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We’ve all heard about fat shaming, skinny shaming, body image shaming and just about every other kind of ‘shaming’ there is – but did you know health shaming is a ‘thing’ now? It’s appalling and it absolutely needs to stop!
In a world where we are more health conscious than ever, and have access to all kinds of information at our fingertips, you’d better believe every Arthur and Martha have formulated their own opinion on what is ‘right’ or what is the right kind of healthy.
I experienced this a lot when I started eating a more ‘paleo’ style diet after my son was born. For me it wasn’t about being ‘paleo’, it was a simple way of eating. Something where I didn’t need to count calories or macros, I didn’t need to read labels or overthink meals. I just ate food that made me feel good.
I was excited to share with others how good it made me feel, especially when asked about it. But it didn’t take long for me to quickly stop referring to the way I ate as paleo and just said that I eat food I liked to eat. The criticism I was receiving for eating this was was intense! Despite being incredibly healthy after having a baby, and having a baby that was also healthy, I was still being criticised for eating the way I was.
We know that it’s inappropriate and rude to comment if someone is overweight and orders a burger with an extra side of fries, so why do we think it’s okay to comment and shame someone who is a healthy weight for ordering a lean chicken salad without dressing and extra avocado? Or who chooses to have a plate full of veggies rather than one full of meat?
Actually, it doesn’t even matter if they are overweight or a healthy weight – we shouldn’t be shaming anyone for what they eat. We shouldn’t be shaming anyone for anything.
Do people actually believe they are helping? What goal is it they are hoping to achieve? Are they trying to make themselves feel better about their own choices by putting someone else down? (If so that says a whole lot more about them than anyone else).
The biggest justification for this food shaming and lifestyle shaming I see is the argument that they are ‘helping’ by ‘educating’ each other.
No, no and no.
Health should always be an open discussion. We should always be talking about the latest research on health related topics, what foods you’ve been eating that make you feel fabulous and how you had that blow out the other day but it was okay because hey… shit happens. You’re not going to punish yourself for one Krispy Kreme (okay, maybe it was really like 4 but that’s not the point).
We are hard enough on ourselves as it is, we don’t need to be ‘health shamed’ when we are making choices that are good.
It’s even worse online because people tend to hide behind their keyboards and forget there’s a real person on the other end. The criticism on Instagram in particular is horrific! “You’re too healthy” or “You’re too skinny” or “Muscles on chicks are gross” or “Go eat a burger” or “You need more meat on you” or “You’d be prettier if you put on a few pounds” or “You must neglect your kids to workout so much” or “Isn’t going to the gym everyday selfish when you’re a mum” or “your butt is too big” or “your butt is too small” or “your butt is too flat” or “your butt is too round”…. I literally didn’t have to scroll very far in my feed to find comments on posts like the ones above.
It’s like a damned if you do / damned if you don’t kind of situation.
You can’t win.
If you ordered that lean chicken salad without dressing and with extra avocado, you’ll find people who will argue that having extra avocado is unhealthy. Or that eating meat isn’t the right way to be healthy. Or some other argument that proves their superiority over yours.
A few weeks ago I was at the park with my son drinking a Kombucha drink (fermented tea, good gut bacteria, little bit fizzy, super tasty) when I had another mum come up to me and tell me that I was doing myself harm by having that drink and then started rambling about why it was bad for me. Firstly, I didn’t know this mum at all – she was a total stranger to me. Secondly, based on what? Her two second analysis of me from a distance?
The thing is I had been craving a fizzy drink and instead of going through the drive thru and ordering a massive drink from McDonalds, I chose to have a Kombucha instead.
So why did this woman feel like she could shame me for it?
The bottom line is, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to healthy eating and healthy living. We all have different starting points, goals, likes, needs and attitudes towards health. So why do we expect everyone to fit into a single mould? One that isn’t even actually pre-determined, but simply made up by the person criticising?
At the end of the day, if you’re taking steps to add more healthy into your day and do what you can to overall better your health then massive kudos to you. If someone tries to ‘health shame’ you simply tell them where to go. You don’t deserve criticism or shaming. And if you’re eating a burger while reading this and wondering if you should go to Krispy Kreme now that I’ve mentioned it, then that’s your choice. You don’t deserve criticism or shaming either.
Instead, why not start having more conversations with family and friends about health and what healthy means, what healthy eating means and actually read real, peer reviewed articles on nutrition. Pay attention to the foods that make you feel good and the ones that make you feel like crap. And cut yourself some slack – you are freaking amazing.