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Women's Fitness (UK) - - Nourish -

ost of us have ex­pe­ri­enced food shame at one time or an­other. You might have gorged on an en­tire tub of ice cream and felt su­per-guilty in the af­ter­math, beat­ing your­self up for the ex­cess calo­ries you con­sumed for hours on end – or per­haps, hav­ing po­litely said no to cake be­ing passed around at work (only be­cause you’re work­ing out and want to be ex­tra healthy) you find your­self at the cen­tre of mean jokes by a col­league. Food sham­ing comes in many dif­fer­ent forms, but the end re­sult is the same – it stirs up feel­ings of guilt, re­morse and in­se­cu­rity which in the long term can se­ri­ously af­fect our re­la­tion­ship with our bod­ies.

Just when did food get so com­pli­cated? It’s thought that both ge­net­ics and en­vi­ron­men­tal factors to­gether play a key role in our thoughts around food. Eat­ing habits stem from child­hood, and if you’ve sub­con­sciously re­ceived neg­a­tive cues from your al­beit well-mean­ing par­ents (things like overeat­ing will make you fat, skip­ping dessert will help to keep your weight un­der con­trol or, at the other end of the scale, that sweet treats will make you feel bet­ter when you’re down), it’s likely to have a knock-on ef­fect on your ap­proach to eat­ing as an adult.

Our sur­round­ing so­cial cir­cle also mas­sively im­pacts food strug­gles. If you’ve got a friend that will only eat out at restau­rants with calorie counts on the menus, or waits to see what you or­der be­fore or­der­ing them­selves, or you find your­self sit­ting next to a col­league who con­stantly makes snide comments about your lunch; it’s bound to make you re-eval­u­ate your own food choices. ‘Peo­ple tend to crit­i­cise food choices or food shame when you don’t con­form to their diet ethics or idea of healthy food. We can be­come so caught up in our own food ideals we lose sight that ev­ery­one is on their own jour­ney with food,’ says nu­tri­tion­ist Clau­dia Le Feuvre, cre­ator of psy­chol­ogy and weight-loss pro­gramme Happy In Body (hap­py­in­body.com). When we pass judge­ment too quickly, it’s of­ten our brains un­con­sciously pro­ject­ing our in­se­cu­ri­ties on oth­ers, so it’s worth bear­ing in mind that your friend or col­league who makes you feel bad about eat­ing could re­ally just be bat­tling their own body im­age con­cerns and tak­ing them out on you.

And then there’s the over­whelm­ing mes­sages that so­cial me­dia bom­bards us with. The re­lent­less shots of cel­lulite­free mod­els with stick-thin waists and photos of food blog­gers with quinoa sal­ads and green smooth­ies are un­der­pin­ning so­ci­ety’s un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of food, forc­ing us to cat­e­gorise meals into good or bad, and mak­ing us feel bad when we de­vi­ate from the good. ‘Take a mo­ment to think about who your in­flu­encers are. Renowned Amer­i­can en­tre­pre­neur Jim Rohn is fa­mously quoted for say­ing we be­come like the five peo­ple we hang around with. No­tice how your friends val­i­date your be­hav­iour and try to keep your in­flu­encers pos­i­tive,’ con­tin­ues Clau­dia. Spend five min­utes look­ing at who you are fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia and delete any­one who’s pro­mot­ing an overly ‘judgy’ at­ti­tude to food. What you eat is up to you and no­body else.

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