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Mind your own plate

Food shaming is more than just a debate between vegetarians and meat-eaters. It has impact an individuals on the psychological level.

Oh my goodness, you are eating that?”

“She does not eat anything. No wonder she is so skinny.”

“How are you okay with eating that much?” 

The existence of food shaming is evident everwhere. Parents at the dinner table constantly complaining about their child not eating enough, or friends criticising each other for their choice of food. Clinical psychologist, Trishna Gosh Bista defines food shaming to be a type of behaviour where an individual is criticised for his/her selection of meal. “The individual is made to feel humiliated and guilty for their food choices,” she says.

According to Bista food shaming can lead to eating disorders and even body shaming.

“Food shaming can psychologically affect a person. We should stay positive and enjoy our own meal and develop self-confidence, rather than pick on someone else’s plate,” she states.

Bista reveals that women are more prone to food shaming. “This is due to the false perception of beauty created by society. Shame is an intense feeling that somehow we are wrong, flawed, and in need of fixing in order to be loved/accepted. Therefore, we make the connection that we must change or alter that which we feel ashamed about so we can get the love and security we so that deeply desire. Hence, we try to follow routines and diets of those who society and media have portrayed to be beautiful,” she alleges.

Pramada Shah, President of Animal Nepal emphasises that one of the frequently occurring behaviours of food shaming is degrading those who do or do not eat meat. “Unfortunately some people food shame without even realising it. Calling someone insensitive for eating meat, or deeming someone pretentious for choosing to be vegan is wrong. Many people have legitimate reasons for eating or not eating meat. Vegetarians and vegans denounce those who consume meat because of the brutality that animals face, and meat eaters criticise vegans and vegetarians,” she shares.

Shah stresses that a crucial step to stop food shaming is through awareness. “One of the most common remarks one hears as a vegetarian or a vegan is that you are not getting enough protein. We can educate people on the positive aspects of becoming vegetarians or vegans. There are plant-based ways to intake protein,” she claims.

Anita (name has been changed), a restaurateur shares “It is okay to be a vegan/vegetarian. There might be plenty of health benefits, but it does not give one the excuse to tell meat eaters that they’re disgusting, they have no morals and all sorts of negative things. It is just like an atheist that tells Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others who believe in a God that they are ignorant for believing in a higher being. It’s not okay to humiliate a person in public for her/his choice of food, especially in public. It’s simply rude.”

She asserts that food shaming is immature and needs to stop just like racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination.

Usha Shah, Chief Dietician at the Grande International Hospital, however says that food shaming in Nepal is not that big of an issue yet.”Nonetheless, it’s easy to conclude that minding your own place is the best route to follow,” she concludes.

Researched by: Alison Karki and Shakshi Koirala