Dealing with the Diet Police

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Have you ever been given the third degree about whether you should be eating a certain food or be adding it to your shopping basket? “Do you really need that?”

“Should you be eating that on your diet?”

Was it like a scene from a movie where the person was just short of a bright light and a table to bang their fist on, or more slick like the subtle questioning of James Bond? Needless to say, those are typical "diet police" interrogation questions, designed to keep law and order and take control of your world.

Who are the diet police and why do they pay so much attention to what is on our plates and in our shopping carts? Why do they question us in a friendly, yet conniving manner about our well being and progress? Why do they make comments at family dinners and in public that belittle us about our weight or what we are eating or not eating? Why do they blame all of our problems on our weight, as if we couldn’t have any “normal” problems or issues?

The diet police are various sects of people who all share one thing in common; they believe they can make better choices for you than you or I can. Most believe that any means necessary might need to be employed in the name of saving you from yourself. Their intentions are not always bad, but can be harmful, just the same.

Some diet police will do or say hurtful things “For your own good,” thinking that humiliating you enough will motivate you to change. They do this because they feel it is their job to take care of you. Instead, their constant belittling of you fosters a feeling of inferiority and shame. This simply makes many of us build up a wall and eat in secret and isolate ourselves, feeling as if we are not good enough.

Many diet police don’t believe people can make sound choices about your own nutrition. They believe in one way, their own. You should follow their diet, because it’s the one that works. They think that if you could just eat right and exercise, everything would be okay. They don’t understand the complexities of weight loss and the psychological impact weight has on a person. It is a simple formula, actually. Calories in and calories out is the formula, BUT not everyone metabolizes at the same rate and not everyone is subject to the same eating or exercise rules. This doesn’t even take into account depression, injury, chronic pain, and eating disorders, among other things. Losing weight is a very individualized thing.

Diet police believe they have the right to visually search your shopping cart and plate for offenses. They still have that “Good food” and “Bad food” mentality. They can be legalistic and not understand the concept of moderation, thus judging a person on what they do choose to eat.

Most diet police have never had a major problem with their weight, and therefore do not know the struggles that people who are significantly overweight face. Many lack the experiences to be able to empathize and motivate those they are trying to police.

Diet police doctors are a pet peeve of mine. They are the doctors that think you wouldn’t get sick if you weren’t overweight or that all of your illness would magically disappear with some diet and exercise. While diet and exercise will help you and boost your immune system, keep in mind that thin people get sick too and overweight people deserve the same medical care and compassion when they go to the doctor.

Diet police can start bad eating habits from the shame they cause. From my experience and others I’ve known, we’ve hidden food, binged, had bulimia, anorexia, compulsive overeating, felt shamed, eaten alone in isolation, avoided gatherings, not sought health care, avoided working out in public and believed we would never find love. So far, I have overcome all of the above and so have a few of my friends. Some still suffer and go to therapy to undo damage that was done by their diet police. If you have diet police checking you for offenses or “Trying to take care of you,” by improper means, have a talk with them. Explain you are on a fantastic new plan called SparkPeople and you know exactly what you are doing. No more policing allowed, but love without shame is always welcomed. EXPLAIN to them how they CAN help you in a positive manner and SHOW them SparkPeople. You may make a difference in their life.

How do you deal with the "diet police"?

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FISHGUT3 1/19/2021
thanks Report
RAPUNZEL53 11/15/2020
Great Report
BOB5148 8/17/2020
Thanks Report
CKEYES1 6/26/2020
This is where I have a hard time telling anyone what I'm doing Report
Well, a simple "mind your business" works for me! Report
CECELW 4/13/2020
i feel like i have read this article before Report
Seriously ? Diet police a sect ? If someone is judgemental, get it out in tgr open and hsve a conversation with thrm...Mom or Bestie ? Even more reason to say how thus hurts. Report
Thanks!!!!! Report
Thanks Report
Great article, thank you. Report
Awesome article - thank you!!! Report
Thank you, Beth. This is just as true now as it was 8 years ago. Report
Ever since Ove discovered what works for me, I find myself sooooo tempted to start preaching to others. Really have to bite my tongue and only elaborate about diietary details if asked Report
I find the diet police people make the comments because something is not going right in their life. My general response is 'I'm hungry. What's your problem?" Report
What a term: Diet Police. Some are even professional health care workers who don’t know how hurtful they can be. Report
What a term: Diet Police. Some are even professional health care workers who don’t know how hurtful they can be. Report
Totally hear you Beth. I had a friend who was quite a bit overweight. She was really trying to deal with it but suffering chronic backache. She kept going to her GP about it who told her it was because she was overweight. Turned out it was cancer of the liver. By the time it was diagnosed her body was riddled with cancer. No happy ending I'm afraid. She was in her late 30's and left behind a devastated husband and 8 year old son, plus many broken hearted friends. Report
You can't force people to get healthy but you can show them Report
I try not to be the diet police with friends and family Report
Diet police use the excuse that they mean well but rude, nasty comments about someone's appearance are just that. No place in my life for toxic people. I listened to that crap as a child and from my exhusband. It says more about their attitude toward the world than about me. Report
Diet police should go to jail. Report
I used to not eat a desert when I was out at a party or dinner invite, just because I knew people would be judging me. In fact at home I only eat fruit for desert and would have loved an ice cream or pud when out, Often these people eat more rubbish than I have ever done, they are just blessed with skinny genes. Report
I have noticed that I am labeled as the 'picky' eater. Or the woman that only eats grass. Initially I was ashamed for the lunch or the meals that I enjoyed eating, but then I realized what they were eating or feeding their loved ones and I began to feel bad for them.
I have come to realize that I have to look for myself and my loved ones before I can be concerned with others bad eating habits. Report
It is worst with people, who does not understand that they are doing this, and thinks they wishes you well - for example, old relative, who one day says that you should lose weight and you should not be eating something, but in the evening prepares calory-bomb home meal and does not understand, why you refuse to eat it. Even after infinite reminders, that I would like to eat according myself, next day the same scenario repeats... Report
This hit a cord with me. I grew up in a Southeast Asian country where a lot of people are slim. And a lot of the population have a diet police mentality. It started when I reached puberty at 11 and starting getting my curves, I'm an ectomorph so I'm naturally curvy and have boobs. I'm not flat like most of the population. A relative called me a whale when I was 5'2 and weighed 110 pounds. That went on for most of my life even when I was at a normal weight. This led to yo-yo dieting. Now I live in another county and finally feel that I can lose the weight, I don't have to endure the diet police and naysayers. I can make use of what science has learned about weight loss rather than having to listen to all the helpful "advice". Report
i dont have a diet where i refuse to eat certain things. i have cut out soda but that was mostly because if i drink it thats all i drink. so to add other things i cut it out. i believe i can have the sweets i love and other stuff as long as i dont go over calories. i also do a few more minutes of cardio just to make myself feel better. i love to bake. cakes cookies cheesecakes everything. i dont want to give up my passion for baking because i wont eat the foods. i just dont make a lot of the foods or i give most of it away. or i bake with my best friend and we split the goodies between our two households. well three since we have another friend who has little kids and she cant cook or anything so we bring goodies to her lol.
my mom did the police thing and she was pretty bad herself. my grandma would buy me clothes and say you can have those if your not to fat for them. used to make me so angry. but honestly i dont talk to either of them anymore for different reasons so i dont hear those comments anymore. my fiances parents are bad to him tho. they are both really overweight and unhealthy. his mom tries weight watchers every few months and cant stick to it. they look at my fiance who is overweight too but not like them and pat his stomach and make some comment about how hes getting bigger or some such crap. hes been losing inches and weight without really trying lately so im proud of him. i cook healthy foods for him and with his two jobs hes losing the weight. i dont allow anyone to police me anymore. my grandpa will joke with me and my finace about our weight but i know hes harmless because he makes the same jokes about himself lol. he knows hes overweight. he doesnt care lol. he does enough to stay healthy thats all he cares about. Report
My husband doesnt police..but he does not understand how hard it is to lose weight. But he is at a healthy weight but he has the absolute WORST eating habits. He had a heart attack 3 years ago and still refuses to believe that his eating habits are a big cause of it. It worries me for him and myself because if you look at the 2 of us I look like I should be the heart patient and not him. But he doesnt say too much to be about my eating because he still smokes (even though he KNOWS he should quit). He knows he can live without smoking but no one can live without eating. I was really skinny as a kid and my mom and sister were both overweight and I'm sure I policed them without meaning too. My mom is still overweight but my sister has lost over 100 lbs with gastric bypass. But she has made the dietary changes to keep it off for over 2 years and her husband lost over 100 lbs with WW with her cooking. I seem to be struggling with the emotional toil of it all. This is my first comment and I really enjoy reading the blogs. Report
I can't control what other people say, but I can control my reaction to it. For those moms, dad's, boyfriends, husband's who are diet police, you need to examine the reason why you are a diet police. Are you a diet police because you care about your relative's heath? Or are you a diet police because you want your daughter to be popular or want her to make the cheer leading squad? Are you concerned about your wife's health? Or are you determined to turn her into a thin, trophy wife? There is a difference. Report
I'd comment something smart like, "how's the drinking going?" or "when the last time you had sex?" or I might lie and say something like..."I've already lost a 100 lbs without YOUR help!!" or maybe.."I can run a 5K, how far can you run?" HeeHee Report
I, too. have experienced doctors that didn't feel like I had a right to their care. I had a shoulder injury and the doctor told me I looked like I had diabetes and gave me a pamplet on the frozen shoulder syndrome. I walked out. grrrrr..I have realtives that can't stand to even look at me, because of my weight. I don't like the diet po-po. Report
My parents and younger sister are mine. My mom and sister have never had weight issues and my mother even shows preference for my sister because she is skinny and I'm not. Recently I stepped on the scale and was feeling proud of myself for reaching 27 pounds lost. I wanted to share the good news with someone and told my dad. Instead of being encouraging and saying something positive like "Great job", he just looked me up and down and said "You need to tone up". I guess because he couldn't really see the weight loss (I have a lot to lose). Needless to say, that deflated my good feelings about myself and I found myself sitting in my bedroom with tears in my eyes. Diet police never really know just how damaging their comments can be sometimes. And the thing is sometimes the comments aren't even the "For your own good" kind. Sometimes there's nothing constructive about them. Report
Well the doctor's job (he swore an oath) is to keep you healthy. Yes, we all deserve equal health care regardless of gender, skin colour or size, absolutely! Unfortunately, the doctor is also obligated to tell you that having too much excess weight is unhealthy :(

Anyways, diet police should MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS. Report
I have never been diet policed. If some person were to confront me with unsolicited negative commentary I think I probably would say: 'I can work on getting healthy and slim but the fat in YOUR HEAD will NEVER go away. Report
it's because of the "diet police officers", i was kinda not into diets and stuff. not blaming them of course it's my fault but i deffo wasn't incouraged by their nagging and "advising". mostly just put off. everybody (the dieters and he diet police) should understand that we're doing this for us!!! Report
I do not monitor other adults. The only person I may have monitored was my son when he was young - but that was my job as mom. Most adults know what they are supposed to eat and what they aren't - knowone likes a nag!
I'm not sure about folks having issues with Drs. isn't that their job??? Report
The worst ones are those who push you to eat a little extra. Report
SQUISHY_GIRL - just remember, even apparently healthy people can develop diabetes and have to change their lives.

Long before SP a co-worker had commented on my weight loss then looked at the salad I was building and said, 'cheese is fattening.' I told her, 'This is what I always eat. The cheese is my protein.' Report
I can totally relate to this. My fiance's sister lost a lot of wieght and now thinks it is her right to make comments about his wieght and food choices everytime we see her. Even though we are both beginning our journey to weight loss people seem to forget that it won't happen over night! Report
The ones that drive me nuts are the family members or friends who push you to have "just a little piece of pie" or "just a cookie" or add "just a little more to your plate," then turn around and tell you you need to lose weight. Report
What I find annoying about the diet police problem not only them saying that you should should eat this or that or only this or that amount but also commenting on exactly where you should lose weight from. As if I have a choice in the matter where the weight drops first or how it is distributed! So irritating! Report
Although I am sure that the diet police in our lives mean well but they dont understand the confusion they create while deflating personal confidence and the guilt that ensues as a result of their "comments". Report
I don't think Diet Police are helpful in any way. If someone ASKS for support, encouragement, reminders, whatever, that's different, and the helper is not Diet Police. Unsolicited comments are rude and I wish I had the courage to respond snappily and deal with them. Shame is not helpful to anyone, and comments from strangers, bosses, coworkers, friends, whomever, can produce shame in the targeted person. As some have commented, we may feel resentful and end up eating more or the "wrong" thing out of spite, even though it only hurts ourselves. We may feel defensive, and that doesn't help us, either.

Parents are in a different position, having to educate their children, wanting them to make wise choices, but they can do so gently and kindly, and not act as Diet Police. They can avoid the shaming. It would be ideal to be able to talk with kids about food choices, about dealing with emotional eating vs hunger, about moderation, and so on. They can encourage more physical activity, find what appeals to their children, make opportunities available, explain the consequences of eating too much of certain foods or of too little physical activity, and so on, but the choices are ultimately up to the individuals, and love, respect and acceptance from parents will do far more good healthwise than any strict policing.

I think there is no place for Diet Police in our already stressful, judgmental society. We need more kindness, not less. And again, if you want a support team or folks to encourage you, that is a different matter, but also should be handled kindly, not nastily. Snide remarks are completely unhelpful. We do not know what may be troubling another person and I personally don't want to push someone over the edge with a thoughtless remark. Don't fool yourself with the rationalization that it is "constructive criticism." It is not.

I felt defensive the times I encountered Diet Police, and later felt even worse because I had not been able to stand up for myself. And often self-medicated with food, or felt shame "sneaking" what I wanted.

I wecome computer advice and suggestions when they are phrased pleasantly, not demeaningly. I also feel shamed when someone gives me computer advice and acts as though "any idiot" should know how to defrag or whatever. I just don't think we should police other people's lives, regarding fashion, food choices, activities, partners, or whatever. If you are excited about SP, fine, tell folks you found something that works for you and that you'd be glad to share information if they want it. Then be graceful with whatever response you get. That is respectful and kind, and we sure need more of those!

Thanks for a great blog from a great blogger! Report
The first "Diet Police" I ever met was my mother who put me on a diet when we came home from a medical check up where my growth was in the 160th percentile at age 8. She was convinced that I was fat and spent a lot of time counting the 1200 calories I was allotted a day. One of the worst experiences of my childhood was a family reunion dinner where my mother had the waitress take away my salad because it had cheese on it then changed my dinner order in front of the entire family.
The next year I grew 13 inches and was skinny again but I never felt good eating anything around my mother again. At age 10, I was in the hospital for Anorexia. I weighed 92 pounds and I was 5'8". I am 35 years old now and I still struggle to get the proper caloric intake every day.
Oddly enough what helped me was having children and being very aware of how easy it is to hurt them. I make sure they all know it's good to eat (no matter what it is) in the right proportions. I absolutely refuse to let my children ever allow any "diet police" in their lives to control the way they live their lives. Report
Diet Police are trying to help! Sometimes to loose weight you simply need to face the fact that you need to eat less. Because they are fitter and healthier than you perhaps says that they might actually have some good advice. You wouldn't get upset if someone helped you defrag your PC, why get upset if someone wants to help you loose weight? If you're simply sick of busy bodies poking into your business fair enough, but I like the support I'm receiving from friends and family to loose weight. Report
My stepdad is terrible for it. Comments such as "oh they're diet crisps then are they ha ha ha" said in a jokey manner but there's nothing funny about it! As someone who does fairly physical work and has never been overweight he has no concept of dieting and weight loss and its pretty unfair for him to comment on what I eat which I struggle with and have done since my late teens. I do end up snapping at him at times but I'll try to take his comments in my stride in future! Report
This makes me sad. I act as diet police to my parents out of desperation that they will want to start the same journey I am on. I did not realize I am doing more harm than help. :( Report
I must confess that I am a member of the diet police. I am harsh on my youngest daughter. When we have dinner, she will eat whatever carb there is for dinner and omit the vegetables. I often find myself harping on her eating habits because I know how unhealthy they are. I try to set a good example for her. I stock the fridge with fruits and vegetables but she refuses to eat them. I have tried making dinners that consist of only vegetables to try to get her to eat. Instead she will take her allowance and hit the fast food spots. I try to explain to her that my critique of her eating habits only comes from a good place. I try to explain to her how difficult my battle with food has been and that I don't want her to have to have the same struggles that I have had. The last time she went to the doctor her blood pressure was borderline. At sixteen, I don't want her to have to be forced to take medication for something that she can control by not making the wrong choices. Report
My diet police are my mom and sister although I know they mean well. It is still hard though. Report
I had to get my routine annual women's exam from a doctor I'd never met before. As I was up in the stirrups, she says "If you lose some weight, you wouldn't have high blood pressure." I could point out all the things wrong with this situation, but I'll just say this... Society reminds me every day how fat I am. I don't really need this lady in her pearl necklace and fancy sweater telling me something I already know. It stung a little extra because at the time I weighed the lowest I've weighed since high school. I didn't say anything, but I wanted to kick her in the head. Report
My diet police was my mom, and still is even though she doesn't actively police me anymore, and to her credit, she was trying to teach me good eating habits, but youth and being stubborn mixed with divorce and comfort food won out. I struggled with my weight and self esteem and my mom would take me to this weight program, that weight program, this nutritionist, that jazzercise program, etc...from my perspective I felt like she was constantly reminding me of how inadequate I was, a I ran right into the arms of a super size Big Mac meal for comfort. Hindsight being what it is, I am very mindful of the lessons she tried to teach me then, and to pass on those lessons to my own kids. It's a slippery slope, being the diet police. There is no BEST way to tell a friend or loved one you'd like them to eat better. For some reason we find it easier to tell someone to lay off the booze, quit smoking or get straight from heroin, but food is OFF LIMITS! Don't tell ME how to eat! (as I shove a handful of chili fries in my mouth after being dumped).....the whole food thing is so personal that it's really up to YOU, the eater, to police yourself. Report