What Is the Impact of Food Shaming on Mental Health?

who loves to lift and explore and break all the ways diet culture has tried to box us in. She loves to ask, “How could your life be different if you unlearned your all-or-nothing food rules?”, which is something we whole-heartedly agree with and support.

What Is the Impact of Food Shaming on Mental Health?

Food shaming is all too frequent in today’s society, propagating detrimental assumptions about what you eat, connecting any “bad” eating choices with an inferior and less worthy body image and self-worth.

Rather than following a rigorous diet or stressing about calorie counts, a better approach is listening to your body and intuitively nurturing it.

A girl with her hands on her face feeling food shame.

In this post, we look at the concept of food shaming, intuitive eating, the necessity of body acceptance, and how to establish a thoughtful and balanced relationship with food.

What Is the Impact of Food Shaming on Mental Health?

First and foremost, food shaming may lead to the development of an unhealthy connection with food. Basically, you may feel obliged to conform to particular standards, which may result in unhealthy eating habits, binge eating, or a cycle of guilt and shame surrounding your eating patterns.

The pressure to conform to conventional beauty standards and the ideal physical shape can be super detrimental.

When others make disparaging remarks about our weight or compare us to unattainable beauty standards, we may experience feelings of humiliation, self-doubt, and even self-hatred. These emotions may develop into anxiety and sadness, causing an obsession with body image and a poor influence on general mental health. Using tools like the Feelings Wheel can help you explore these feelings more deeply, though make sure you use the Wheel to help you to clarify your feelings and not end up in negative thought loops.

Food shaming may also lower your self-esteem. Comments about your diet or appearance might make you feel unfit, and undeserving. We tend to believe, consciously or subconsciously, that we don’t “belong” because of what or how we eat.

This may lead us to have a negative self-image, generationally. Specifically, it may lead to a negative perception of one’s own physical appearance, and frequent self-criticism.

Furthermore, food shaming may set off a cycle of guilt and emotional eating. When we are judged or embarrassed about our food choices, we may resort to food for solace or an escape from those uncomfortable emotions. This may lead to unhealthy eating patterns and weight fluctuations, exacerbating body image worries and mental health issues.

It’s important to understand that every person’s physique and body shape is unique. In addition, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to beauty or health. Body acceptance and an unbiased approach to food choices can assist to lessen the negative consequences of food shaming.

Also, building a supportive and inclusive food environment that celebrates varied bodies and food preferences promotes a healthy connection with food and self-compassion.

Lady with large body holding balloons and confidently at peace because she has body neutrality

Why Should We Listen to Our Bodies?

Listening to our bodies when making decisions about food is a crucial component of intuitive eating and building a positive relationship with food. It involves paying attention to our bodies’ natural hunger cues, such as feeling full or hungry and using them to guide us in nourishing ourselves. Here are a few explanations why we ought to prioritize our bodies first:

Respecting Individual Needs and Preferences

Each person’s body is unique, and our nutritional needs can vary from day to day. By listening to our bodies, we can honor our individual needs and preferences. This means recognizing that different foods provide different nutrients and minerals and allowing ourselves the freedom to choose what feels right for us at any given moment. It’s about embracing a non-judgmental attitude towards food and honoring our personal preferences without guilt or restriction.

Promoting General Well-Being

Listening to our bodies includes more than simply food choices; it also includes our general well-being. Our bodies send out messages about our energy levels, appetites, and emotional moods.

We can make informed choices that benefit our overall health and happiness by paying attention to these indications. This is because we are more equipped to meet our physical and emotional requirements when we listen to our bodies, which leads to increased energy, mood, and general quality of life.

Valuing Our Hunger and Fullness

Our bodies are equipped with innate hunger and fullness signals that communicate our physiological needs. By paying attention to these cues, we can ensure that we are adequately nourishing ourselves.

Ignoring hunger or overeating can disrupt our body’s natural balance and lead to feelings of discomfort or deprivation. However, by listening to our body’s signals, we can maintain a healthy relationship with food and support our overall well-being.

Promoting Mental and Emotional Health

Eating according to our bodies’ signals can improve our mental and emotional well-being. This is because it lowers the risk of developing unhealthy eating habits, such as the binge-restrict eating cycle.

Additionally, it helps improve our body image and self-esteem. We can develop a balanced connection with food through Intuitive Eating and listening to our bodies. This has a positive impact on our overall mental health.

Overeating Prevention and Management

When we listen to our bodies, we become sensitive to emotions of fullness and satiety, also known as Taste Hunger within Intuitive Eating. This awareness aids in the prevention of overeating since we can stop eating when we are comfortably satiated.

As such, we create a healthy relationship with food and maintain a more balanced diet by avoiding the habit of mindless eating or relying on external cues such as portion sizes.

How Do I Protect Myself from Food Shaming and Its Harmful Mental Health Effects?

While cultivating the ability to not take harmful comments personally is a practice that takes time, there are a few key ways to shape your focus so you can be better prepared and have your mental health be less affected when they arise.

Focus On Self-Care and Well-Being

Change your focus from external looks to internal wellness. Practice mindfulness, mindful eating (like in the Way app), engage in regular physical exercise that you enjoy, pursue hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and prioritize rest as activities that nurture your physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Self-care cultivates a positive relationship with oneself and improves general well-being.

Practice Gratitude for Your Body’s Abilities

Shift your focus towards appreciating your body for what it can do rather than solely on its appearance. Focus on its strength, resilience, and the ways it allows you to engage in activities you enjoy. Practicing gratitude for your body’s abilities helps foster a positive connection and appreciation for the amazing things it can accomplish.

Challenge Societal Beauty Standards

Recognize that beauty comes in diverse shapes, sizes, and forms. Challenge the narrow definitions of beauty promoted by society and media by celebrating and embracing body diversity. Create an environment with yourself that includes body-positive messages, follow social media accounts that promote body acceptance, and engage with communities that encourage self-love and inclusivity.

Surround Yourself With Positive Influences

Surround yourself with people who uplift and support you. Seek out friends, family members, or support groups that prioritize body acceptance and body compassion. Engage in conversations that celebrate diverse bodies and challenge societal norms. Limit exposure to toxic environments or individuals who perpetuate body shaming or negative self-image.

Seek Professional Support if Needed

If body acceptance feels challenging, consider seeking guidance from a therapist, counselor, or support group specializing in body image issues. These professionals can provide tools and strategies to help navigate the journey toward body acceptance and self-compassion.

Final Thoughts

Food shaming is a damaging social norm that can promote a negative self-image, disordered eating practices, and even mental health conditions. Thankfully, we may break free from the shackles of food shame by embracing intuitive eating, body acceptance, listening to our bodies, and building a positive food environment.

Remember that feeding your body with kindness, compassion, and intuitive eating are essential parts of developing a healthier relationship with food and, eventually, living a happier and more fulfilling life. If you want an easy way to start or further your intuitive eating journey, check out the Way app. It has over 50 Sessions that take 2-8 minutes to complete and can accelerate your learning and self-exploration.