eating

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Stop! It’s the Holiday Season Food Police!

Published December 25, 2013 by sleepydumpling

It’s that time of year again.  The “let’s be a jerk comments about food” time of year.  I don’t know about you, but I’m quite done with it already and it’s only Christmas Eve!*

Eating while fat at any time is a fraught exercise.  I just read a great post over on Shakesville by Aphra Behn on the weekend, take the time to go read it if you haven’t already.  But come the holiday season, and that really can extend any time from about late October through to oh, February, depending on where you live, it really gets intense.  So many people turn into the food police.  I don’t know about you, but when someone drops a food police bomb on me, more often than not I’m so taken aback by it that I can’t respond in the moment.  I’m already traumatised by food thanks to a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating, without having someone be a jerk over it.  Even though I’m well seasoned (see what I did there?) in dealing with food police.

So I thought I might drop a few examples with useful responses here that we could all use, and if you have any good ones you can put them in the comments.

“Oh, my diet is going to be SO ruined by this!”

“Well, you don’t have to eat any of this, we’ll understand if you choose not to, but we plan to enjoy it.”

“I didn’t realise that eating this was compulsory.”

“Like your diet isn’t going to be ruined by the fact that it’s an unsustainable way of feeding yourself in the long term.”

“That’s probably a good thing, it’s a well established fact that 95% of diets cause you to gain more weight in the long term than you lose.”

“This pie is SO sinful!”

“There’s a church at [insert nearby church address here] – I’m sure they’ll take your confession.”

“I’m more worried about the three firemen I shagged last night blotting my virtue.”

“I love the smell of brimstone in the morning!”

“It’s just pie, it’s not the anti-Christ.”

“Are you sure you haven’t had enough to eat already?”

“Are you sure what I eat is any of your business?”

“No.  I think I’ll have some more.  Thanks for checking in with me.”

“Why – is there more food somewhere?”

“Clearly not, or I wouldn’t be preparing to eat this.”

“That can’t be good for your health.”

“I didn’t know you’d gone and got a medical degree!”

“That’s so nice of you to worry about my health.  Would you mind looking at this rash I have… *zip*… down here?”

“Worry is worse for your health, so you take care and stop worrying about what I eat.”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!”

“I’m not smearing it on my arse.”

“How about if I chew it REALLY slowly?  Will that be longer than a moment on my lips?”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime of embarrassment for making such a stupid statement!”

“Oh, no, I’m watching my weight.”

“That must be boring viewing.”

“Why, does it do tricks?”

“I’m going to get SO FAT after all of this.”

“I’m fat, what’s wrong with being fat?”

“So you don’t want to be like me then?”

“Probably.”  (this one REALLY sticks in their craw!)

“We are all going to have to get on the treadmill tonight!”

“I don’t have to do anything of the sort, you worry about your body, I’ll worry about mine.”

“You do realise that human beings are not combustion engines right?  Bodies are far more complex than calories in/calories out.”

“If you want to be a hamster on a wheel for your evening entertainment, go for it.  I’ve got better things to do.”

*Stares at your food/plate*

Grab something off the plate and lick it and then put it back on the plate.  Say “There, now steal it.”

Take a fork/spoon full, raise it really, really slowly to your mouth, eat it really sexily and roll your eyes and make orgasm sounds.  Add a “Damn this is good!” for effect.

Pick up something small from your plate and throw it at them.

~~~@~~~

How’s that to get you all started on dealing with the food police?  Again, if you have any good ones, leave them in the comments so that we can build up an arsenal against the jerks out there who think they have a right to comment on our food and eating.

*I had this all ready to post last night but I spent too many hours having a beautiful roast chicken dinner with cheesecake and plum pudding with friends while we drooled over Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and didn’t get home until midnight, so it’s going up today.  Merry Christmas!  Or if Christmas is not your thing, I hope you’re having a fabulous holiday season of your choice!

Reindeer Games

My Plate Does Not Have to Be the Same As Your Plate

Published February 3, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I’m having one of those “What is so hard to understand about it?” moments.  You know the drill, someone says or posts something judgemental, you call it out, and then they turn themselves into knots trying to justify their actions/attitudes.  And you just realise that it’s not going to get through, but you can’t understand what is so hard to understand.  I have those a lot, I shouldn’t, but yeah… the willful ignorance just boggles me.

The current puzzler is about food judgement.  I’m really struggling to understand why people can’t see that what other people eat is none of their business, and what they choose to eat doesn’t need to be moralised or proselytised as though it’s the only way to eat.

It’s really simple.  Worry about what’s on your own plate, and what you put in your own mouth (and your own children’s).  If you choose not to eat certain foods, that’s ok.  If there are certain foods that make you unwell, that’s ok.  If there are certain foods that you simply don’t like, that’s ok.

But let’s quit broadcasting messages about food as though there is one true way to eat.

What does this mean?  Well, let’s start with the old social media post.  I am sure you’ve ALL seen them.  The link to some article denouncing sugar as poison, or carbs as the scourge of society, or meat as unnatural.  Or then the new one is the infographic.  Some thing that tells people not to eat processed food, or how many greens they should have, or how much sugar is in something and so on.  Those “pithy” little jpegs or gifs that scatter around Facebook or Tumblr spreading their judgement all over the place.  Why do people post those?  To prove that the way they eat is somehow morally better than people who make different food choices?  To “convert” people to eating the “right” way?  I’m not sure, all I see when they pop up on my social media is someone telling others what to do with their own bodies.

Then there’s the social situation.  There is food available.  Someone doesn’t eat that food for whatever reason.  They don’t just say “No thank you”, instead they say things like “Oh no, I couldn’t, I’ve already been a little pig!”  Or “Oh no, my hips will never forgive me!  I’m already getting fat.”  Or “No, I don’t eat sugar/processed food/carbs/whatever – it’s poison.”  There’s the conversations in the office about what diets people are on.  There are the questions like “Are you sure you need that?”  The outright statements “I can’t eat that, too many calories.”  Or even “Go on, have another slice, you know you want to.” or “Come on, just try some, I’m sure you’ll like it.”

The scenarios are endless, I’m sure you’ve all had examples of your own plenty of times, and you are welcome to share them in the comments.

The thing is, food is such a loaded subject in our current culture.  It has become a moral measure to so many people, and that moralising is now a way people bond.  Recently when challenging someone’s attitude about food moralising I was told “Well if  you don’t talk about anyone other than yourself, you can’t avoid casting judgement.”  I call bullshit on that.  While yes, it’s very easy to slip back into the dominant way of thinking about food and loading it with morality, it’s also easy to be conscious of that judgement and nip it in the bud.  It’s like the matrix – once you’ve taken that red pill and are aware of the reality of just how fucked up judging people for food (and other arbitrary measures), you see it all over the place.  You CAN look at your own thoughts and behaviours and curb them when they’re inappropriate.  You CAN train yourself out of that culturally dominant way of thinking, you just have to be willing to let go of being judgemental of others for abitrary reasons.  Sometimes I think people don’t want to let go of that.

But you CAN let go of that.  You can talk about food (even foods you don’t like or can’t eat) without loading it with moral judgement on others.

To give examples of myself – it is a constant source of teasing from my USian and Canadian friends about how squeamish I am about pumpkin desserts.  The quickest way to get a reaction out of me is to post a pumpkin pie or pumpkin-spiced latte on FB and tag it with my name and they get rewarded with me going “Ewwwww, I can’t!”  It’s just something I personally cannot bear to eat, despite loving pumpkin as a savoury vegetable.  I made friends roar with laughter when I was in the US and I announced, on tasting pumpkin ice-cream that it was “the most disgusting thing I had ever eaten and that’s saying something because I’ve eaten scorpion, grubs, and two different types of testicle!”  But that isn’t saying that it’s “bad” to eat pumpkin desserts, or that other people shouldn’t – just that I don’t like them.  In fact if I’m not getting all squeamy I usually just say “Please feel free to eat my share of pumpkin desserts of the world, I don’t want them!”

Another example is allergies.  I am allergic to sheep.  Yes, I know, I’m weird.  I can’t wear the wool, come in contact with lanolin or eat the meat.  Now if lamb is on the menu somewhere, I simply ask not to have any, because I’m allergic.  The same goes for avocado, which I am also allergic to.  A simple “May I ask if this has avocado in it?” followed by “No thank you, I’m allergic.”  Almost every time the host or other folk will point out something that is avocado free, and then we’re all good.

Or if you really want to make sure you’re not loading food talk with moral judgement, my other method is to just keep repeating myself with a polite “No thank you.”  No matter how many times someone tries to pressure me into eating something that I don’t want, I just keep saying “No thank you.”  If they push you to give a reason, just say “Because I said no thank you.”  They’re going to be the one who looks douchey for pushing the issue, not you for politely refusing.

That doesn’t mean that the topic of food is off the agenda – talk about food.  Talk about how delicious it is, where you found the good stuff, where the food wasn’t so great, who made that delicious recipe, how cute the presentation is, the foods you’ve tried around the world, even the foods you don’t like.  Just don’t load it with moral judgement as you do so.  If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you don’t eat gluten or dairy or sugar for whatever reason – that’s ok.  But please, don’t tell the rest of us we are “evil” or “greedy” or “lazy” for eating differently to you.  A simple “I choose not to eat meat because I don’t feel right eating animals.” or “No sugar for me thanks, it makes me feel really unwell.” is acceptable.  It makes it clear that you have made choices about the food you eat without heaping judgement on anyone else.

Besides, how often do you know who is hearing that moralising?  How often are you sure there’s not someone with an eating disorder around that is triggered by that kind of talk?  Or someone who has a serious medical issue, or someone who is simply broke and can’t afford to pick and choose foods as much as others?  Do you really want to be the douche who makes people feel bad about food when they have enough to deal with already?

But what do you do when you’re in a social setting (either online or off) where someone is going on and on about food, loading it with moral judgement?  Well, that depends on the situation and the person it is.  Sometimes you can be blunt and say “Oh pull your head in, mind your own damn business.”  Other times you might have to have your polite pants on.  Like the workplace or a social situation at someone else’s house.  If you can’t walk away (a very effective response to food moralising sometimes!) there are several things you can say.  You can simply say “That’s ok, you don’t have to eat it, but you don’t need to judge others for choosing to.”  Sometimes I say things like “Hey, eat the chocolate or don’t eat the chocolate, it’s your body, you get to choose what to do with it.” which seems to nip it in the bud too.  Or perhaps “Let’s not put a dampener on the party by policing the food ok?”

I know these aren’t always going to work, there is always going to be that situation where you can’t speak up, and walking away will make a scene that you don’t want to have.  But knowing that you don’t have to carry that moral judgement on your shoulders also helps.  If someone is crapping on about food and loading it with moral judgement, then that’s a reflection on THEM, not a reflection on you.

Your plate is YOUR plate.  Your body is YOUR body.  Keep your food morals to yourself and don’t take on anyone else’s food morals.

The Space We Need

Published December 17, 2012 by sleepydumpling

There’s a new book about fat on the block, and I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy (ask your local library if they’ve got it, if not, ask them if they can get it in for you) and having a read.  It is Fat by Deborah Lupton.

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It’s not perfect, there’s quite a bit of privilege denial (ugh, thin privilege) and she completely misses the point about much of fat activism a fair bit, but it has been giving me some real food for thought.

One of the things it has triggered a lot of thinking about lately is how those of us with fat bodies negotiate our way through the physical spaces of the world.  I got to thinking about just how conscious I am of the space my body takes up, and how I have to negotiate my body in a world that marks me as “abnormal”.  The more I paid attention to it, the more I noticed that almost every aspect of my life is framed around this process of moving my body around in the world.

People with thin privilege do not see that as well as the general stigma and shaming around having a fat body, the act of simply existing in a fat body is something that constantly has to be monitored so as to minimise further shaming and stigma.

Even at home it starts…

The first thing I do in the morning is jump in the shower.  In my flat, the shower stall is quite small, smaller than the one I had in my previous home.  As I get in to the shower, the glass door sometimes swings wide open as I bump it, which means water sprays out onto the bathroom floor.  After my shower I get dressed in clothes that I have had a lot of difficulty to find (correct fit but also clothes that I like and reflect how I wish to dress, and are suitable for the place I intend to wear them).  Once dressed and shod and ready to leave the house, I grab my handbag, which I had some difficulty finding one with a long enough shoulder strap that it would fit cross body, so that I could have my hands free.  As I leave my building I squeeze through a space between the stairwell and the garden edge, that is cut to narrower than my body.

I walk to the train station, often facing abuse that early from cars that pass me, or if nothing else stares when I get to the train station.   I sit down on the benches on the platform.  People usually avoid sitting next to me, and often make it clear that they find me repulsive.  I wait for the train, usually catching up with Twitter while I wait.  Once I get on the train, I am lucky enough to get on at the second station so there are usually plenty of seats.  I sit on one facing the direction of travel, move close to the window and put my bag on my lap or between my feet.  My body, while very large, does not take up more than one seat width, though my shoulders do a little.  I usually read while commuting.  I make my body take up as little space as possible.  As people get on the train, and it begins to fill, I notice them looking for seats anywhere but me.  Some of them sigh or tsk as they pass me.  Many would rather stand, or sit next to a man with his legs widely spread and his newspaper out open than sit next to me, as though my fat is contagious.  I see them staring (I wear sunglasses which hide my eyes so they don’t know which way I am looking) sometimes they nudge the person they are travelling with and not-so-subtly point me out.  Semi-regularly I catch someone photographing me on their smartphone.  Occasionally if I don’t have my iPod on, I hear someone say something like “If it wasn’t for fatso there, we would have more seats.”

When I get to my destination, I leave the train and walk through the station.  I walk down the stairs to the subway, no slower than most other people, but there is always someone who huffs and puffs behind me like I am holding them up.  Usually my speed is determined by the people in front of me, but the eyes on me say “Fatty you’re holding people up.”  Sometimes people even say this out loud.  As I line up for the GoCard gates, I am acutely aware that my body only just fits through the gates, and when I am wearing my bag across my body I have to adjust it to be in front of me so that I fit.

I walk to work, still facing comments, nudges and stares from strangers.  As I walk into my building and get into the elevator, often people eye me up and down, sigh or tsk as if they’re offended at the amount of space I take up in the lift.  When I get to my desk, the standard office chairs are not wide enough between the arms for me to sit comfortably, in fact, they’re not wide enough for MOST people to sit comfortably, almost everyone in the office has a different brand chair to the “standard” but as the fattest woman I’m the one looked at askew for using a different chair.

Anywhere I walk in public I constantly have to be aware of the space I am taking up.  I am expected to apologise for not fitting between groups of people crowding a walkway, or through the gaps in chairs in the building’s food court area if I go to buy a coffee or my lunch.  Furniture is arranged so that it is too narrow for my body to pass through, and I often have to move chairs, squeeze sideways or ask people to move because I don’t fit the designated space for a body.  Bathroom stalls are narrow, the sanitary bins often dig into my side if they are not far back enough.  Meeting anyone in a doorway means that I must again apologise for my size, because we won’t both fit through at the same time.

The kitchen and bathroom basins in our office building force me to lean over them and my belly gets wet from water people have slopped there beforehand and not cleaned up.  If I go into shops, I have to manoeuvre my way around racks, displays and other people who are all closer together than fits my body.  Chairs provided in public spaces are either too narrow for me, or too flimsy or both.  If I go to the movies, the chairs there are uncomfortable, older theatres have narrow seats with inflexible arm rests that dig into my sides, and again I face the constant tsks of disapproval from strangers for sitting in chairs near where they want to sit, even though none of me protrudes out to other chairs except my shoulders, which would be the same if I were thin.  The same goes for restaurants and other places with public seating – either seats are uncomfortable for me, or I get shamed for taking up too much space.

If I want to eat in public, I have to decide whether I have the sanity points to deal with comments people make, or more stares and nudges.  Often some of the rudest comments or behaviour comes from the staff of the place I am purchasing food.  I quickly work out the places I can go where they won’t shame me for buying any food, and never return to those that do, if I have a choice.  In supermarkets, people stare into my trolley/basket and don’t hide their disapproval at finding food in there.  Sometimes they make comments about foods I have chosen, either chastising me if they deem it unhealthy, patronising me if they decide it is healthy.  I have even had people remove food from my trolley, scolding me that I “don’t need it”.  I always use the self checkout units at the supermarket, even if there are cashiers free, because it’s not worth putting up with the comments the cashiers make, or the scrutiny of the shoppers behind me.

It even affects my friendships and relationships.  One ex-boyfriend left me because he couldn’t tolerate the stares and nudges in public.  Several of my friends have told me that they find themselves getting angry when they are out with me, because they see how people behave.  I find myself getting angry after a few hours in a public place like a shopping centre, because I’m sick of being stared at and openly judged, which ruins my enjoyment of time out with my friends.

When I take a walk or a bike ride along the beautiful waterfront parklands near my house, I get more stares, more comments.  People stop me to make patronising comments “encouraging” weight loss.  One afternoon I had stopped at a picnic table to rummage through my bag for my purse when a woman came up to me, indicated I should take my earbuds out and then said “You are doing SO well, keep going and you will lose ALL that weight.”  She didn’t like it when I responded “Mind your own business, I’m quite happy with my body, now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go buy fish and chips for dinner.”   In the heat of the past few weeks I have packed a salad in a lunch box and taken it down to the waterfront picnic tables to eat in the sea breeze, much more pleasant than the heat of my home.  People stare and make comments about “people like that eating”.

Most people parrot “Well just lose weight then!” with no actual experience in what it is like to try to make a fat body smaller, or no true knowledge of how a fat person lives.  They believe the stereotypical myth of fat people rather than take the time to actually know what a fat person’s experiences are, what it is like to live in a fat body or to even believe not just fat people, but science that tells us that 95% of people can not lose weight permanently.  Instead of making the world variable enough to fit all of us, they insist that we make ourselves fit the world.

This is why when someone says for the millionth time “But what about your health!?!” I get angry.  What about our health?  Do people really think that stigma and shaming, and a world that is deeply uncomfortable for fat people is actually good for anyone’s health?  Do they really think that by not allowing us to live our lives in peace and dignity, we’re going to suddenly go “Oh wait!  I should get thin!” as if we have never tried it?  It is also why when people parrot the old “Just put down the cheeseburger and get off the couch” bullshit, I get angry.  Every morsel we eat is policed, and every moment in public is too.  Do they really think that this helps us live full, happy lives?  Do they really believe that they have the RIGHT to intervene in our lives?

There is not a day goes by without these micro-aggressions coming my way, as they do for  most very fat people.  I don’t share these things so that people feel sorry for me, that’s not what I want at all.  I want to highlight just how fat stigma and shaming forces fat people to spend their whole lives mitigating unpleasant, embarrassing or painful incidents caused by a culture that refuses to share its space with them.  There IS plenty of space for all of us, big or small, on this planet.  The problem is that fatness has been so demonised, so dehumanised that everyday people feel they have the right to be police AND judge, jury and executioner for fat people in the world.

I never feel discomfort because of my fat body.  I constantly feel discomfort because of the way the world treats me and refuses to accommodate me  because of my fat body.

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Published November 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here.  There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky.  I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.

It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.  In those years, my life has radically changed.  I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago.  I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”.  I no longer apologise for being the size I am.  I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat.  And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.

I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather.  That astonished me.  Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered?  There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup.  Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door.  If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free.  On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.

As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in.  No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water.  Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.

I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour.  I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen.  I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement.  Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.

Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt.  From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours.  I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly.  I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses.  I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it.  Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses.  When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs.  Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.

In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear.  Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.  I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating.  Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake.  I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate.  I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy.  I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.

When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body.  My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall.  The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body.  Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life.  I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life.  I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits.  They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body.  Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples.  I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.

This is the first phase of fat liberation for me.  I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave.  My choices are mine.  My body is mine.  My life is mine.  I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

I wish that for each and every one of you.

Om Nom Nom

Published October 13, 2012 by sleepydumpling

One of the most powerful forms of fat activism is to reclaim your right to eat and enjoy food.  Fat people have their food choices and eating policed constantly, from the constant barrage of marketing and media that labels food as either bad/sinful/unhealthy or good/virtuous/healthy, to the passing comments on what you are eating.  I could write volumes on comments that have been made to me about my food and eating from both people who I know and complete strangers.  A few of my favourites include:

  • the elderly woman who didn’t bother to lower her voice as she walked past me eating a fruit salad outside a cafe and said in a disgusted tone “People like that should just not eat, ever.”
  • The colleague years ago who tried to take my Slurpee off me in the elevator because he decided that it was bad for me.  He wasn’t joking.
  • The colleague who used to stalk me at lunch time and stare intently at me while I ate my lunch, her eyes travelling from my plate to my mouth with each bite and then say “I couldn’t eat that, it has too many calories.”
  • The two women who loudly said “Oh God, how disgusting is she?” while I sat eating a chicken and salad meal with my then boyfriend (who was very thin) who was eating a steak-burger, chips, a meat pie and a large thickshake AND was picking food off my plate.
  • The woman who thought I couldn’t hear her in the supermarket because I had my earbuds in, who looked in my shopping basket (that particular day only contained yoghurt, toilet paper and toothpaste) and said to her daughter “That’s what happens when you eat too much rubbish food.”
  • The old boss that said “You need to stop thinking about food” when I worriedly asked my visibly tired, stressed colleague when he was going to go take his lunch break, which he clearly needed.

I’m sure many of you can supply your own examples of the douchey, insensitive, invasive things people do and say to you as a fat person, on the topic of food and eating.

But that is not what this post is about.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram (username FatHeffalump) may have noticed that I use the #freefatty hashtag a lot, when I post pictures of food.  My aim is to reclaim my freedom to eat, to enjoy food, to share and celebrate food, without allowing anyone to shame or lecture me for my choices.  Sadly, that constitutes a radical act these days, when it really shouldn’t.  I mean other than to enjoy “breaking bread” with someone, or to share food experiences, who gives a fuck what other people eat right?  But our entire culture is geared to load shame and moral value to what people eat (or don’t eat).  I refuse to buy into that.  I’m not going to justify what I eat.  I’m not going to make excuses for eating things that are considered “unhealthy” or “sinful” or “junk”.  Nor am I going to crow or brag about eating something considered “healthy” or “virtuous”.  I’m going to share my food choices either because they look good, taste amazing, are celebratory or are just interesting for whatever reason.  It might just be because it’s part of my day and I like sharing my life with my friends and fellow Tweeters/Tumblrers/Instagrammers.

So today, I’m going to dedicate this blog post to sharing some photos of food I’ve eaten over the past few months (since I got into Instagram and have the photos to share) and talk about what I was doing when I ate them.  I encourage  you to talk about this food, and food you’ve eaten recently in the comments.  Tell me about the most delicious thing  you’ve eaten recently.  Talk about one of the photos below.  Tell your own story about food.  Let’s be radical and reclaim our right to food and eating Heffalumpies!

Bike snack.

I often take snacks with me when I ride my bike, I particularly like cheese, crackers and dried fruit.  They’re easy to pack, tasty and don’t create any rubbish I have to bring home with me.

French toast

French toast is one of my easy meals when I get home from work after a hard day.  How do you have your French toast?  When I was a kid it was always a savoury thing, served with salt and vinegar.  I still eat it that way if I cook it for myself, but I do love to have it as a sweet dish with maple syrup or lemon syrup if I go out for brunch or something.

Choccies!

It was a really intense time at work so my colleague brought along a box of chocs for us to share in our team meeting.  I’m not a big fan of Favourites, but I have been known to pick out the Flake or Moro minis from them.  If I buy boxed chocolates for the team at work, I usually buy Darrell Lea soft centres.

Wednesday morning breakfast.

We have farmer’s markets outside my office building every Wednesday, and I’ve got into the habit of getting a sour cherry danish from the Italian bakery stall each Wednesday morning, which I have with my regular cup of coffee.  Yes, I drink my coffee black – at least I do when it’s instant or plunger coffee.  I don’t mind a latte (made on lactose free or skim milk – I don’t drink a lot of milk) if I am getting espresso coffee.  These danish are amazing – so tangy!

You don’t win friends with salad! You don’t win friends with salad!

This was a salad I made myself for dinner one night.  It was mixed greens, roasted capsicum, shredded carrot and beetroot and crunchy noodles with a mango dressing.  It was sooooo good.  I want one now in fact!

I went out for brunch with some friends at the Lagoon Coffee Lounge here at Sandgate, and ordered this amazing breakfast.  Brunch is one of my favourite meals.  Especially if it involves mushrooms.

Fat woman eating ice-cream – NOOOOO!!

Yes, this fatty loves ice-cream.  Particularly rum and raisin.  There is a gelateria on the waterfront here at Sandgate and I’ve only ever been there twice since I moved here.  I picked this up one Sunday afternoon on my way back from a walk along the waterfront.  It was SO GOOD!

Mjolnir macerates strawberries perfectly.

Also purchased from the Wednesday farmer’s markets are these gorgeous strawberries from Kandara farm.  They are so much better than any of the supermarket stuff.

Gina’s Pastizzi

My friend Gina makes THE most amazing pastizzi.  She worked in our office for a month and spoiled us by bringing in a huge container of these.

Tacolicious!

Decent Mexican food has been nigh on impossible to find in Australia, but now that Guzman Y Gomez stores are popping up all over the place, it has got so much better.  It’s not very often I get to go to one, but I was in the Wintergarden for something a few weeks ago, so I had to stop there for lunch.

Wow!

My friends Di, Kerri and I went to the Beaudesert show (like a carnival or fair for you non-Aussies) and the big food tradition at Beaudesert show is pavlova with strawberries and cream from the Jimboomba scout association.  They’ve been doing that stand at the Beaudesert show for as long as I can remember, and it’s always a massive hit every year.  This was a small serve!

Quack!

I don’t really need to say anything about this photo do I?  Except that you can see the magnet I got from Weta Caves in New Zealand (Frodo’s sword, Sting) and one from Colombia that my friend’s Roberto and Elena brought back for me.

Looks like kibble, I know.

I keep this rice cracker stuff in a Tupperware container at work for snacks.  It’s great for when I want something a bit crunchy.  It’s cheap too, I pick it up from the Golden Circle outlet when I can in big 2kg bags that last me forever.

The ultimate comfort food.

Bangers and mash with onion gravy.  Is there anything more comforting?  While the weather was cold I’d have this about once a week, it’s easy to cook, the leftovers are delicious and it tastes great.

Fancy dinin’!

I had a day out with some ladies I met through Bookcrossing a few weeks ago.  We went to the Mummy exhibit and the Queensland Museum, and also had a look at the Gwen Gillam (local fashion designer from the 50’s/60’s/70’s) exhibit, and then had lunch at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) Bistro.  I had this AMAZING hazelnut crusted pork cutlet on roasted kumara and onions.  WOW.

Another Aussie tradition – Neenish tarts.

It’s lovely when a colleague shows appreciation.  One of the fab library folk brought in a container of these for me a couple of weeks ago.  These are Neenish tarts.  I have know idea where Neen is or how Neenish tarts came about, so let’s ask Wikipedia.

Thai prawn stirfry with cashews and jasmine rice.

Tiramisu

These two go together.  My lovely friend Vonnie and her husband Callum and their son Ewan were visiting Queensland a couple of weeks ago on holidays, and we met up for dinner.  Vonnie is one of the first friends I made on the internet – we met through a SeaChange (Australian TV show) mailing list a LONG time ago, and I visited her in Melbourne 9 years ago when she invited me to her wedding after having only met me once before when she and Callum were visiting Brisbane.  Their wedding was one of the most beautifully relaxed and truly special events I have ever been to.  As Vonnie is a vegetarian, Callum is a meat-eating truck driver and Ewan is a small boy with the usual small boy dietary requirements, I took them to Jo-Jo’s here in Brisbane because they have a really broad variety of meals, and are kid friendly.  I almost always have their Thai prawn stirfry with cashews and jasmine rice when I go there, it’s that good and has been on their menu for at least 20 years.  I had a wonderful evening with them all, I wish we lived closer together so I could see them more often.

This is yakisoba.  It is usually what I have for lunch on the day I don’t bring it in from home.  I love Japanese food, it’s so tasty and chock full of veges.

Food for the brain and the body.

At least once on a weekend I try to take my lunch and a book down to the waterfront for a couple of hours relaxed reading.  This is last Saturday’s fare – Tom Cho and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Team Breakfast

Every now and then my team at work take time out together to have breakfast before work.  We particularly like the Java Coast Cafe on George Street.  I cannot tell you how good that wilted spinach (under the grilled tomato) is!  The mushrooms are amazing too.  It’s good for us, we get some time to talk about something other than work, and remember that we are all people outside of work.  It keeps us a tight, strong team.

Last one!  This was my breakfast/brunch this morning.  Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, and a latte.  A couple of times per month I take myself (and my book of course) off for brunch on a weekend.  I like the aforementioned Lagoon Coffee Lounge – you can see why by this delicious breakfast!

Ok, so over to you.  Tell me about a meal or dish you’ve had, something you’ve cooked, or a tasty snack you love.  Please remember that there will be no moralising about food, no deeming it good/bad and no judgement of what other people eat.  And most importantly NO DIET TALK!

Bon appetit!

How Much of Our Lives Do We Waste?

Published August 23, 2012 by sleepydumpling

It happens almost every day.  Sitting at the communal lunch table, usually playing Pocket Frogs or reading a book while I eat my lunch, I hear it start up…

“Oh, market day is my downfall, I turn into such a piggy-wig!”

“I don’t eat dairy, gluten or sugar.  You know they’re poison and make you fat.”

“Well, I did go for a run yesterday, so I guess I can have bread today.”

“Ohhhhh, that looks so yummy, but if I eat anything like that, I just get SO fat!”

“How many calories/carbs are in that?”

“You’re so naughty, good on you!”

I could go on and on and on with the kind of anxiety and analysing of food and eating that I hear every day from people (mostly women) all around me at meal times.  Women often use angst about food to bond with each other and you cannot get away from almost constant analysis and judgement of food and what other people are eating.  And don’t get me started on the amount of judgement over what fat people are eating, yeesh!  I have heard so many stories of fatties having complete strangers stop them in the supermarket to berate them over the contents of their shopping trollies, or being commented on in public for eating ANYTHING.  You can’t eat a salad, because that garners comments on how you must be doing it to lose weight, and you can’t eat an ice-cream because then you’re a gluttonous pig.  It’s a no win situation for fatties and food.  I have so many of my own experiences being shamed about food and eating by both complete strangers and people in my life, we could be here for a week.

What I wonder though, is how much of our time and energy are we as women wasting on thinking about food?  Because it seems, the more people put judgement on food and eating, the more time they spend thinking about food.  In my experience, the women who make the most judgemental statements, like I have listed above, are the ones who constantly talk about food.  And I’ve noticed my own behaviour change as I’ve removed all that angst and judgement about food from my own life.  Back in my dieting days, food was all I thought about.  Because I couldn’t have it, and because it all had so many rules and regulations and conditions, I would obsess over the food I wasn’t eating, all the time.  I have made all of those statements listed above at some time, and many more.  I would spend hours justifying every morsel I ever ate, every rice cracker, every celery stick, every raw almond.  Conversations over meals were all about how I had “earned” the food or I how I was “naughty” for eating something.

Basically, I not only wasted a whole lot of time, but I was a crashing bore too.  I mean really, isn’t there something more interesting to talk about over a meal?  Or if we’re going to talk about food, how about we talk about it without all the moralising?  About it’s flavour, it’s texture, where it was sourced from, how it was prepared.  Or perhaps we could talk about how some people have access to higher quality food than others, usually based on wealth.  Anything has to be better than putting false morality on food and eating.

Personally, I have embraced the #freefatty philosophy.  I refuse to be judged for my food and eating choices, and refuse to participate in the moralising of food and eating.  Plus, I refuse to justify what I eat.  I don’t need to provide a reason for eating either a salad or an ice cream.  It’s my body and my life.  If other people think I shouldn’t eat something, they can mind their own damn business.  While I’m still having to work on undoing a lifetime of baggage around food and eating, I am finding the more I let go of that judgement around food and eating, both for myself and for others, the less obsessive and anxious I am about food and eating.

Part of the oppression of fat people lies in the constant demand for us to justify our food choices.  We have to constantly prove we are being “good” because we’re fat, we’re not allowed to ever eat anything that is perceived as “bad”.  People watch every morsel that we eat (and they do, I can’t tell you the number of times someone has tried to “out” me for eating something that is “bad” or “unhealthy”) and place judgement on us for whatever it is.  Ask yourself, how often have you heard someone describe a slim woman eating say, ice-cream as “sexy”, yet in the next breath, referred to a fat woman eating the EXACT same thing as “gross”?  How often do you see comments from fat haters that say “Just put down the cheeseburger.”?

Firstly, what other people eat is no business of anyone but themselves.  It comes under the “If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.” rule.  So we don’t need to justify our food choices.  Secondly, I’m sure we all have things we’d much rather be doing than obsessing over food.  What can we do with our time and energy if we don’t waste it on angst and analysis of every morsel that we put in our mouths?

We Don’t Imagine It, We See It

Published March 26, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I noticed the old woman at the table beside me first. Watching every morsel of food I put in my mouth with a look of disgust on her face.

Then I notice the two guys in high vis vests, their hard hats on seats beside them, nudge each other and look my way.

So I sit back and start to observe people around me.

I’m sitting in the food court of a large suburban shopping centre, somewhere I rarely visit, on my lunch break from work. We’re working on a big new project due to open this week, which is a high pressure, messy environment, that I thought I’d take some time away from over my lunch break.

As I look around me, I would estimate that at least 90%, possibly more of the people here are not fat. There are a handful of we fatties, dotted around the place.

At the nearby McDonalds, there are about 20 people lined up. Only one of them is a fat person. Not an eyelash is batted at the not-fat people lined up, ordering their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and shakes. However the fat man is attracting sneers and giggles, all eyes glance over him and none of them bother to hide their disgust, disdain or their ridicule. Even the people ordering burgers and shakes themselves are staring and sneering at the man, lined up at the very same fast food restaurant as they are.

This scrutiny and public judgement is nothing unusual for those of who live in fat bodies. Most of us are used to it, many of us ignore it, simply because it is nothing unusual. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Quite often we are told “You’re just too sensitive.” or “I think you imagine it.” On the rare occasion that someone who is not fat notices, they respond like its an anomaly, just the occasional rude jerk one encounters. Or they say “Just ignore it.” as if it is the singular occurrence of the day.

In my own case, I’m told that people sneer and stare because of my brightly coloured hair, tattoos and clothing. As if that is somehow a suitable excuse for their behaviour. But I can assure you that I got the stares and sneers back when I was a fat brown mouse, doing everything I could to be invisible to the world.

The truth is, in this “anti-obesity” culture, people are taught to sneer, stare and ridicule. They are taught that people like me are a scourge on society, that we are burden to humanity. You only need to look at the comments on my recent piece in The Hoopla (if you have the sanity points) to see someone refer to me (and people like me) as revolting, using up the public health system, slothful, idle and an overeater. Despite knowing nothing more about me than I have a fat body (though one claimed to know all about me from this blog, my twitter, though I think it’s my photos of myself as a fat woman she is judging me on) the judgement has been passed on my value as a human being.

Living with that amount of scrutiny and judgement is like physically carrying a load on your back. When you hear people referring to fat people as “struggling with their weight”, the reality is that our struggle is with the weight of society’s judgement and scrutiny, not with the weight on our bodies.

I can only speak for myself when I say that physically, I do not feel limited or as if I need to struggle to do anything in my fat body. But the pressure of being under constant scrutiny and subjected to the assumptions and judgements of complete strangers is a burden to bear. I am quite sure however that I am not the only one who feels like this.

What really bothers me are the double standards. Thin people who eat fast food are considered “lucky” that they are “naturally thin”, yet no matter what a fat person eats, by default they must be lazy and greedy, with denial and stupidity thrown in for extra measure. Nobody ever suggests that inverse to the lucky/naturally thin that humans can be unlucky/naturally fat. Nobody demands thin people who are sedentary and/or eat fast food (or a lot of food) change their lives and “get healthy” because they are “costing us money with their unhealthy habits” – quite the opposite, they’re cheered on for their habits. Two people, both living the same lifestyle, can have vastly different life experiences if one is thin and the other is fat.

These double standards and snap judgements of people’s value based on their body size don’t help anyone. They don’t make fat people thin, they don’t encourage healthy behaviours and they certainly don’t change the number of people needing health care in our society.

All they do is allow some people to feel superior to others, which to me, is a pretty screwed up way to look at the world.

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