Imagine the following: You’re eating a salad. But, this isn’t just any salad. This is your first salad on the first day of your new nutrition plan after years of yo-yo dieting, fast food drive-thrus and late-night snacking. You feel a sense of accomplishment in choosing this salad over the drive-thru or vending machine. That is until a well-meaning friend comments on the high fructose corn syrup in your salad dressing and the carbohydrates in your croutons. You feel … deflated. Maybe you simply brush this comment off, or maybe this is the comment that makes you want to throw in the towel on healthy eating again. Either way, you have just been nutri-bullied.
All too often we receive, or perhaps even dish out, unsolicited nutrition advice. I have been guilty of the “dishing out” portion firsthand, but it’s something that I’m paying much more attention to in 2018. It can be tough to keep comments to ourselves, particularly if we’re passionate about nutrition and we genuinely care about the person to whom we’re giving advice. Just remember that there is a fine line between comments that are helpful and those that are off-putting. Try to skip the “shoulds.” When we tell other people what they “should” do, we presume to know what’s best for them, when in fact, we might know very little about them and their personal struggles.
At TOPS, we are encouraged to “Walk the Talk.” What better way to do so than by setting an example? By modeling healthy habits, we may potentially influence those around us to start some healthy habits of their own. For example, if you have a go-to restaurant buddy, and you know she is having a hard time counting carbs, don’t suggest a bagel shop for your morning coffee date. Or if you have a friend who is always saying she needs to get in more steps, offer to go on a walk with her. That way, you are encouraging her to keep up with her step count, and you’re getting some exercise too!
Sometimes, food itself may seem like a bully. For me, the ever-changing dessert display case at my favorite grocery store is already a big enough bully; I don’t need a nutri-bully making me feel bad when I do decide to split a piece of cheesecake.
Food choices are personal. You may have prevented your friend from eating that highly caloric treat, but at what cost? Being passive aggressive on nutrition or being condescending toward a salad dressing choice is not the way to set an example. So the next time you find yourself ready to critique someone else’s lunch—just don’t.