By: Jen Gerasimas
Woman holding lettuce at counter with vegetables on cutting board

How to Deal With Food Bullies

Not too many types of people upset me. There are people I don’t agree with, like those who think toilet paper should pull from the bottom and not the top, but I am not upset with them. One particular group of people really gets me fired up, though. I call them Food Bullies. 


Food Bullies discourage healthy eating, make fun of people for working on their wellness, and/or pressure people to make unhealthy choices. 


IDENTIFYING FOOD BULLIES

Here is how you can identify Food Bullies in your life.


Food Bullies obviously aren’t going to wear a sign identifying who they are or what they like to do, but generally speaking, Food Bullies are those who:

  • Push unhealthy food on someone who doesn’t want it

  • Push unhealthy food on someone who is trying to eat healthy

  • Make someone feel bad for eating healthy

  • Make fun of someone who eats healthy

  • Make someone feel guilty for eating healthy 

Statements like “a little won’t hurt” or “don’t tell me you are one of those trying to eat healthy” or “I know you said you were watching what you eat, but...” are examples. They often accompany their verbal jabs with eye rolls or air quotes. 

I have heard of spouses, kids, neighbors, siblings, parents, grandparents, co-workers, bosses, friends, and strangers who fit the mold of a Food Bully. It could be someone you don’t know very well, TV personalities, social media acquaintances, or maybe even someone close to you.  


WHAT FOOD BULLIES DO

Bullies aren’t acceptable anywhere, at anytime. The same goes for Food Bullies. So I am starting a campaign to #stopfoodbullies.


It is actually rude, inconsiderate, and sometimes selfish to poke fun at someone who is working on improving their wellness or to try to persuade them to eat poorly, drink, or skip workouts against their better judgment. 


Not everyone who acts like a Food Bully realizes what they are doing. They may think they are being cute or funny without realizing the impact of their actions. Their words and actions are still detrimental to someone who struggles to be healthy.


Some food bullies know exactly what they are doing. They want the other person to not be healthy so they feel better about their own unhealthy lifestyle. They want to feel better about themselves so they bring other people down with them. They may even feel guilty, depressed, or anxious because they know they need to change but don’t want to or have struggled with it in the past. So they want company in their current state, like a support system for themselves. 


As I mentioned before, they may not intentionally be trying to sabotage your wellness, especially someone like your kids. You will know their heart is in the right place when your health and wellbeing are more important than a slice of cake. 


I feel bad for Food Bullies, for not being able to love themselves enough to be healthy. But it doesn’t make what they do right. 


Unfortunately, those trying to be healthy give in to the pressure of Food Bullies all too often. They struggle to stand by their good health.


Why should healthy come second to unhealthy? Why is okay to discourage someone who is trying to eat healthy or pressure them to be unhealthy? Why is being healthy uncool and being unhealthy cool? We have things a little twisted. 

So, how do we straighten out this mess?


HOW TO DEAL WITH A FOOD BULLY 

Food Bullies may make you feel guilty or bad because they brought something special to share and you aren’t having any. Or they are eating an unhealthy food alone. They may accuse you of being selfish if you go workout or choose a salad at lunch. It is never right for someone to make you feel guilty. The guilt you feel could be coming from the other person or self-imposed. So ask yourself, am I feeling guilty because they REALLY made me feel that way or because I don’t want to hurt their feelings?


If they are to blame, you have to stand up for yourself and your health. If your guilt is self-imposed, you need to start valuing your own health more. 

Maybe you haven’t clearly explained your wellness plan to those who seem to pressure you. Perhaps, if they were more informed or made aware, they might leave you alone. They may not be aware that what they are doing isn’t helpful to you. If that is the case, some education may be all it takes to put an end to the bullying. You may have to remind them from time to time, too, like grandma who makes you pies. 


No one should be telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat unless you are requesting that information or support from them specifically. 


Just like with  any bully, standing up for yourself is the best thing you can do when dealing with Food Bullies. Recognize when you are being bullied and remind yourself it is okay to say “no.” Your health is more important than letting a Food Bully win. You can say, “no, thank you” to the food and drinks they offer you. Or tell them that you don’t appreciate when they make fun of you or discourage you from being healthy. It is your right. They are free to choose otherwise, but they don’t get to pressure you to do so. You never have to eat something simply because you’re worried about making someone feel bad. Your healthy self doesn’t partake in certain things. 


MAYBE YOU ARE A FOOD BULLY

Maybe you are reading this and realize you have been a Food Bully at times. Now that you realize it, I believe you will help be the change, make a difference, and become an encourager. Taking care of ourselves and supporting others who do the same are acts of love toward each other. 


No matter our religious, political, and world view differences, imagine how much better the world would be if we were all great encouragers of each other for living our healthiest lives? That would change our planet in huge ways. 


So help me as I campaign to #stopfoodbullies!


Jen


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