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Don’t Judge My Food

Don’t Judge My Food, I’m Not Judging Yours.

Real talk.

Since becoming a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I’ve found that many friends and acquaintances, and even people I’ve just met, feel compelled to explain their food choices to me. I even suspect that some social invitations I used to receive are no longer given because the hosts or organizers are concerned with what I might think of them if I saw what they ate or drank. I’ve tried to gently, and frankly sometimes not-so-gently say “I don’t care what you eat unless you are a client, and even then, I’d rather you be honest than lie to me”, however not many seem to listen.

Then, I came across a blog written by a nutritionist named Cara (no last name was given). It’s titled: Don’t Judge My Food, I’m Not Judging Yours.

I’ve copied it in its entirety and I encourage you to read it. Even if it doesn’t ring 100% true for you, I think the idea behind it can be applied to many people in many situations.

Let me walk you through an abbreviated version of the situation that prompted this post:

 THE RESTAURANT

I eat at this place maybe once or twice a year. It’s close to home, even closer to where Mr. Street Smart [my husband] works, but it’s just not on my top 10 list of favorite places to eat. The food is good, don’t get me wrong. But a little bit of a college-bar feeling and not quite my scene these day. Regardless, when I got the invite to meet the hubs and some work proximity associates a la Ron Swanson style, I cracked my introvert shell and agreed to socialize with strangers.

THE FOOD

Parmesan Truffle Fries. A basket for me, please. Enough said.

THE REACTION

Dude #1 (who I do not know): Whoa, you just told us you’re a dietitian…why are you eating fries for dinner? That’s so not healthy.

Dude #2 (who I also do not know): Yeah, are you going to share those?

I. Will. Not. Be sharing.

Because these fries are mine. And if you want some, you’re more than welcome to order a basket of your own. We can totally dunk them in ranch dressing together and generally enjoy life.

But what you can’t do is pass judgement on me for wanting something hot and greasy in my belly at the end of a long day at the clinic. And you also cannot ask me to share my food because let’s be honest, I’m downright protective of food that I view as rightfully mine (especially if Mr. Street Smart is picking up the tab…thanks dear).

This latest incident is not an isolated one – things like this don’t happen every day but they happen often enough. It’s sometimes just a side-eyed look when the server brings our food to the table, or an off-hand comment or observation. At times I barely notice and at others I really want to say “Why yes, thank you for telling me what I already know….I did order a basket of fries for my meal and I did happen to eat all of them.”

It could be that I’m hypersensitive to this because I work so hard with my clients to help them break a long cycle of feeling guilt or shame around what they eat. Or it could just be I have no patience for middle age men who want to make a comment about what I order at a bar.

Probably a little of both.  And despite my best effort to turn it into a teaching moment to show dietitians are NOT the food police, I’m not positive that point really sunk in.

We eat for a lot of reasons:

It tastes good

We’re physically hungry

It tastes good

We’re with friends or family or it’s a special occasion

It tastes good

It’s a meal time and food is there and it’s been a few hours since we last ate

It tastes good

We’re feeling a little emotional…tired/lonely/anxious/happy/[fill in the blank]

It tastes good

We’re celebrating and there’s birthday cake laying around

It tastes good

We want to try something new

And, stop me if you’ve heard this before….

IT TASTES GOOD

I won’t apologize for eating a food I enjoy. I trust my taste buds and I trust my body to tell me if a food is or isn’t worth eating. After a bite or two, if I don’t completely love it, I’m ok with putting it down. Or putting it back. Or giving it to my husband or my dog because their taste buds have *nearly* the same flavor distinguishing abilities.

The point is, a single meal does not in any way, shape, or form reflect the overall quality of one’s diet. It’s impossible to say whether what you’re seeing is an outlier or the norm. It’s also impossible to know what else happened that day, that week, that month. On this particular day, I had gone for an A.M. run, eaten a nice breakfast, taken the stairs at work, and packed my lunch from home. So yeah, not worried at all about a little grease and sodium in my dinner.

A single meal doesn’t make or break a healthy diet. Let’s end the judgement around food

Was it balanced? No. Could I have made a “better” choice, nutrition-wise? Yeah.

Did I feel guilty or regret it? NO. 

I likely won’t eat a meal like that again for quite some time. And it doesn’t change my overall lifestyle of balance, both with food and exercise. At one point in time I honestly wouldn’t have felt that way. What I likely would have done is replay that evening over and over, reanalyze the menu and mentally kick myself for a moment of perceived weakness, then trudge off to the gym to sweat it out with a couple hours of cardio.

The other reason we cannot and should not judge someone for the food they eat: We have no idea what their past history is or where they are right now in their relationship with food. There could be underlying anxiety, disordered thoughts and behaviors, or emotional triggers being suppressed. To pass judgement at a time like that is so incredibly damaging. And for no other reason, it’s not our place.

Even as a dietitian who routinely assesses diet quality and intake patterns, it is not my job to judge. Unless you are my paying client, who has specifically asked me for assistance, I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU ARE EATING. You don’t need to confess your sins to me. You don’t need to justify it for any reason. And you really don’t have to rattle off everything you ate in the last 12-24 hours to seek my approval.

Note: These things all seem to happen to dietitians on the regular.

Even for my clients, some of whom may be reading this, please know: I will objectively look at your diet and help you identify patterns or find areas to improve. Any conversation we have after that will revolve around what you tell me you want to accomplish. I am there to guide and support you, not shame you or make you feel scrutinized.

So that’s my quarterly rant for now…I am not the food police. I’m not judging your food. And it’s not necessary to judge mine.

 

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