Comparison & Food Shame

We’ve all been the recipient of unsolicited comments about food. As I share in my book, Fulfilled, I had an experience once where a colleague straight up told me that he was judging the fact that I was eating goldfish crackers with my soup.

Like…really? Did I ask you?

No, I didn’t, and most of the time, we aren’t asking for someone else’s opinion when they let us know what they think about our food choices. But when it really comes down to it, we can’t control what other people think, say, or do. Yes, boundaries are a thing, but sometimes unsolicited food/body comments come from people with whom we don’t even really have an established relationship. While it should be expected that they wouldn’t be meddling in our business, sometimes people meddle. We can’t control that, but we can control our response.

[Yes, I eat bread. I know lots of people that think it’s wrong and/or unhealthy to eat bread. But last I checked, Jesus ate bread, so I’m cool with it…]

When we’re in a season where our relationship with food is a little rocky, it makes us especially vulnerable. This can make it really difficult to cope well when people in our lives criticize our food choices (or criticize others’ food choices while in front of us.) It’s hard to maintain a non-judgmental, neutral attitude towards our own food when we feel like other people are judging us (or they’re obviously passing judgement and tell us so.)

We can’t control what other people do or say, but we can control how we respond.

If you can relate to the experience of feeling judged for your food choices, here are three encouragements. These have helped me in the past, and hopefully will help you as well!

1. What’s healthy for someone else isn’t necessarily what’s healthy for you.

Let’s start with the most obvious example. Almonds are an objectively “healthy” food, right? Or at least that’s typically how we think of them. They’re a great source of oils we need, and offer a hefty dose of protein and fiber, too. Plus, they taste great. So, almonds are healthy. Right? Well, they are for me. But they are not healthy for my niece who is allergic to almonds. That much is obvious.

Okay, let’s chat about me versus my husband. My husband isn’t a big snacker. He tends to eat three square meals a day, and if he has a snack, it’s maybe some fruit. He feels better when he doesn’t snack so much, so he doesn’t. The same is not true of me. Since I tend towards hypoglycemia, I absolutely need to eat more frequently than just three times a day. Because of my tendency to get low blood sugar, it’s also really important for me to pair carbohydrate-rich foodsespecially sweet foodswith protein (ideally with protein, fiber, and fat.) My individual body is healthiest when I feed it at least 5 or 6 times each day, and when I choose not to eat fruit on an empty stomach.

The same holds true with everything else related to nutritionit’s highly individual. If someone follows a vegan diet and feels great, great! But that doesn’t mean that vegan diet is a healthy option for you. And let’s not kid ourselves…we have no guarantee that said person is actually healthy, even if they think their diet is healthy! Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking veganism. (You do you…) But keep in mind that even if someone says “Becoming a vegan made me healthier,” it doesn’t mean that you need to do likewise. You are in charge of you, not your friends, family, or colleagues. You also know your body better than anyone else does, and if eating the chicken sandwich is what’s healthy for you in a given moment, don’t let anyone else’s judgment get you down.

2. If someone is judging you for your food choices, it says more about them than it says about you.

Your body is none of my business. (That is, unless I’m your doctor, and you’ve asked for my input regarding your health.) If I make critical comments about your food choices, it doesn’t mean that you’re “unhealthy” or “gluttonous” or whatever else I might be saying. It does, however, mean that I’m being rude, overstepping my bounds, and failing to treat others with kindness and compassion.

The truth of the matter is that there are zero grounds for judgment when it comes to other people’s food choices. What somebody eats doesn’t say anything about their intelligence, their education, their motivation or laziness, their health, their morals, their values, or who they are as a person. Really, what a person eats is completely unimportant. Food is not a moral issue, and we have no moral right or obligation to hold others to our own personal convictions about how to eat (or how not to eat).

3. The standard to which you or others are comparing your food isn’t the standard that God uses.

If you google “the best diet,” there will be a few million different results. These results vary depending on what you’re looking for, whether that’s the best diet for weight loss, the best diet to be healthy, the best diet to support marathon training, the best diet to support body building, the best diet for the management of a medical condition, and so on and so forth. With health-related diets specifically, the best answer is highly individualized. As mentioned in point #1, what’s healthy for one person isn’t necessarily healthy for another person.

But let’s say, for example, that we are able to discern a universally healthy diet that is perfect for all people. (Bear with me, I know that sounds absurd.) Even if we knew a “perfect diet,” it still doesn’t mean that a person needs to follow that diet in order to be worthy, valuable, loved by God, or to live a fulfilling life. Nutrition doesn’t hold the power of life and death, and even if health and wellness are high on your list of values, (they are certainly high on my list of values), failing to eat according to what you or others think is a “healthy diet” still doesn’t determine your value as a person.

Even before you were old enough to eat solid food, you were loved perfectly by a perfect God. Not to mention, the bible doesn’t outline a diet plan for Christians at all. The only “dietary requirement” we have as followers of Christ is this:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you dodo it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

The measuring stick that diet culture uses to evaluate uswhether that be low-carb, fat-free, gluten-free, or otherwiseisn’t the measuring stick that God uses. What we eat simply is not a reflection of who we are. So, if you are struggling to see yourself as worthy and lovable because of difficulty in following a certain diet, or achieving a weight loss or exercise goal, remind yourself that who you are doesn’t depend on those things. You are so much more than what you eat, how much your work out, or the size of your pants.

I share more about the intersection between food and faith in my new book, Fulfilled. In addition to my own experiences, I explain exactly how I walk my clients through the process of surrendering a life of dieting and cultivating a healthier relationship with food, exercise, and your body. Fulfilled is available for pre-order at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, my publisher’s website, or any online or retail shops where you usually buy books!


3 thoughts on “Comparison & Food Shame

  1. Thank you Alexander for this post, it says it all. I pray God helps us to stop judging and shaming other people’s food choices and mind our business!


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