Have You Ever Heard of or Experienced Health Shaming?

I had never seen this term before, and doubt if it is in our normal vernacular, but I think it should be.

Perhaps you have never seen this either, primarily because it can be very subtle and pervasive.

What is it?

“Health Shaming” is a term that I saw used in a recent article by Tim Sitt, creator of ThinkMOVE: Helping People MOVE Towards Health. Tim often writes about becoming healthy from a mental health perspective.

Here’s a few health shaming phrases that you may have had lobbed at you one time or another.

  • “Are you trying to live forever?”
  • “Why are you always eating so healthily…don’t you like to have FUN?”
  • “Why do you keep going to the gym? You already look great.”
  • “What? You are not going to have dessert? I need someone to split it with me.”
  • “Kale? Really?”

Let’s take a look at what’s really happening here. Someone is trying to make you feel bad for wanting to be healthy. Kind of ridiculous when you think about it. It is actually a form of bullying. And, it probably indicates that the person is feeling guilty or a little jealous that they don’t think about their health as much as you do.

There are some other dimensions at work here too. People like to make social connections with food. If you are not on the same page, some people can consciously or unconsciously take your lack of participation in cake, fries, chips or whatever, as a rejection.

This can even happen with sedentary habits. Suggesting that you want to go for a walk rather than watch TV or have Happy Hour may feel like a slap in the face to some. Here again, you may be the brunt of jabs that are trying to make you feel like it’s abnormal (or boring) to be healthy.


Realize that this is part of life. We are surrounded with messages all the time that are not geared toward helping you make healthy choices. Review your goals, keep up your resolve, and move on. You do not need to explain yourself to anyone.

These shaming folks are just like you. They have struggles that you may not be aware of, and their own reasons for feeling like they have to dump on your healthy endeavors. Be tolerant. Instead of reacting to them, you can make a stand by saying things like, “It just makes me feel better if I don’t eat a lot of sugar”, or “I feel strong and happier if I keep up my routine of going to the gym.” Usually if you stick to your guns, the jabs will stop.

Remember, your health and fitness are yours and yours alone. You do it for yourself, and you can be proud of making good choices.

Leave any comments on your experiences with or insights around health shaming below.


© 2016-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.

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