Women Fight Back Against ‘Food Shaming’ Phenomenon

By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Despite everyone’s tendency to indulge occasionally, women are experiencing a new phenomenon referred to as “Food Shaming.” Many women say they’re met with insulting comments by strangers if they eat a high calorie food in public. Some experts consider it a form of bullying.

Britni De La Cretaz is the Boston director of Hollaback, a group committed to ending street harassment of all kinds.  She believes more women are speaking up about this kind of behavior.

Food shaming can be found in a variety of comments. “Whether it’s a comment that they might lose their figure, or that they shouldn’t be eating that in general, or they don’t need that,” De La Cretaz said.

De La Cretaz said women who don’t fit into society’s idealized standard of beauty are often the targets of these taunts.

One post recently came into the Hollaback web site and read:  “I was in South Station in the afternoon with my dad eating a vanilla soft serve and a 50 plus man walked by looking me up and down and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’”

Most often these comments are delivered by men, sometimes in a group, who think this is harmless humor.  But because so many women already struggle with diet and body image, the consequences can be very real.

“It does pile on, and that’s where young people are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders, vulnerable to feeling judged, and feeling like they are on the outside looking in,” said Ted Kyle of the Obesity Action Coalition.

Women in London are fighting back with a Facebook page. 32,000 members, both women and men, state it is not OK to mock women who eat on the subway.

Hollaback says victims should try to project strength even as it happens.  “Use strong body language and act confident, even if you don’t.  We say ‘fake it, til you make it,’” explained De La Cretaz.

Boston University Professor of Nutrition Joan Salge Blake said if this happened to a child, it would be considered bullying.

This type of pressure can cause a woman to distort her eating habits, which might have been good to begin with.

“All things in moderation are perfectly fine,” added Salge Blake.

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