We may have the best intentions, but is it possible that we can become a bit self-righteous, idealistic, elitist about our own diets and other people’s eating habits?
Our relationship with food is deeply personal. Food can bring us joy – those feelings of pure bliss with the first taste of our favorite dishes. Food can strengthen our sense of community and culture. Food can also be our downfall, our weakness, our emotional crutch.
As a result, we often develop a belief system around food, identifying those foods that we believe provide us emotional and physical nourishment, and what foods – or components of foods – we feel are detrimental to our personal wellbeing or the environment.
We feel incredibly passionate about these beliefs, and it’s easy for this belief system to turn into a platform for judgement.
And whether we like it or not, we’ve all done it on some level.
Most of us don’t want to think that we’re judgy. In fact, we can quickly point out many people in our lives who are in fact judgy (which, of course, happens to be judgy in and of itself).
But no matter how enlightened or tuned in that we may feel, it can be a constant challenge to accept that not everyone shares our beliefs.
Whether we choose to follow a specific diet plan – like keto or vegan – or we opt for a decidedly non-diet approach to nutrition, it’s easy (and understandable) to think that this is the best thing ever. We cannot understand why others don’t follow in our footsteps.
If we’re not careful, we can start to judge others who don’t. This judgement can be directed at ourselves, too, if we feel that we’re not living up to what we think we *should* be doing.
The judgement may stay in our heads – like when we see a stranger’s shopping cart overflowing with sugary snacks and soft drinks, or overhear someone ordering a decadently sugar-sweetened coffee drink or a supersized combo meal.
It may be a side glance or a pointed remark to friends or family as they indulge in their food vice of choice.
Or the judgement may have no filter at all: We finger wag. We lecture. We cajole. We try to convert them.
Even worse, we talk about them – to other people, on social, or in comment streams. Razor-sharp words and cutting remarks attack people on a personal level, simply because their food values differ from our ideological view of what’s best.
And sadly, instead of spreading the message of wellness and inspiration, these aggressive tones and jagged words can have the opposite effect, leading to resentment and self-doubt.
Fear of judgement can infiltrate so much of our life, and ultimately, can influence nearly our every thought and move. We become paralyzed, fearful of expressing our true feelings or behaviors out of a fear of criticism.
And who are we to think our way is the only way?
As a registered dietitian, I learned early on that in order to be effective for my clients, I needed to slow down, be quiet, tune-in, and really listen. Hear where they are coming from, understand the barriers holding them back from effective behavior change. Guide them, educate them, gently nudge them out of their comfort zone. Lead with love and compassion, not force.
Here’s my proposal: Instead of being quick to judge others – and ourselves – let’s take a softer, kinder approach. Be aware of the energy that we’re putting out into the world. Focus on spreading a positive message, sharing advice or guidance in a way that’s not so divisive.
Be responsible with our words. Let our passions serve to inspire and strengthen others, not chisel away at their confidence. We’re all in this together, working toward a common goal to be our best version of ourselves, to live our strongest, healthiest lives possible. I promise, it’s a lot easier – and a lot more fun – when we truly support one another along the way.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s columns + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.