How to handle the food police: What to say to others that comment on your food choices

Woman enjoying eating

Most Friday’s I send a private newsletter to subscribers of this blog. Below is a sample of one of them answering the question, “How to handle the food police” or what to say to others that comment on your food choices. 

Question: Do you have any suggestions on having the support conversation with my significant other? I find that, often, if I ask for their support, they’ll start policing my food choices. Or they’ll start to feel frustrated if I choose to eat something, “off-plan,” or get upset if I decline something they get me.

For example, when I tried this weekend (they wanted pizza on Sunday) I said I would need to eat something a littler “healthier,” because we had lunch out and a pastry for breakfast. I think they felt like I was judging their eating choices (I’m not). I just don’t want to watch my weight go back up again and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. But I also want to make progress. Any suggestions?​

This is a wonderful example of how it’s never as simple as eating less, moving more.

How to handle the food police: When you change, you’re asking others to change. 

Tired dog being pulled

This can be hard for them

If you and your significant other are used to having snacks after dinner while watching your favorite show, and all of a sudden you want to stop doing that, your partner may be feeling hurt, confused, or uncomfortable.

Simply acknowledging this and having empathy for the other person can go a long way. One way to work around challenges like this is to ask the other person what they think or how they feel about it.

You could say something like,

“Hey, I know you love me just the way that I am. But I was thinking of leveling up my health and nutrition game. One opportunity I see that could help me is to reduce the amount of snacking I’m doing when I’m not physically hungry. How would you feel if I still watched our favorite show with you but didn’t snack or made X snack instead?”

You’re setting the expectation that changes may be coming but also giving your partner a chance to express how they feel about the situation. It opens the door for a conversation together.

How to handle the food police: Other people’s feelings are not your responsibility

Now that doesn’t mean to act like a complete asshat. It’s just a reminder that if you’re acting with empathy and compassion for others (and even if you’re not) you don’t control how that person chooses to respond.

If they choose to respond with anger, jealousy, or even joy and excitement that’s how they decided to respond. It’s up to them to deal with those feelings.

How to handle the food police: When someone is policing your food say thanks and move on

Food police meme

This is annoying as fuck, isn’t it? Deep down I want to do this 🖕

My mind is blown at how some people feel they have the right to comment on others’ food, body, or lifestyle choices.

There are two ways to look at it.

  • If someone is offering their opinion it can often mean that they are confident you can handle it. In a weird way, it’s a compliment
  • They have no emotional intelligence whatsoever 🤣

Either way, one of the most successful ways my clients and I have dealt with this is by thanking them and changing the subject.

For example, you could try something like.

“I appreciate your thoughts on my diet/food choices/etc.. But I don’t feel like this is the time or place to have a discussion about this. However, if you’d like to get together later and talk about what and why I’m doing this I’d be more than happy to.”

If the person is someone you live with and can not deflect the conversation to another date another idea is to simply ask them not to comment.

You could try:

“I appreciate your thoughts and I know they are coming from a place of love and caring for me. But how would you feel about not commenting on my food choices?”

Again, you’re asking how they would feel about something rather than demanding and giving them something to resist against. Sit back and really listen to what they say.

How to handle the food police: Take more initiative and lead by example

Start suggesting more places to get food you feel more comfortable eating at. Ask them how they feel about experimenting in the kitchen with some new foods, fruits, veggies, and proteins? Get them involved in the process if possible. They may just want to spend the time with you.

Working on your health and fitness with a partner that may not be as interested as you can be one of the harder challenges to cope with. Setting boundaries is going to be very helpful. I recommend the following resources to help you set stronger boundaries with others.

Thanks for reading. You are appreciated.


Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash