My sister used to joke that when we would indulge in something that's perceived as unhealthy, we needed to call the food police. Now that I'm a nutritionist, the reaction I often get from people when I introduce myself is that they think I will judge them and will be policing what they eat at social gatherings or in the lunchroom.
The truth is I've never wanted to be an enforcer of healthy eating. I never wanted to police what others eat. Rather, my interest in nutrition stems from wanting to understand my client’s relationship with food and empathy for the struggle they have with it.
I'm interested in people’s eating behaviours and habits, and why they continue to eat food that they perceive as unhealthy when faced with health issues and the discomfort of perceived judgement.
Those people that I meet at a social function or in the lunchroom that say 'you’re going to tell me what I'm eating is unhealthy' or 'I had a light breakfast, so this is an indulgent treat' feel like they have to justify their eating to me. This is because they believe I am judging them. However, the truth is, they are judging themselves for eating what they perceive to be unhealthy. They feel guilty for their eating.
I understand why people may feel this way, as there are definitely health and fitness professionals that take a hard-line approach to their nutrition coaching and are very judgemental.
Dissolving this guilt, shame, self-judgement, deprivation, restriction, and diet rules is what I'm professionally most passionate. I believe that ending the judgement of ourselves and others is a crucial step to forming a healthy relationship with food.
Unfortunately, fear of judgement is a common reason people choose not to see a nutritionist. I completely understand this. Although some people may respond well to an authoritarian approach, most people will revert to old patterns. Change achieved in this way is likely unsustainable or enjoyable, particularly because it comes from the practitioner, not the client.
To change any lifestyle behaviour, we have to want to change; it has to fit into our lifestyle and make us feel good, mentally, physically and emotionally. Policing ourselves or feeling that others are policing our eating does not help us to form a more enjoyable and nurturing relationship with food and our bodies.