Reflections

Can We Take A Break From Food Shaming For A Bit?

NOTE from 2021: When I noticed my blog was getting hacked in February of 2020 I did some quick fixes and somehow all of my draft posts from the previous 16 years ended up assigned to that month. This is one of those posts. I used the context to “guess” when I actually wrote it so if anything about this publication date seems off to future me…I wanted this note here to explain possible errors.

I’ve had a hard week – feeling like crap in many different ways. Please excuse this rant…

My last 2+ years of college I was a single Mom working 30+ hours a week for minimum wage on top of a full-time school schedule. To say we were poor is a bit of an understatement. We used every government program we qualified for and still – the $1 menu at McDonald’s was often dinner for us.

I mean – $1 Hamburger? $1 French fries? Do you know how perfect of a dinner that is when you are coming home late after a long day and you don’t have the money for groceries or the time to cook? It’s PERFECT.

You know what else is perfect? The $1 bag of cheese puffs that is bigger than a toddler. And the cheap boxes of Mac-n-Cheese that you make from the mysterious yellow powder. Also? Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches on generic white bread. Also? Microwaveable frozen chicken tenders. Those things are like $5 a bag and when you heat them up (you can get several servings out of them) you feel like you’re actually cooking!

This was basically how we fed ourselves. And all of those options were the good days. Some days we ate out of the vending machine where I worked. Or we got the grilled cheese and fries dinner at the cafeteria on campus and shared it. I didn’t have time, money, or really energy to worry too much about the quality of food we were eating. I mean, yeah, I knew it wasn’t ideal. But I also knew that I was at least feeding us. And now, every time I see stuff on Facebook that shames me for eating the way I did back then, or shames me for feeding my kids that kind of food? A part of me from back then dies a little.

And it’s not even the McDonald’s shaming, there’s shaming for eating produce from Wal-Mart instead of local at your Farmer’s Market. And I love our Farmer’s Market but if I bought all of my produce there? We’d be broke. There’s shaming for eating at any chain restaurant. And shaming for sugar-laden cereals and white eggs. There is food shaming EVERYWHERE. And do you know how effective that is in changing our society as a whole? NOT AT ALL. It’s effective at either causing people who agree to not their head, or causing people who make choices you don’t like to hide in shame. No one thinks, We only have time for a hot dog at the ballfield for dinner tonight, but since that person put that image on Facebook talking about how bad that is for my kids, I’m going to keep them up an hour later and cook them a real dinner.

I’m not making excuses for my bad decisions when it comes to feeding my family. I actually feed my family quite well. I’m just pointing out that I’m sick of shaming people about the food choices they make. The obesity epidemic in our country is not going to be solved by making people feel shitty for that milkshake from Sonic. I’m not saying I know for sure how to solve it, I’m just saying that shaming people into “better” decisions has never worked for anything anywhere on a consistent and long-lasting scale.

Yes. Maybe they won’t eat their McDonald’s around you, but they’re still going to eat it.

And recognize that people making those bad food decisions? Aren’t bad people. Maybe they’re busy. Or poor. Or craving french fries. Making them feel bad for making those choices won’t produce any lasting change. I’m not 100% positive what will, but those damn Facebook images will just make them (ME!) feel crappy about ourselves.

And trust me, most of us already feel crappy enough about those decisions. Your cute little reminder on our Facebook wall that we suck as parents at feeding our children is not helping.

/end rant.

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