“Oh, I don’t normally eat this, but…”
“I worked our really hard today, so…”
“Well I already ate all of my vegetables for today, so…”
Phrases like these probably sound familiar to you. Maybe you’ve heard them come out of a friend or family member’s mouth. Maybe you’ve said something like this before. I know I have. But why is it that we always feel the need to justify our food choices?
I see this time and time again scrolling through my social media feed or in conversation with friends and clients. Heck, I see dietitians on social media qualify their “less healthy” food choices all. the. time.
During college, I had a blog called Paving the Rugged Path. During the time, the writing served as a form of therapy and was a creative outlet for me. However, there is one post in particular that still stands out in my memory. I remember the days leading up to a Coldplay concert I was going to (and my goodness was I ecstatic about that concert!!), I did a lot of baking to bring along to Minneapolis to share with my friends. During this time, I was in the crux of my disordered eating and excessive exercise patterns/lifestyle. When posting on my blog the days prior, I remember talking about how I had run 6 miles in the morning but then I ate “too much of my sweets” while baking, and so I felt like I needed to run more…so I ran another 4 miles. At the time, not only did I feel guilty, but I somehow felt like I owed an explanation to my audience on my blog as to why I, a dietetic student, would eat that “junk.” But I also was justifying it for myself.
“Oh I don’t normally eat this, but at least I did run twice today so…”
Fast forward to today—not justifying my food choices is something that has taken a lot of practice and awareness. The age old dietitian phrase is “I don’t always eat this way, but…moderation.” Sometimes I cringe when I hear the word “moderation.” Because really, what does that actually mean? Since the term is often used in diets masquerading as “non-diets”, I’ve grown to not trust the word so much. This all goes back to the morality of food and confronting our inner food police. If we looked at food as neutral—with no moral compass—not good or bad—then it’s just food. We wouldn’t feel the need to justify our choices. We would feel at peace with foods and ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, even I go back to my old ways every now and then. Sometimes when I am around people from my disordered eating days or those who do not realize I practice as a non-diet dietitian, it’s easy to feel the need to make cliché comments about my food choices. It’s how society talks and sometimes it seems easier than saying “but actually I don’t need to feel guilty about eating this and neither do you.” It does take a little practice to get out of the habit of qualifying what you are eating. However, I believe it is SO important. Even if you are utilizing intuitive eating and believe in Health at Every Size (HAES) wholeheartedly, defending your food choices is an expression of doubt in yourself and what your body is telling you.
What if Other People Comment About Your Choices?
You might be in a different situation. Perhaps the problem is that other people make judgmental comments about your food choices and the amounts that you eat. *I want to preface by saying that almost always the reason for someone commenting on your food choices has very little to do with you. I would venture a guess that this person is insecure with themselves or struggling with something else that is manifesting in their rude comments towards you.* This doesn’t change the fact that someone has commented about your eating, but I think a little perspective can go a long way in not taking things too personally.
There are some options that you have in a situation like this. How you respond may depend entirely on the situation and your relationship with this person. Your first option is to say nothing at all. Sometimes when people comment about what I’m eating as a dietitian (“That doesn’t look like a dietitian approved option…” , etc) I will simply smile and change the subject. I do not have to justify to someone why I chose to eat ice cream at this moment in time. And neither do you.
There are also some phrases you can use that may be simple, yet helpful. I recommend staying calm and doing your best to not come across as defensive. (Easier said than done, I know!) You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you do have the choice to respond. Here are some that I use that may be useful for you.
- I don’t restrict foods in my life. I believe that all foods can fit.
- This (insert food) is delicious!! Why would I ever eliminate it from my life?!
- This ice cream (or whatever food) has protein, fats, and carbs–it’s powering me through my day!
- Do you not enjoy (insert food)?
Those are just a few. (I’m sure I will think of some brilliant responses as soon as this post goes live 😉 ). I usually try to keep things light and playful to avoid awkward moments.
How do you respond to people policing your food choices?
Do you catch yourself justifying your food choices to others or yourself?
Let me know in the comments!