Food Shaming is Not Helpful

The recent media attention on “fat-shaming” is fantastic — it is terrible that anyone should be made to feel badly for failing to match an unrealistic standard. Now it is time to give the same support and respect to those who are eating carefully because they are trying to lose weight.

Nationally about 50% of Americans try to lose weight each year. And many of them receive interference or embarrassing comments from friends, family and co-workers. As if losing weight and keeping it off isn’t hard enough, difficult comments, however inadvertent, can be the last straw, causing people to hide their weight-loss efforts (which makes it harder) or to give up in the face of pressure and embarrassment.

Today, we live in a world in which oversized plates, supersized beverages and massive portions encourage overeating and make it seem normal. For example, as documented by the CDC, today’s restaurant meals are literally 4 times larger today than in the 1950s, making it almost surprising that our obesity crisis is not worse.

Today's massive portions encourage overeating and make it seem normal. Share on X

We need a more supportive food culture to combat this toxic, coercive food environment, so that nobody feels embarrassed about eating differently.

Three Easy Things

That means people who are not currently trying to lose weight need to be more supportive of those who are, and hopefully that kindness will be repaid on another occasion. Here are three things everyone can do today to support loved ones who are trying to eat better for weight control. None of these strategies costs anything, and friends and family will be so grateful. So feel free to share with everyone you can think of!

  1. Servings: If you are hosting festivities, make sure there are healthy, low-calorie options in every course (including dessert!), and — very importantly — don’t plate the food. If everyone helps themselves, they can take exactly how much they want without pressure to eat more than they want.
  2. Feelings: Don’t take it personally if they don’t try every dish; don’t make them take a big portion because you “made it specially for them” and they can “diet tomorrow”. It’s not because they don’t care about you. It’s just that people trying to lose weight often find it really hard to diet tomorrow if they get off track today — that big piece of cake or pizza reactivates old neurological craving circuits in the brain, making it harder to keep to their plan.
  3. Words: Avoid snarky or disapproving comments that bring attention to their food like “Just relax — one portion won’t matter.” It makes them feel worse, and many people will give up to fit in rather than be shamed about their choices.

With simple gestures like this, we can become more like other countries with both a strong culture of great food, and healthier habits. You might not go out of your way to advertise you are on a diet in Paris, but similarly you would never have to put up with people applying pressure to make you overeat.

America's supersized food environment is a toxic swamp making healthy habits uncool. Share on X

The food environment in America has turned into a toxic swamp that makes healthy habits seem bizarre and uncool. It’s time to turn that around and give everyone the support they need to eat what and how much they want — whether that is for maintaining their weight, or because they want to lose weight and get healthy.

Please share this to help spread the message for a kinder food environment.


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