Contending with the Food Police

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

What can you say to buddies in this situation to get them off your back: You go to a restaurant. They order burgers and fries. You order a salad. They mock you and proceed with comments like "That’s not real food. Why do you always get a salad? Are you trying to lose weight? Ugh, you’re so annoying." Some of my healthier friends and I have talked about how self-conscious this makes us feel when people are constantly on our back and making us feel guilty just for trying to get some nutritional value in our lives.

Signed,
A College Student

 

ANSWER

Dear College Student,

If it only happens once, ignore it. These are your friends and they’re probably teasing you because they’re feeling guilty about indulging. There’s no need to feel self-conscious; you are doing what you feel is good for you.

 

If it happens multiple times or is being done in a nasty way, you need to come up with a plan of action. Perhaps you could explain how their comments make you feel, either at lunch or afterwards, and do so firmly. They’ll probably be able to tell from the tone of your voice that you mean, "Cut it out."

 

If they don’t respond, you can try to ask your BFF to serve as your ally and tell the rest of the group to lighten up because it’s beginning to annoy you. If the problem still persists, your buddies may be the same kind of friends who were the "mean girls" at your lunch table at middle school. You can either chalk it up to their immaturity or look for a new table with friends who don’t judge their friends’ eating habits.

 

One caveat: If you tend toward an eating disorder, either severely restricting your diet or binging and purging, they may be trying to get you to eat a more balanced diet.

Best,
Irene

 

"The Friendship Doctor" is now a regular contributing expert to "HerCampus: A Collegiette’s Guide to Life," an online magazine for college women with both national and college-by-college content at schools across the country.

 

Written by top college journalists and founded by three current Harvard undergraduates-Stephanie Kaplan ‘10, Windsor Hanger ‘10, and Annie Wang ‘11-HerCampus was a winner in Harvard College’s business plan competition, the i3 Innovation Challenge, in March 2009.

 

The question and answer above previously appeared in a recent post on HerCampus

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Comments (3)

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  1. Twentieth Century Fox says:

    I am so old that I was brought up with bromides like “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all,” and “It’s bad manners to comment on other people’s bad manners.”

    So, like the OP, I am frequently amazed by the petty, critical, insensitive and downright stupid, things that come out of other people’s mouths when they are out in company, and presumably are not actually trying to be gross and offensive.

    I would also agree that if it only happens occasionally it should be ignored–think of someone absent-mindedly picking their teeth and feel sorry for her.

    But for those who evidently think mealtime is a time to “let it all hang out” or “improve the world one dinner partner at a time,” I can think of a few civilized options, ranging from
    1) a simple platitude: (May I propose a toast to taste? Each to his own!) to
    2) a parry and thrust (Are you saying I should order what you order? Why?) to
    3) an actual rebuke and change of subject: (We all have petty critical thoughts about what other people like to eat. We just don’t all think they make good dinner conversation. So, tell me, has anything happened recently that has renewed your faith in human nature?)

    I don’t know whether these would offer relief to anyone else, but I have used all of these (of course with a smile and a gentle expression) without getting into any messy debates. I can’t claim to have made any lasting improvements however.

  2. Irene says:

    Thanks for sharing, Gert. I hope that it will make people think twice before they talk with food in their mouths 🙂

  3. Gert says:

    I know what you mean. I have ibs and can’t eat what others eat. Everyone feels the need to comment. What business is it of theirs what I eat? I don’t comment on what a fat cow this one is or how that one eats no vegetables, so why say anything at all? We travel for work, so we have to eat together. Shut up and eat. If I eat the wrong thing then I’m in the restroom all night, no fun trust me! I owe them no reason. Don’t bully me into getting sick.

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