Being Judged About Food Choices

by Health

When I was in college, I taught aerobics and had some devout followers in my classes. One evening I was at Ben and Jerry’s with my boyfriend (now husband), celebrating our monthaversary. Our first date was Ben and Jerry’s on October 19, 1993, and we have gone on the 19th of every month since. Not daily or weekly, once a month. One of my class participants saw me there and proceeded to drop out of all my classes to find an instructor she could ‘look up to.’

Ben and Jerry

Fast-forward to now, and this has happened more times than I can count. Because I've always been involved in the health and fitness field in some capacity, I have been judged by what I was eating, how much, and even how I ate it. I've had people assume that I starve myself or comment (loudly) in a group business networking lunch, ‘that's your second plate of food!'. That plate? Piled high with roasted vegetables, and still probably only consisted of about 300 calories! 

The biggest judgment over the years has been my lack of interest in alcohol. I haven't drunk a drop since I was 14 because I have no interest in it, not because it is against any beliefs I have or disagree with drinking. It doesn't smell good to me, it didn't taste good when I had it, and I know enough alcoholics that it just doesn't appeal to me. That's it. You? Drink up if you want to. I genuinely don't care.

Then there are the people who feel as if I am judging them. I have been told that I wasn't invited out for pizza because the person wanted to enjoy their pizza (I love pizza, BTW). I know people haven't ordered what they really wanted because I was with them or felt self-conscious about eating. Then some feel like they have to justify what they are putting into their mouths within moments of meeting me and finding out what I do. I sat down at a business networking lunch once after everyone else had ordered. Upon finding out I was a health coach, shoulders slumped, looks of guilt crossed faces, and one of them said, ‘Can I change my order?'. Within one minute of meeting them, they felt I would judge them. I don't even remember what any of them ordered.

Here's the thing….there is a difference between caring and judging. If you think I would judge you, you insult my ability to be an effective coach. If you are a client, my friend, or family member, I care because I'm invested in your health and/or I love you and want you to be healthy. The closer you are to me, the more difficult it is to express that and be received in a caring way. As a Trainer/Coach, I want you to choose a healthier option because I have inspired you to pick it, not because I have guilted you into it. I can't make you feel guilty; only you can do that. I also believe there is no ‘perfect diet' or perfect person. Eating clean 100% of the time is not only unrealistic but also not very fun! I don't know where you are on the wellness spectrum, and I believe health is a progression.

I used to be a lousy vegetarian and have changed my eating habits over the years….not days, weeks, or even months. My eating behaviors may seem rigid to you, but I genuinely like to eat this way. I only have sweets on the weekends or a holiday because that's what I want to do, and it works for me. If that behavior doesn't work for you, it doesn't mean I will think less of you. Maybe a goal for you would be to only have one sweet a day because, in your wellness spectrum, this is an improvement to your health.

When you are looking for a Trainer/Coach, whether it is me or someone else, you should feel supported and comfortable and not chastised for imperfection. You are a partner in health, celebrating successes and improving on your progression. Small changes impact by creating big results. So, the next time you're with me, order what you want because you want it, not because you want my approval, and if you see me at Ben and Jerry's on the 19th of the month, let's talk favorite flavors ☺

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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects