These days, it seems that shame is everywhere: fat-shaming, mom-shaming, body-shaming… the list goes on. You see it on the news, on social media feeds, and even in community Facebook groups among "friendly" neighbors.
Have you ever felt ashamed about your food or nutrition choices because of the way another person reacted to them? Ever felt like someone looked down on you for your body shape/size or what you were eating? Sadly, this happens all time. Most individuals who criticize others’ nutrition choices feel they are helping the person “change” to adopt what they believe to be an ideal lifestyle… but are these comments ever motivating? Is that lifestyle even right for that person? Do these comments inspire change and empower people to try new things? I’m going to guess, no.
Usually, this kind of feedback just makes you feel worse about yourself and lowers your self-esteem. Shame, as a general rule, is NOT a good motivator for behavior change. Why? Because it feels final. The judgment has been made and you think, “I am a bad person because of x, y, z, etc.” With feelings of shame come feelings of hopelessness. The future looks bleak and there’s no chance of changing, so why even try? When media outlets attempt to use shame as a motivator for changing dietary habits or promoting weight loss, it has the same effect. People feel defeated, hopeless, and even worthless. How can we ever seek true health in that kind of mindset?
Adopting an alternative approach to changing behavior can be the solution. Focusing on how your choices make you feel, what they help you achieve, and how they impact your well-being (physical, social, AND emotional) can reinforce healthy habits. Ever stayed up too late and felt exhausted the next day, regretting that last episode you watched of your favorite show? That experience reinforces to your brain that staying up late does not make you feel well, and with repeated practice and exposure (maybe lots of practice!) you may make a different choice the next time you find yourself in a similar situation.
With food and nutrition, this goal is similar. You can’t be shamed into healing your relationship with food. That journey is about learning how your food and movement choices impact your hunger, fullness, satisfaction, energy levels, mood, sleep patterns, and social experiences. You then learn to reinforce those choices which make you feel like your true, authentic self and move you toward health and wellness and away from self-loathing. You may realize there are foods you’ve been eating that you actually don’t even like very much, or foods you overlooked that are undeniably soul-satisfying. What could your life look like if you moved forward in your relationship with food without guilt or shame? How do you speak to others about their own personal food choices? Could you show more compassion and grace? These are the questions we’re asking ourselves everyday and we’d love to explore them with you!
If you'd like to learn more about healing your relationship with food, feel free to reach out and learn more about our one on one nutrition counseling sessions.