Are you aware that you’re shaming me?

Summary: Think before you comment on what someone’s eating – you might unconsciously be hurting them.

Part 2 of tips on healthy eating & maintaining high levels of energy coming up soon (I’m aiming for Wednesday to create a consistency in posting – new stuff every Wednesday and Sunday). Part 1 is available here. Today it’s going to be a short piece on my observation from Friday.

On Friday, I ate a piece of cake. This cake specifically:

‘Crime’ scene clearly marked

To say that it was divine might be a bit too much, but damn it was tasty!

The cake itself wouldn’t inspire a whole post, though (at least I haven’t stumbled upon such cake yet). It’s how I ate it and the realisation why I did it this way made me want to share it.

In the recent years I felt bloated and my digestion wasn’t the best (my wife can attest to it). When running came into the picture, a related well-know digestion problem also occurred (you runners know what I’m talking about), so I started reading on how to help out your stomach and your intestines to process the food effectively and without side effects. One of the things I came across was this idea of eating in the order of easiness of digestion. In summary, it’s about eating fruit and veg before more complex carbs and leaving the protein with long processing time until the end. Before I would eat anything in no particular order and would top up my meal with e.g. easily & quickly digestible oranges, which would mean that while my stomach was processing the complex carbs and proteins, the oranges would start rotting on top of that food pile and voila, my wife would suffer from being in the same room as me. Once I had implemented the eating in a specific order, my digestion has improved massively.

Anyway, I’m mentioning it because it’s essential to Friday’s story. It was a catered lunch at work. I saw the cake and made a decision that I will eat a piece and will feel great about it. Staying true to my eating-in-an-order habit, I put a piece the cake on a plate before eating anything else – you could call it having the dessert before the actual lunch. What happened next baffled me. I took my plate and immediately went to a different room at work, where I couldn’t be seen, and ate my cake quickly before returning to the others and continuing with the proper lunch.

Why did I do that? Who was I hiding from? At first, I thought that I metaphorically hiding from myself and that I wasn’t really ok with having that piece of cake. But then I realised that I made that choice happily and consciously (as per what I wrote here) and had nothing to be ashamed of in front of myself. So what was the true reason for this behaviour?

I think it was because whenever I eat something ‘unhealthy’ in public, with others around me who know about my IRONMAN goal and are aware of my clean eating habits, 9 times of out 10 I will hear comments like:

  • You are eating THAT?! Wojciech, you know that’s carbs, right? OMG!
  • So even a future IRONMAN eats crap
  • What happened to you today?
  • Look at him. He’s having a cake

Etc. You’re probably getting the gist of it. So by eating my cake on my own, in a completely different room and pretty hastily, I wanted to avoid those comments and having to respond to them either jokingly (‘yeah, you caught me), in a scientific way (‘I’m boosting my metabolism today through cheat meals’), nutritional way (‘I have been undereating and found it to affect my training performance, so I’m trying this out now’) or any other way. It is almost annoying that you’re not free to eat whatever you want without the judgement. We don’t say to obese people ‘you’re really going to eat two pizzas on your own? Really?’, because that would mean an embarrassment to them. Yet doing the exact same thing to me or other clean eaters seems harmless.

I don’t think that people realise that by commenting in this way, they are trying to shame me to feel better about themselves. It’s a deep subconscious process that’s most likely going on there that can be summarised in this way:

I don’t really feel good about myself and the way I’m eating -> Oh, he’s eating crap as well! -> Yeah, I’m not that bad then


I don’t really feel good about myself and the way I’m eating -> Oh, he’s eating crap as well! -> I need to make him feel worse about himself to bring him to my level -> Nice, now we’re more equal and I feel better now

As these are normally subconscious and unintentional actions, the only thing I would suggest and promote is awareness. Awareness before you make a comment like that. Ask yourself: what you will be getting out of it? How will it make the other person feel? Are you using this comment to lift yourself up by putting the other person down? If you’re jealous of the other person’s habits, maybe changing yours instead of celebrating whenever that person decides to deviate from theirs would have a longer lasting effect on you?

Remember, shaming comes in different ways. Your harmless comments might actually have an impact on the other person – the impact might be that they’ll decide to hide away whenever they’ll want to avoid those comments, which is not a healthy thing to do at all. I personally will ignore the comments anyway, as I won’t allow them to affect me, but a different person might be embarrassed by their ‘weakness’ (if it wasn’t a conscious decision) and feel bad about himself / herself. Empathy is key here, think about the effect your words have on others.

Anyway, I enjoyed my cake massively. And with Christmas around the corner, looks like there’s much more food enjoyment in store  🙂

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Stay healthy and awesome!

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