I used to spend a LOT of time on my personal Facebook page just scrolling through my feed seeing what everyone was up to and looking at links that were often shared (more than I care to admit actually). I enjoyed seeing my friends post about their kiddos, trips they were taking, special events in their lives’, and catching up with family all over the world. I also loved posting personal pictures and updates of my own family for friends and family to see. However, much of that changed as I got deeper into my fitness journey, especially the last 5-6 months or so. The moment I realized that I was developing a poor relationship with food (orthorexia) as a result of my new “clean eating” lifestyle and switched to a more flexible dieting & macro based approach, I began to notice just how much crap information is out there. Not only is there a ton of bad information being shared left and right, a lot of this info can be damaging to people, their health, and overall feelings & habits surrounding food.
As I became more aware of all the “food shaming” that’s out there, it just ticked me off more and more. I would often log into my Facebook account and 9 times out of 10, I would see certain friends posting things like “Don’t eat this because…” or “You have to give up this food because…” or “Eat this way because…” or “Always stay away from this because…”. Now I realize that these friends had ZERO intentions of making anyone feel bad. I know they shared these links and thoughts strictly because they figured it would help someone. What they fail to realize is that posting things like that can play a crucial role in food relationships people already have. One should never feel guilt or fear when it comes to food and eating. They shouldn’t look down on themselves because they choose to eat something that isn’t considered “good” for you or from a particular diet. Subconsciously people may see these posts about food and immediately begin to fear it. That innocent post might change their entire perception about a certain food/food group forever. Sometimes I suppose this can be a good thing, but most of the time I personally think it creates unnecessary phobias.
Every time they think about certain foods from that point on, they may begin to have a mental tug of war about eating it… “Oh, I remember Stacy posted an article about not eating this because it will cause XYZ. I better not eat that. Why don’t I have this instead! Oh wait, Paul posted about not eating this because XYZ. I better not eat that either. OK, how about I try this then! I’ve always like that. Crap, Michelle posted an article about that and said it’s linked to Cancer. I definitely can’t eat that. Guess I will just drink water! Oh wait, I heard from someone that this type of water is bad for you!”
What the hell are you left with after ALL of those dumb posts?
Basically, that everything is bad for you and that you will die early if you put them in your body.
I am 100% guilty of this food shaming myself. During my “eating clean” days, I would often post that eating any and all processed food was bad for you. I would preach about how great I felt and that in order for you to feel great also about yourself, you had to ONLY eat nutrient dense food and especially cut out carbs, gluten, and sugar. I’m sure I came off to friends and family like my lifestyle was better than theirs which could not be further from the truth. My stomach HATED me if I attempted to eat something out of the ordinary. I was in hell. Here I see friends eating out with their kids enjoying a donut or pizza and I’m thinking in the back of my mind “That donut has a ton of sugar in it and that pizza is SO bad for you! Good luck feeling good about yourself eating that crap!” Totally TWISTED mind set. What I failed to see at the time was that my friends were simply living AND simply enjoying their lives’ without fearing it. They didn’t fall victim to the food shaming and fear I had with food back then. I was so scared to eat everything that I made myself believe everyone else was doing it completely wrong.
Hence me taking a HUGE step back from my Facebook the moment I learned more about flexible eating and macros…. I was so tired of seeing all these articles and links about how unhealthy I was and how things I was eating (and enjoyed) were linked to cancer. Seriously, it seems like everyday there is a new study that links something to cancer. Way to scare the crap out of people and make them afraid to eat and drink everything.
I workout 5-6 times a week. I’m at a healthy weight and BMI for my body frame, size, and age. I have impeccable blood work and blood pressure yet someone wants me to think I’m going to die of this and that because I eat a moderate amount of certain foods? Really?
Many times, this is coming from people who know absolutely NOTHING about nutrition, fitness, or actual science. Again, I realize that friends on my Facebook and other social media don’t mean any harm whatsoever BUT I do think they need to take a step back, do some more research into these articles they are posting about and perhaps think about how someone else may feel as a result of their post/s. More importantly, take a step back and re read HOW they are putting this information out there.
Of course as adults, some of us know better and can scroll past the links without giving it a second thought (I personally just shake my head now), but what about the young niece they are friends with on Facebook who sees the post? What if she is already struggling with her body image and eating habits? What if she secretly already has an eating disorder? What kind of message is being sent that she needs to exclude 20 more things from her already restricted “diet”?
I get SO many daily emails from girls, some as young as 12, who are so deathly afraid of eating things as simple as bread or a chocolate chip cookie their mom made or something that isn’t “organic” because they were told these foods are “bad”. They already hate their bodies. They eat under 500 calories a day. They are frustrated and scared to eat out with friends and family. They started to workout daily doing copious amounts of cardio, even twice a day. They just want to be “skinny” and if that means they have to give up eating everything including carbs, they WILL do it. Personally, I think kids that age need to be worried about friends and boys and who is doing what with who behind the football field. They need to enjoy being young NOT worrying about how all these foods they heard about are going to kill them before they get married and have kids.
Healthy isn’t just about being active and the food you put in your body. It’s also about your mental state, how and why you exercise, how you view food, and how you feel about yourself eating those foods.
Now PLEASE don’t get me wrong here. I am NOT saying we all need to eat like assholes every single day, all day long.
I still firmly believe with all my heart that people (and kids especially) should be aware of food in general. They need to eat more fruits and veggies EVERY SINGLE DAY. People need to be aware of their portion sizes. They need to eat more whole grains and home made food. They need to make sure to include enough fiber in their diets and cut back on sugar. They need to be active. They need to find a way to move their bodies that they LOVE and enjoy doing. They also need to know that there are a ton of “healthier” options than store bought pizza, fast food, ice cream, candy, soda, packaged/processed food, etc. They need to know that you can substitute more nutrient dense “healthier” options in every day foods/recipes for the less nutrient dense ingredients. There is no denying that people need to include more of the “good” wholesome food, BUT also don’t need to feel the guilt associated with the less wholesome food they love either!
Instead of telling people what they shouldn’t eat, how they should eat, or how XYZ is linked to cancer and weight gain, how about teaching more self love, moderation, balance, and acceptance of ones body at ANY size? Focus less on losing weight and more on how you feel (again BOTH physically & mentally). Share MORE articles like this and this? How about linking friends and family to neat outdoor activities they can do as a family or with their friends? How about less half naked selfies that give young girls a false perception of their own bodies and goals? How about posting food articles that are filled with actual science backed information VS. what Dr. Oz said on his show yesterday or what you saw in a web article? And more importantly, what about HOW you express your philosophy surrounding food. One can share and have an opinion of course, but try not to bash another philosophy or way in the process. Again… I’m definitely guilty of this one! Even now I rave about flexible dieting and moderation, but I’m sure sometimes I come off as “preach-y”. Definitely something I am trying to be aware of and work on!!!!
Next time you scroll through your social media feed and get the itch to share something Nancy linked to, for a brief split second… just take a step back and think to yourself “Is this really good information? Will how I am posting this help or possibly hinder someone? Is this actual scientific information backed by studies and tests or just my own personal opinion? And will this possibly create more phobias surrounding food, eating, and ones body for some people?” If the article or link happened to scare the crap out of you and you think to yourself “Crap, I better not eat/drink that ever again in my whole life!”, chances are someone else may feel the same way AND/OR feel guilty that they enjoy those foods on occasion. Just food for thought…. moderation with everything in life. That’s my philosophy anyways!
Clean eaters, flexible dieters, paleo, keto, vegan… ultimately we are ALL after the same things in life. To feel good about ourselves right? Just don’t try to make someone else feel like crap in that process on your own journey!