For the third installment of this impromptu series, I want to focus on a mindset that is too easy to fall into: diet superiority.
What I mean by diet superiority is having the perception that your way of eating is superior to others’, leading to judgmental thoughts about the things other people choose to put into their bodies. After all, those are their choices, not ours, but we can’t help but snicker or sneer while thinking, “I can’t believe he/she would eat that junk.”
It’s also too easy to blame these judgmental thoughts on our own way of eating. For example, justifying to myself, “X diet made me a judgmental jerk,” when in fact, I was always a judgmental jerk and I was using my new diet as a defense mechanism to hide my own insecurities and self-esteem issues.
I don’t like admitting that I’m judgmental, but acknowledging it is what’s helping me to be accountable about my thoughts and actions. One of the ways I hid my judgmental nature was through the guise of having found enlightenment from what I perceived to be a better way to eat.
Throughout the nearly four years of LCHFing, I internally pooh-pooh’ed at people eating the “junk” that used to be staples in my own diet—namely, the broad category of carbohydrates. I viewed carbs as “evil” and my way of eating as “good”. Did these people not know what they were doing to their bodies?
Shamefully, I would judge larger people at movie theatres after seeing them carrying in a large bucket of popcorn and a giant soft drink, followed by a share bag of peanut M&M’s or Skittles. At buffets, I would internally cringe at plates piled high with pancakes, waffles, and pastries, while feeling smug and superior for passing the dessert table without so much as a glance.
Looking back on all the judgmental moments, I feel like a monumental asshole. I had no right to feel superior compared to these strangers, whose stories and backgrounds I will never know. Just like social media mostly shows the highlight reels of people’s lives, there is so much more going on behind the scenes.
Who knows if the woman eating the pancakes had just finished a long workout and wanted to treat herself? What if the man with the two mini pastries on his plate had already accounted for those treats into his day? What if the couple sharing a waffle had just lost a hundred pounds between them and were on their way to losing a hundred more? And what if that larger lady that I used to scoff at all the time has her own disordered eating struggles and she’s suffering in silence because people automatically judge her based on her appearance?
Despite singing the praises of LCHF, I had my own disordered eating struggles. A part of it manifested in amplifying my judgmental side and projecting my self-loathing onto others. When I saw larger women, I saw myself in them. It would bring back painful memories of body image issues from my childhood and being ridiculed for my weight. It would take me back to a time when I felt out of control with my eating.
I think a big part of it was a way of reminding myself—in a rather negative, destructive manner—never to go back to the fatter me. It was the only defense mechanism I could think of to keep myself in line. By judging larger women, I was putting the fear into my own psyche—”Don’t you dare let yourself go like that! Do you have any idea how hard you’ve worked to get where you are? Keep your shit together.”
Diet superiority is a real struggle. Just like the unfortunate tropes about vegans (I’ve met some really lovely vegans, by the way), anything with a label can be unfairly judged through our own lens of what we think is good or bad (or right versus wrong), or the stereotypes that abound about a certain way of eating.
Just because one way of eating works for one person, does not make it a one-size-fits-all for everyone else. LCHF worked wonderfully for me—until it didn’t. I can’t deny that it worked wonders when it came to weight loss, but I cannot sustain it long term. It was just one of the masks I used to deal with my deep-seeded disordered eating issues and in the last few months, made my issues worse. But it works great for Mark and continues to be a lifestyle that he can commit to long term. And that’s awesome, because he gets to do what works for him and I get to do what works for me.
I think the world would be a much nicer place if we could throw aside all the diet BS and let people do their thing. Paleo, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, LCHF, vegetarian, vegan—whichever way you happen to lean when it comes to your preferred way of eating, I say:
So, to all the peeps that I judged, I’m so sorry. I did not bother to see you as living, breathing human beings with your own struggles and triumphs. I lacked the empathy to see beyond the surface and didn’t bother to check myself before wrecking myself.
Be curious, not judgmental. – W. Whitman