“Whoa, that’s the healthiest shopping cart I’ve ever seen. You’re really missing out on life, you know.”
“Oh, no dressing? I don’t know how you do it. You must be on a diet.”
“Ugh, what is that, rabbit food? That looks really gross. Do you ever eat normal food?”
As a strength and nutrition coach, I’ve become a magnet for any and all remarks, comments and questions about fitness and health from family, friends, coworkers, students and athletes.
And in the same way I often text my English degree wielding cousin for grammar advice, I’m always happy to dole out info when asked- Do I need to use protein powder? Nope. What’s the best way to start increasing my strength for full pushups? Do ’em on an incline. Should I order one of those waist trainers? Good god HELL no. – because it’s my J.O.B.
Seriously, ask away.
Specifically when it comes to nutrition, our questions, beliefs and philosophies about the foods we eat and don’t eat are fascinating.
What we choose to put into our bodies is a deliberate decision, whether we think so or not. Food is an immensely personal thing. What we eat, what we don’t eat and whom we eat it with. It’s how we mark momentous occasions, both positive and negative: weddings, birthdays, graduations, and funerals. Food has the ability to evoke powerful memories starting with our childhood and adolescence. Often times, those powerful memories can hold intense power over us. Even deciding not to think about what we are eating, is in some ways, a deliberate choice.
It’s why comments like the ones above (all of which I’ve personally received in the past month or so) while seemingly innocuous, can cause a negative emotional response if they’re coming from a place of judgment or scorn.
Commenting on other’s foods and food choices happens more frequently than we might even be aware of. We silently and perhaps not–so- secretly, judge others and what they are choosing and not choosing to eat. We scrunch up our faces and wrinkle our noses at foods we deem unappetizing or unpleasant. We scoff at both ends of the spectrum.
Too “healthy”? Live a little, will ya?
Too “unhealthy”? You’re really not doing yourself any favors, you know.
Argh, so complicated, right? We can’t win.
Food is simple, really. But, it’s complicated. The same can be said for sex.
From the movie The Holiday:
“Sex is always complicated. Even when you’re not having it. The not having it makes it complicated.”
We judge others on their likes and dislikes, what they have or haven’t done, on how they choose to show up in the bedroom or what they pile or don’t pile on their plates. On what’s in their shopping cart and what’s on their browsing history. We offer up unsolicited advice. We shame them.
It can feel like an extremely personal attack because, as some might say, how we show up in bed is how we show up in life and, you are what you eat. What could be more personal than those two things?
When we project our judgment, our disgust and scorn for other’s likes and dislikes, it ruins their experiences and says something about our own. Spending your time and energy being the food or sex police also ruins your experiences.
Question: Are your “yucks” serving you?
Why do we comment on other’s eating and fucking habits? What does it say about our own?
It’s a learned response
We aren’t born with judgment or prejudice. This is something engrained in us, something we learn over time. How was food (or sex) discussed in your house growing up? How do you discuss it with your own children and family? Your thoughts and perceptions create your reality. Where did yours come from?
As with many things, you won’t know until you know. If you’ve never had the opportunity to be exposed to something – food or experience- than you might remain in the dark until you do. This is not necessarily your fault and could be due to geography, financial status, family and/or work culture and a variety of other things. Can you really construct a strong opinion on something you’ve never come into contact with?
We’re insecure & jealous
Pointing fingers at how others choose to eat and screw could be pointing to something in your own life you’re unhappy with or, you don’t feel confident in your own choices. Do you love the food you’re eating? (Please stop eating shit you don’t like or doesn’t taste good.) Do you feel secure in your relationship and/or time you spend with a partner? Are your sexual practices fulfilling or are they lacking?
Keep in mind the only two people who really know what’s going on inside any type of relationship are those two people. You’re not getting the full picture. Same goes for nutrition. Jealous of your fit friend with visible ab definition who crushed cocktails and cake at your last party? She might have planned ahead for this, ate egg whites and veggies and a protein shake in order to enjoy the party food.
Everything is context.
Don’t yuck anybody’s yum.
In her fabulous NYT bestseller book (which should be required life reading) Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, Emily Nagoski describes how sex educators approach discovering patient’s likes, dislikes and general attitude about bedroom activities:
“For [us], the rule is, “Don’t yuck anybody’s yum.” And since we can’t know what everybody else’s yums are, we don’t yuck anything.”
And, just as there is no right way to eat, there is no right way to be with a partner or right way to have a sex life.
Don’t knock what you haven’t tried (but you don’t have to try).
I have strong opinions about salads: I don’t like dressing, I hate cilantro and I think that fruit IN salad is an abomination. Blecch.
Some might say I’m a “picky eater”. I say, “If that’s what you want to call it, damn straight!”
What I choose to eat matters to me (and my taste buds). Does realizing I don’t like the taste of something make me a picky eater? Nope, it just means I like what I like. This is one of those labels, that, over time, we are conditioned to believe.
“Oh, she’s a picky eater.”
“He won’t be able to eat anything here, he’s so picky!”
Instead: be picky. Be discerning as hell about anything you decide to put in your mouth.
It’s not about knocking what you haven’t tried – hell, if you don’t want to do something or eat something (take both of those as you will) then don’t.
This isn’t an either/ or situation.
If you’re up for it, give something a try or two before you cast it aside. Or not. You don’t have to try. The choice is up to you. Either way, work on removing the negative connotation behind being “picky”. It’s certainly not the worst trait to have.
Trying something new is largely influenced by context. Our likes and dislikes will most likely change as we’re exposed to different situations, experiences, foods & partners. Realizing you like something might take a longer period of time as you become more accustomed to it and it might take multiple exposures for you to feel confident about liking it.
Please remember though, there’s a big difference between being comfortably adventurous with a positive amount of nervousness and anxious excitement and being scared and forced to partake in something you have no interest in.
Want to try something? Awesome, go you! Decide mid-bite (or mid-romp) it’s not for you? That’s awesome too.
You are allowed to change your mind at any time.
You like what you like. You don’t like what you don’t like. Or, put another way, as we say in my family, “That’s why they make chocolate ice cream.”
Avoid apologizing, defending or justifying.
Stop apologizing for your choices. They are YOUR choices. You never need to defend or explain your reasoning behind eating or not eating certain types of food. Whatever you choose to put in your mouth is up to you.
Be honest (but mostly keep your mouth shut).
Avoid offering up unsolicited advice, comments or criticism, even if you think you’re being helpful. Even when something you feel is well intended and positive, it might actually be received as a backhanded compliment or negative comment. You can’t assume to know anything about another’s context.
But, when asked for your opinion, be honest. Don’t lie about liking certain things if you don’t truly like them. Not a fan of a particular dish or skill so-and-so is convinced blew your socks off? You’re allowed to be truthful and say so. These are not times to blow smoke and wrongly inflate someone’s ego.
Be open to the possibility of change & creativity.
One of the most damaging thought processes and reasons for doing something is, “ Well, this is how we’ve always done it.”
And hey, if that’s working for you- woot woot! But if it isn’t… a new partner might require a new routine. The new restaurant down the street might prepare a food you normally hate in a brand new, different, delicious way. Who knows.
Different situations = different context.
Don’t be a pusher.
You’ve got to try this, or you’re not living!
Oh, come on, one cookie isn’t going to kill you.
You haven’t really experienced pleasure until you’ve ___________________.
Reframe thoughts and comments like this with: Hey, I tried ________________ and I thought it was _____________ for me.
End of story.
Let people decide what they want to put on their plates or in their beds on their own.
Do you boo boo.
Stay in your lane. Honor your own race. Your way isn’t the right way; it’s your way.
Again, from Nagoski:
“Treat cultural messages about sex and your body like a salad bar. Take only the things that appeal to you and ignore the rest. We’ll all end up with a different collection of stuff on our plates, but that’s how it’s supposed to work. It goes wrong only when you try to apply what you picked as right for your sexuality to someone else’s sexuality.
“She shouldn’t eat beets; beets are disgusting!”
They might be disgusting to you, but maybe she likes beets. Some people do. And you never know, maybe one day you’ll try them and find you like them. Or not, that’s cool too. You do you.”
Let people eat plain salad. Let people never turn the lights on or hang from the chandelier. Let people do all of those things or none of those things.
Explore where your curiosity takes you, both in culinary pursuits and sexual activities.
Keep your eyes in your own bed and on your own plate.