Health shaming: can we stop this, already?

Humans, you're so silly.

Just when your fellow species seems to be on to something good, why do you feel the need to throw it back in their faces?

Why do you feel the need to judge, comment, and criticise someone else's personal decisions - like the food they eat - when those decisions have absolutely no impact on your life whatsoever?

In 2016, it's harder than ever before to do anything without being judged for it. And now, it seems, we can't even look after our own health without someone telling us we're a bad person.

That’s right, people. Where “fat shaming” and “body shaming” are much discussed and (rightfully) much maligned, we now have a newer (and potentially just as dangerous) issue on our hands.

It’s time to talk about the problem that no one else wants to discuss. It’s time to talk about “health shaming."


What’s the problem with healthy eating?

I’m not really sure how it all started, but there’s an increasingly voracious group of people that seem intent on mocking anyone that wants to exercise more, cut out gluten, or even just drink a green smoothie every now and then.

What I want to know is, what’s the problem? And why do you care so much anyway?

You may well have seen the BBC documentary earlier this year called “Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets.” In this show, YouTube blogger Grace Victory cruelly attacked some of our most successful and influential wellness bloggers including Natasha Corsett, Madeleine Shaw and Deliciously Ella, accusing them of promoting ‘fad diets with potentially dangerous consequences.’

What she failed to acknowledge, however, is the millions of lives these inspiring women have transformed by making healthy eating fun, delicious, and easy to understand.

And I don’t know if I’m missing something, but when did eating more vegetables and cutting down on sugar ever deliver “dangerous consequences”?


Since this documentary, I’ve seen countless articles from mainstream media doing the rounds that follow exactly the same pattern.

Now, when we take pride in living a healthier lifestyle and encourage others to do the same, we’re accused of being pretentious wellness warriors fuelling a national epidemic of eating disorders. It’s crazy, and it needs to stop.

Is taking care of your body and prioritising your health really the criteria for an eating disorder? Or is repeatedly telling someone that they have an eating disorder for doing so more likely to result in an actual eating disorder as a result?

Some of the strongest people I know have used health and fitness as a way OUT of eating disorders. Eating an abundance of whole, unprocessed foods and not having to track calories and macros has given them the freedom to enjoy food again without feeling like it is controlling them.

And isn’t that what healthy eating is all about?


Your diet is YOUR choice

In case you had forgotten, you should NEVER feel ashamed for eating healthily, just like you should never feel ashamed for treating yourself or making a ‘less than perfect’ food choice.

You don’t need to justify the way you eat to anyone. Whether your diet consists of kale salads and acai bowls or pop tarts and pizza, the food you choose to eat is a deeply personal decision. And if you’re making positive changes to your health through the food that you eat, why not shout about it? Why not take the time to teach your friends and family, so that they can feel the benefits too?

I’m willing to bet that if the journalists who write these health shaming articles launched such a stinging tirade on the overweight population, they’d be fired on the spot. So, Mr Daily Mail Journalist, what gives you the right to be so judgemental when it comes to anyone actively trying to improve their health?

What gives you the right to judge someone for wanting to feel more comfortable in their own skin, to improve their quality of life, or even (shock horror) to look better naked?

Is it because you strongly objectify anyone that is selfish enough to let their own health get in the way of the more important things in life? You know, like trying to fill column inches for a tabloid newspaper? Or is it just because you don’t have the willpower to do it yourself?


Here’s something that may come as a surprise to the anti ‘clean-eating’ brigade. Eating the way I do involves absolutely no ‘willpower’ whatsoever.

This isn’t some Jedi mind trick or a deep psychological breakthrough. I just love the taste of natural, plant based foods and the way that they make me feel.

I don’t starve myself and I never feel deprived or hungry. I love eating good food and lots of it. I go out to eat regularly and ‘treat’ myself to the most delicious looking thing on the menu, but I never feel guilty for doing so. I don’t eat gluten because when I do, it feels like I’ve been drop kicked in the stomach for the next 12 hours. Why do I need to ‘pass’ a celiac test to ‘qualify’ me for gluten avoidance?

Should I continue to eat gluten and ignore everything my body is telling me, just because a journalist with no qualifications in nutrition tells me that non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist?

I also don’t drink alcohol. According to society this makes me incredibly boring company. Yet I’m still the first on the dancefloor at any wedding, birthday or Bar Mitzvah*.

(*I’ve never actually been to a Bar Mitzvah, but if you’re hosting one soon, send me an invitation and I’ll show you my best moves.)

Do these ‘healthy’ choices make me a better person? Of course not! This is the way I choose to eat because I enjoy it and it makes me feel good, not because I want to take a moral high ground.

The food you eat means nothing to me. I want to get to know you as a person, I want to listen to your stories, I want to laugh at your jokes. Your dietary preferences have no bearing on our relationship, nor do they shape you as a person. So can we please start judging people less on the food that goes into their mouth, and more on the words that come out?


A clean eating caveat

Before I wrap this one up, I want to finish by saying that I do not think the term ‘clean eating’ is beneficial to anyone and needs to be scrapped.

To categorise foods as ‘clean’ essentially implies that others are ‘dirty’ – thus attaching a stigma to certain foods and evoking feelings of guilt and shame when they are eaten. This is not helpful, nor is it healthy.

Remember that healthy eating is not just about the food that you eat, but also your relationship with those foods. It’s about listening to your body, fuelling it wisely, but also having the freedom to treat yourself every now and then without any regret.

Food and guilt

The way you choose to eat, drink and exercise affects you and only you. No one else.

So be healthy, be happy, and apologise to nobody. Peace,