• What would you do if someone watched everything you ate? When you grocery shopped, people looked in your shopping cart and eyed your groceries, evaluating your selection? They see you in a restaurant, or “worse” a bakery and they casually come by to see what you are eating? You are at a meeting at work, a potluck or a social gathering and there is someone watching what you are eating – and determining whether it is “healthy.”  Oh, yes – and if it isn’t healthy (based on this person’s opinion) they feel it is necessary to gasp and say something.

    But am I talking about myself as a dietitian looking at you? Evaluating what you are eating and or what is in your grocery cart? Looking at your restaurant selection or that breakfast pastry at the staff meeting? Thinking “you shouldn’t eat chocolate”? Nope. Unless you specifically ask and pay me to evaluate your food selections, I am not doing that. And I never tell someone they shouldn’t eat chocolate. What kind of person would be so cruel? (Though, I may tell you to eat less…)

    However, this happens to me pretty often. Yes, this is me and many other dietitians I know. People look at us and judge us. Most of the time we go about our business, grocery shopping, eating dinner out with our family, friends, and co-workers and eating like the human beings we are. Like normal people who like to eat food. We eat cupcakes, pizza, chocolate, hamburgers and even alcohol (though not usually at the same time).

    But for some reason, people feel it is okay to make comment about what we eat, or should eat. Here are some examples of what people have found acceptable to say to me:

    • I, along with others at the table, reach for a piece of chocolate on the table at the party, “OMG, Shelley! You eat chocolate?” Me, confused: “Yes, why wouldn’t I?”
    • “We have pizza and ice cream for our event – oh, yes and fruit for you.”
    • Looking down at my fruit and yogurt I brought from home to eat during a morning meeting, “Of course you would eat something like that.”

    However, if in the same situations I did the following:

    • If I, as a dietitian, had questioned anyone at the table about eating chocolate or even glanced at someone questioningly. Inappropriate – I never do it. But certain people find it acceptable to question me doing something that others do without question.
    • If I told a group of people who were obviously unhealthy, “I have pizza and ice cream for me and my healthy friends, but we have fruit for you,” wouldn’t that be…rude? Why isn’t it when people do it to me?
    • I look at the breakfast sandwich from the fast food restaurant that the person next to me is eating – and this apparently unhealthy person who is about to eat it – and I tell this person, “Of course you would eat something like that.” I have never done this, but I have really, really wanted to in response to it being said to me. But I didn’t.

    It is normal to have people pull their plate away as a reflex to telling them what you do for a living.

    It is normal for people to announce their latest adopted eating habit.

    It is normal for people to point to me and tell the person sitting next to them “oh look, she’s drinking wine!”

    It seems to be more frequent and acceptable these days to be uncivil towards others – to judge people out loud and to their face. One would think after all of these years, I would be used to it, but it is hurtful for people to say such things to you and they think it is okay. This isn’t my job, this is my profession. It isn’t what I do, it is what I am.

    While this post seems like it is all about me, it isn’t. It is about my friends, colleagues and co-workers who also bear the brunt of these comments too. Just think before you speak and be nice to everyone.

    Disclaimer: the examples used are compilations of several situations over the years and is not targeted to any specific individual or individuals. If you think it is you – maybe it is, and you should feel bad apologize with a gift (most restaurant gift cards are acceptable); however, it is unlikely I was thinking of you specifically when I wrote this. But you can still send me gift cards. Thanks for reading and I feel better. Be nice to the dietitians in your life – they may take care of you one day.