to witness this scenario in real life, what would you do?

Post your answers in the comments below. The best answers will be featured in the next Ask The Reader segment. I will credit you and link back to your website or social media, if any.

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Mary Gutierrez

I help women with chronic illness thrive by sharing natural healing success stories, tools, programs and tips that focus on real food.

  • Kate says:

    I have been going through a lot of diet changes myself lately, which has made me only more aware of food shaming scenarios, but I can’t even imagine ever seeing something like this happen in real life! I would definitely say something, because that would be too disturbing to witness.

  • Sydney says:

    I feel like misery loves company. It’s almost as if people feel guilty that they’re not taking better care of themselves and therefore have to shame you and/or your children for living a healthy lifestyle.

  • Amanda says:

    Great post…I would certainly intervene. Not only does anyone have the right to eat what they feel comfortable with, it’s downright coercive and abusive for an adult to impose their views on a child without the parent’ permission! Beyond that, I very strongly believe that there is no one right diet for everyone. We need to discover what’s right for our own selves. I have been shamed for my many food sensitivities. We may not know the cirucumstances behind another person’ choices.

  • Kate Findley says:

    I agree with Sydney that people often shame because they feel guilty for not following such a diet or simply because they don’t understand it. Luckily, even growing up as a vegetarian in Texas, nobody ever tried to force meat-eating on me to that extent. Sure, people would tease, and occasionally friends/family would make comments like “don’t you need some protein in your diet?”, but for the most part, people respected my decision and did their best to accommodate me.

  • This was a great read! It definitely depends on the scenario whether I’d say something but I don’t think you should shame anyone for their food choices.

  • The overarching issue here is people’s assumptions. They have no idea what this family is going through. Perhaps there is an underlying illness or food allergy that is being managed through conscious nutrition choices. Just yesterday I had a coworker give me a hard time when I requested a Paleo food option for a company-wide luncheon. I’m not “trending” with my gluten-free request; I’m saving my gut from another horrendous flare of ulcerative colitis and avoiding a hospitalization. So her response of “Oy” in her email was completely ignorant and full of assumptions. When you assume, you are ignorant.

  • I would absolutely step in and say something if I saw a situation like that. It’s no one’s business except the parents what they are feeding their child. Now, if the child looked neglected, or abused in some way, my answer might be different, but if the child looked healthy and happy as these ones did, then no one has the right to interfere, and I would try to stop anyone who did.

  • Amy says:

    This is a very interesting situation. I think every family has the right to choose what food to eat. My friends have a daughter never ate meat. She is 9 years old and she does not want to eat meat, although the parents are not vegetarians. For her, this is normal and she feels great.

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