People who make an effort to eat in a way that supports their health have a bad reputation. It seems that many times, the healthy eater is also the judgmental eater. Let us band together, fellow healthy eaters, and change this stigma by killing it with kindness.
If you aren’t sure if you have the right to talk to someone about his/her food choices, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this person my child?
- Am I this person’s doctor?
- Did she ask me?
Unless you answered yes to one of these questions, you do not have the right to talk to this person about his/her food choices.
The following suggestions are for everyone who eats food, regardless of your personal choices:
- Don’t Comment on Other People’s Plates: When you see someone eating something you think looks unappetizing or that you would not eat yourself for whatever reason, you do not have to tell the person who is eating that what is wrong with her food. In fact, you may consider that this person could very well have eating choices of her own that impact her health, mental or physical. You may even imagine that this person is very sensitive about eating or suffers from an eating disorder if it helps you mind your own business.
- Let Other People Make Their Own Decisions: Let other people decide what they are going to eat. If you think the diet they are following is stupid or unnecessary, that’s okay. Don’t follow it. But let each person have the autonomy over her own life to decide for herself if and when she wants to make a change.
- Don’t Assume Everyone Hast the Same Goal. Do not tell a heavy person that if she stopped eating X she would lose weight. Conversely, do not tell a thin person that she needs to eat a cheeseburger. That is not your stomach or your body, you do not get to decide and your opinion is insulting unless it is requested.
- Be Polite Online: When you see a picture of a food you don’t eat, you do not need to comment about what’s wrong with it. You can continue to not eat that food, but really, the world does not need to know about it.
- You Don’t Need to Broadcast Your Food Choices. Many people are surprised to find out I am vegetarian because I don’t make a big deal out of it. When I go out to eat with other people, I order the vegetarian option without ever mentioning it to the other people at the table. If I am offered an appetizer that contains meat I simply say “no thank you.” If I am offered a soda, again “no thank you.” If I have a question about the menu or a modification, I make it to the server and I am polite and gracious.
- “No Thank You” is the End of the Conversation: Conversely, when you offer someone food and they refuse with a “no thank you”, your job is done. For whatever reason, that person does not want to eat the food at that time. You really do not need to know why.
- Stop Talking About Your Diet Constantly: If you follow a particular type of diet, let’s say you follow the Low Radish Diet, unless someone asks you about it, you probably don’t need to tell them. The world is awash in dietary advice and most people are just sick of it. Conversely, if you think Low Radish Diets are really stupid, you should probably stay away from Low Radish Diet communities. Let people make their own choices. If they choose not to eat Radishes, that’s their business. Even if you believe there’s something inherently harmful in eliminating radishes from your diet, it’s really not worthwhile to go to the Low Radish community and start attacking people. This is completely ineffective. You cannot deny people the opportunity to make their own mistakes and discoveries.
- Your Diet is Your Job, Nobody Else’s: If you are allergic to a food, then it is very important for you to avoid that food. Asking to know what is in a dish is perfectly acceptable. If you are concerned about being able to choose a restaurant that will cater to you, always be willing to research and make suggestions. When I go to visit someone, I check out Yelp for good vegetarian restaurant options I can suggest. You can even call the restaurant and ask them if they can make substitutions for your restricted diet. However, this is your job, not anyone else’s. In any case, it is quite simple to be civil and non-accusatory when asking questions.
Eating is a very personal activity. Only you know what you need and how you feel when you eat certain things. Never assume that what you feel yourself is what everyone feels. Think about it, do you really want anyone telling you that the food you’re eating is gross or deadly while you’re eating it? Of course not. You want to enjoy your meal in peace.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing things that improve our health and make us feel good. But let’s start doing it from an angle of leadership instead of reactionary fear. This is my thought process when I share my food photos:
I want to show people how beautiful, appetizing, and appealing food can be when it didn’t come out of a box, can, or drive thru window. I don’t want them to hear “what you are eating is bad and wrong”. I want to say “what I am eating is delicious, I really enjoy it, and look, isn’t it beautiful? It’s also pretty easy, really! You can cook it will just take a little practice.”
Because I do believe in these things and think they could really help a lot of people, I want to promote what I love. I do this from the perspective of my own choice, rather than tearing down others choices. People are far more likely to be open minded when you are kind than when you are judgmental.
Eating should not be a source of constant stress. If you find yourself worried or angry about what strangers around you are eating, it may be time to examine your own relationship with food.
If you want people to accept your choices, then you have to be accepting of the choices of others as well.