You're Doing it Wrong: Food Shaming
By Melia_S on February 17, 2014
Last week's "You're Doing it Wrong," covered a couple of food pet peeves that were kind of me-specific and ok, a little weird. This week's topic is a little more universal because it's happened to everyone and is probably a pet peeve of yours that you couldn't put a name to. Until now.
You're doing it wrong if...
You're food shaming friends, family or anyone for that matter.
You might have read last week's post and said "hey hey hey you called us all morons for liking button mushrooms!" That's not the case and I'm sorry if you felt like I was stomping all over your love for button mushrooms. Go ahead and love on those button mushrooms! To each his own, I just don't feel like they belong in the Thai coconut soup that I referenced.
I love to share meals with friends because to me it is the best medium that you can use to connect with others. I even have a brunch club with two of my best friends and it's honestly two of the most meaningful friendships in my life right now. A group of women I used to work with have dinner once a month and it's THE BEST. Sharing a meal and cooking is a way that I show people "hey, I like you!" It's my version of a hug. If I don't want to share a meal with you, I either don't know you, or I work with you and our meals are shared in the break room in which the conversation always leads back to work. Also I HATE the break room. It's where food goes to die and the smelly grave is the microwave. No thanks.
So when food shaming happens, it ruins the dynamic of a meal, snack, or very simply, a moment that someone was enjoying until you came and dumped your shame sauce all over it. I've done it. You've done it. We've all done it whether we've meant to or not and what I want to focus on is being aware that we're doing it. And to stop doing it.
Food shaming isn't simply calling a cuisine or dish gross or standing on an unwelcome soapbox and giving an opinion about the perils of sugar and saturated fat. Food shaming is about the way you make others feel when you do it. It's a judgement of a very basic life necessity and can be offensive on personal and cultural levels. In essence, it's the judgement of someone's lifestyle. Whether or not you agree with that lifestyle is irrelevant.
When you make that snarky comment or question someone's food choices, what you're saying is "I make better choices than you, and I'm going to make sure you know that."
One of my real life friends (and blogger friends!) LeAnne wrote this fantastic piece about food shaming last year and I found myself shouting "YES!" all throughout the read.
She posed a really great question that gave me some pause:
"Where does sharing end and shaming begin?"
Food can be a sensitive and volatile topic depending on who you talk to and really it doesn't have to be. People are going to eat what they're going to eat and we all need to accept that and be respectful of likes and dislikes, diets and non-diets, vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism, and, well you see where I'm going.
Unless you are genuinely concerned for a friend or family member's health, it's not your place to tell someone what you think they should or should not be eating and why because nine times out of ten they're going to resent you for it. If you feel like it is your place to tell them, you really need to sit down and think about two things: a) why you feel like it's your place to say it and b) how you are going to broach that subject. The topic is such a sensitive beast that needs to be approached with care, so approaching it tactfully and more importantly factually is really crucial to driving home a point. And by factual, I mean research and not pop culture medicine (i.e. that blip you saw on Dr. Oz).
It is especially not anyone's place to say shit to a complete stranger about what you think they should or shouldn't be eating and why.
This XO Jane article also sums up food shaming really well and touches on a really great point about refusing food. Another facet of food shaming is the assumption that others want to know why you're saying no to food being offered to you.
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