How to respond to “food shaming”

food shaming

Do you ever feel like you’re being watched when you eat? Like people are judging every bite and making assumptions about what you’re eating? If so, then you’ve probably encountered food shaming . Food shamers are people who judge others for their food choices, and they can be really annoying.

As a registered dietitian, I find that many of my clients report having to deal with food shaming , especially as they begin their journey toward intuitive eating and begin to make peace with food . While you may not be able to stop people from saying things, you can learn to deal with them. Here are some tips that can help you how to respond to food shaming.

What does food shame do?

Food shaming is when someone judges or criticizes another person for the food they are eating. It can happen anywhere, from the workplace to the grocery store to your own home. And it’s not just about what you’re eating: Critics often comment on how much food you’re eating or how fast you’re eating it.

Food shaming is often perpetuated by the food police, who are those people who believe they know what is best for everyone and feel the need to share their opinion about what others should and should not eat.

This type of shame is harmful in many ways. First, it can lead to feelings of shame and guilt, which can damage your self-esteem. Second, it can make you less likely to choose healthy foods because you are afraid of being judged.

And finally, it can create a sense of division between people, as those who shame others may be seen as superior. So the next time you feel tempted to shame others about food, think about the potential harm you could be causing.

Why is food shaming harmful?

Food shaming is harmful because it creates an environment of judgment around food and eating. This can make people feel anxious and stressed about food, which can lead to disordered eating (1 ).

Food shame can also make people feel like they are not worthy or deserving of food, which can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression.

Food shaming is also harmful because it perpetuates the idea that there is a “right” way to eat and that certain foods are “good” or “bad.” This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame when people eat “bad” foods, and can also lead to restriction and yo-yo dieting. Creates a negative relationship with food and body image.

Finally, food shaming ignorantly assumes that everyone has equal access to healthy foods and lifestyle choices. In reality, food insecurity and poverty are major barriers to healthy eating, and shame only makes these problems worse.

Examples of food shaming

Unfortunately, food shaming has become all too common in recent years. Food police are everywhere, from TV shows and magazines to online forums and social media. And food critics are quick to judge what others eat, often without knowing the whole story.

There are all kinds of examples of food shaming out there. People have been shamed for eating fast food, having food allergies, and even bringing their own food to a family event. No one should be made to feel bad about their food choices, no matter what those choices are. We all have different dietary needs and preferences, and we should all feel free to eat what makes us happy and healthy, without being judged by others.

Here are some common examples of food shaming that you may have encountered before:

  • “You are eating too much sugar”
  • “Should you really help yourself to that second piece of cake?”
  • “You should be eating a salad.”
  • “Did you know that junk food is super bad for you?”
  • “Oh! Are you really going to eat all that?”
  • “That has too many carbohydrates”
  • “A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”

What to do when people comment on your eating habits?

Food shamers can appear in different ways. Maybe your partner tells you that you have too much food on your plate. Or maybe your mom tries to give you more food, no matter how many times you’ve told her you’re already full .

While these comments are often well-intentioned, and those who criticize your diet may even believe they are supporting you, this does not mean they are helping you. It also doesn’t mean you have to tolerate this inappropriate behavior. Read on for tips on how to respond to food shaming .

How to respond to food shaming

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying good food, and no one should feel ashamed for eating whatever they want. However, sometimes you may come across people who shame others for their food choices. This can be very rude and may make you feel uncomfortable.

If someone shames you for your food choices, the best way to respond is to remain calm and confident. You don’t need to justify your choices to them, and you definitely don’t need to apologize. Simply say something like “I’m enjoying this meal, thanks for asking” and continue.

Remember that you don’t need to listen to anyone who is trying to shame you, and you don’t need to change your eating habits based on what other people think. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Try not to take things personally. If people comment on your food and your body, chances are they have their own insecurities. It’s not about you.
  • Look for positive outlets for social support . Find a friend who understands your situation or someone with whom you can vent about Aunt Juana’s inappropriate comments.
  • Remember that only you are the expert on yourself , and no one else knows what is best for you. Stay in your own truth.
  • Consider other topics of conversation so you can quickly change the subject.

Food shaming scenarios

Here are some example scenarios and strategies to help you respond to food shaming:

Scenario #1: “Should you really be eating that considering all the weight you’ve gained recently?”


  • Focus on the impact of the statement: “Lately it seems like everyone around me wants to comment on my weight. “I’m exhausted from having to explain myself all the time.”
  • Use self-disclosure to help people understand what you’ve been going through: “Actually, I’ve been going through a hard time recently and I’ve gained weight due to stress.”
  • Set boundaries: “I would prefer that we not talk about my body or other people’s bodies. Please don’t make these comments anymore.”
  • Mention the inappropriate behavior: “Wow, what a rude comment.”

Scenario #2: “That looks delicious but you shouldn’t be eating all those calories ”


  • Use self-disclosure: “I’m working on feeding my body with love instead of counting every calorie that goes into my mouth. Now I feel much more in tune with my body.”
  • Set boundaries: “When we meet for a meal, it would mean a lot to me if we didn’t talk about how many calories are in our food. Do you think it’s OK?
  • Change the subject: “Let’s change the subject. I don’t think this is a great conversation for a family dinner/birthday/cookout.”
  • Educate: “Dieting and calorie counting have been shown to be ineffective. I choose to listen and trust my body instead.”

Scenario #3: “You know that processed foods are not good for you, right?”


  • Focus on the impact of the statement: “I feel (emotion) when you point out what I eat. “You’re not helping me.”
  • Use self-disclosure: “I am listening to my body and honoring what it needs.”
  • Sprinkle in a little sass: “Well, thank goodness it’s on my plate and not yours!”
  • Empathize: “I know that most people who comment on my eating habits are struggling with their own eating problems. Have you ever struggled with these things? “I’m totally here to talk about whether that would be helpful.”


So what can you do to respond to food shaming and the food police? The best way to deal with these people is to try to understand them. What are your motivations for shaming others about their food choices? Are they trying to help or are they just trying to feel better?

Once you understand their motivations, you can begin to have a more productive conversation with them. You may not be able to change their minds, but at least you can have a respectful conversation. And remember, there’s no need to respond defensively, just smile and walk away if things get too heated. What tactics have you found work best for responding to those who criticize your diet?

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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