Food Judgement or The Post in Which I Make too Many Bad Food Puns

Published December 20, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ahh food, we fatties just can’t get enough of it, can we?

I have always had a love/hate relationship with food.  Being someone who is highly sensory (particularly tactile, taste and smell) means that food can give me a whole lot of pleasure.  But being a fat woman, in a body that she has fought against for most of her life, food has also been fraught with peril for me in my past.  Food was the enemy for most of my life until recently.  I still have some serious issues with it, but I’m working through those.  It’s no secret that I have a lifetime of eating disorders behind me, with yo-yo dieting, starvation periods and a lot of food demonisation.  Food for me was the bad guy.  Either food in general or specific foods, for the bulk of my life, I’ve had some beef with food (see what I did there?)

While I still struggle with the food demons, they don’t win any more.  They pop up, give me some curry (oh lawdy I did it again!) and I chase them away with a whole bunch of strategies I have built up over time.  I might even blog about those later.

Today though, I want to talk about a few particular issues I have with the way a whole lot of people, including myself in the past, think about food.  So let’s get into it huh?

This *insert food* is so sinful.

Oh that old chestnut (somebody stop me!)  Here’s the thing.  Food has no moral value.  It doesn’t think, it doesn’t do or behave or respond.  It’s just food.  You actually aren’t going to go to hell if you eat it.  Or if you don’t eat it for that matter.  Nor is the world going to stop spinning, the oceans boil over or a lightning bolt hit you from the sky.  Food is either of use to you (because it fills your belly, or tastes good, or gives you nutrients, or makes you feel good, or whatever other use it may carry out) or it isn’t.  Either eat it, or don’t.  But don’t moralise or demonise it because all that does is cast judgement on those who do eat it.

Oh *insert food* can barely be called food.

Really?  Is it edible?  Then it’s food.  You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.  But you don’t need to judge other people for eating it.

Cooking for yourself and your family is showing them love.

This one really gets to me too.  Yes, cooking for people, including yourself, can be showing them love and affection.  But if someone doesn’t cook, for whatever reasons, perhaps they don’t know how or don’t have time, or just hate it, doesn’t mean they don’t love their family or themselves.

Do you really need that *insert food*?

No, I don’t.  I just want it.  Or maybe I do need it.  Either way, it’s none of your damn business.

Tsk!  Can you believe people still eat/feed their kids McDonalds/KFC/*insert fast food brand*?

Yes I can.  It’s cheap.  It fills you up.  It tastes good.  It’s easy to obtain with no preparation needed.  IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Everybody knows that raw/whole foods are so much more nutritionally valuable/taste better.

No they don’t.  Just because you’ve read that, doesn’t mean everyone else has.  Maybe they don’t have access to the internet or fancy cable TV programmes.  Maybe they don’t have time to watch Jamie Oliver or Michael Pollan or any other food “educator”.  Perhaps they do know, but they don’t have raw/whole available to them.  Perhaps they don’t like the taste.  Perhaps all of their friends and family eat processed food, and they’ve never tasted anything else.  Perhaps they just prefer the damn box of Mac ‘n Cheese to the organically and locally grown beets, hormone-free chicken and raw milk.  Wait for it… wait for it… IT’S NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS!

Sugar/High Fructose Corn Syrup/any other food for that matter is poison.

Maybe.  But so is parsley.  Just ask a chicken.  Or onions.  Ask a dog.  Or lettuce.  Ask me.  If it makes you sick, don’t eat it.  But don’t judge other people for choosing to eat it.

I’ve been good all week, so I can have that piece of *insert food here*.

So are you saying those people who haven’t done as much exercise or avoided eating certain foods can’t have a piece?  Remember, your measurement of “deserving” isn’t the same as other peoples.  Just have the food or don’t, there’s no need to put moral value on it.

Oh no thanks, I’ll just watch you eat it.

This one really, really burns my bread (stop it Kath, just stop it).  Not only is it rude, it’s really insensitive.  Having people watch me eat is really triggering and puts me off my food in a matter of moments.  Even when they’re not intentionally doing it.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Many people, especially those with eating disorders in their past, have had their eating scrutinised to the nth degree and don’t need someone sitting there ogling them while they eat.  Leave them alone and let them eat in peace.  Either you enjoy their company and be damned what they eat, or leave them alone.

I ate SOOOOO much!  I’m such a pig!

Way to cast indirect judgement on what others eat as well.  Ok so you ate too much, it happens, maybe now you feel sick/bloaty/uncomfortable.  But keep the judgement out of it.  You’re not a pig, nor is anyone else who eats too much.

Locally grown food is so much cheaper than anything else, you just have to make effort to get it.  Don’t be lazy.

Not everyone is able to spare the time, energy and effort to source locally grown food.  Perhaps they work long hours.  Maybe they don’t have transport.  Perhaps parking is expensive.  Maybe they can’t stand crowded places.  Or perhaps they just prefer the stuff they can get at their local major supermarket.  That doesn’t mean they’re lazy or deserve judgement for choosing to do so.


These are just a few of the food judgements that really drive me nuts.  And yet I used to indulge in them myself.  Some of them still sneak up on me occasionally, when I’m tired or upset or stressed or my self esteem is wavering.  But doing them to oneself is one thing.  Casting these judgements on others is a whole different kettle of fish (oh look, it happened again) and people who do this just have to butt the hell out of other people’s lives.  As I’ve said several times above, what other people eat or don’t eat is not any of your damn business.  If you want to restrict, eliminate, diet, whatever, go for it.  It’s your body and you get to choose how you feed it.  I believe strongly in body autonomy and don’t believe I have any right to tell people how to eat (or not eat).

It’s when those choices are touted as the “right” way to eat that gets my hackles up.  There is no right or wrong way.  There is your way, sometimes it matches others’ way, sometimes it doesn’t.  Keep your judgement and moralising out of other people’s lives and bodies.

What are your pet peeves with the food police and privileged “foodies”?  Do you have any strategies for responding to them or cutting out the judgement that is placed on food?  Share in the comments below.


68 comments on “Food Judgement or The Post in Which I Make too Many Bad Food Puns

  • Okay, so, this is going to sound like I’m trolling, but I mean this from a perfectly sincere place. (I’ve written and presented papers about FA, I take this all very seriously, and so and so forth, here is my ID card.)

    Before I slipped back into academia, I was a working restaurant cook and I still work part time with a catering company. Judging food is part of my life, and, dare I say, my art. I am well trained, I’m good at what I do, blah blah blah. I love it. I love food, making it and eating it.

    The sort of food hate that you get in w/ service industry people is a little bit different — waaaaay less hate for fat and salt, for instance, but you still have a lot of the lingering classist “that’s not really food” and “anyone can cook” nonsense. That’s not what I’m asking about. More my issue is, is it ever okay, from a SA/FA point of view, to say that some food is bad? Like KFC popcorn chicken! (I had it the other day, roll with me) It’s over salted, too dry, has a weird coating. It’s not very good, in my professional opinion! Is that judgment problematic?

    The obvious answer is no, not if you don’t slip and cast aspersions on the people eating the food (the food is shitty, therefore you have shitty taste/are immoral/ etc), but I don’t think it is that easy. Several things you have listed up there as problems have the same form as my criticism — there is a quality about x food that makes it lesser, that makes it bad. Is the sort of aesthetic judgment that I made before hand the same? How can I avoid being an asshole about it?

    Is this all tl;dr nonsense? Probably.

    • Becca I don’t equate personal taste with food judgement. Whether or not you like something isn’t the same as casting judgement on others for eating it (or not eating it, in the case of so-called “healthy” food).

      Saying “I didn’t like the KFC popcorn chicken I ate the other day, it tasted gross.” or “I had a meal at X restaurant last night, it was really bad!” isn’t the same as saying “Why do people eat KFC when they know it’s bad for you?” Do you get what I mean?

      • The thing is, what I’m talking about is not /quite/ personal taste. Obviously it has an element of it there, but at least in my opinion, a lot of is not.

        The KFC chicken /is/ oversalted. I’ve had dishes at restaurants that are just /not good./ That doesn’t mean that somebody can’t like it, but it is the same thing as an artist looking at a drawing and saying, “wow, those hands are totally out of proportion” or something. It is an aesthetic judgment, not a taste based one.

        My conflict is that I respect food enough that that feels necessary. Cooking is work, it is hard, it takes skill — removing our ability to say “that dish is bad” seems to strip that away.

        • I’m going to disagree with you on this one becca. KFC is oversalted for you. (and yes, for me too if I’m honest) It may not be for someone else, they may like really salty chicken. That is personal taste. Casting judgement on someone for having different personal taste to you is to me, just snobbery. Nobody’s removing your ability to dislike a food. But I am indeed calling out people for casting judgement on others who disagree with their dislike of a food.

          I also feel the same way about art, or music, or books, or clothing. If you don’t like something, that doesn’t make it any less art, or music, or clothing, or whatever else you can subject taste to. Maybe the hands *are* way out of proportion. Maybe that’s what someone likes about it. Perhaps something being flawed is what gives it’s appeal.

          An example of when I screwed up and cast some shitty judgement on someone’s food tastes was when I was in the US, a friend was desperate to share White Castle with me. She told me it would be the most delicious junk food I had ever eaten, that I was going to love it. We went to White Castle, I got some of the famed sliders that she so loves, took one bite and was so repulsed at how greasy it was and the smell… oh God the smell! I really, really had to fight not to gag. Unfortunately, I behaved like an ass. I asked “How can you eat that crap?” and referred to it as “not food” and a whole bunch of other Judgey McJudgersons things. Nowdays, I’m really embarrassed that I behaved like that. What does it hurt me if she likes that food? And it is food, it’s not food I like, but it’s food. She would never have forced me to continue eating it, or thought less of me because I didn’t like it when she did. But I cast my judgement of the food on her, which was really wrong of me. I get it now.

          Ok let’s take it away from food. I cannot stand Angelina Jolie as an actress. But loads of people think she’s a fantastic actress. I can’t cast judgement on those people for being ignorant or uneducated or whatever because they like her and I don’t. What is it of my business if my friend really loves Angelina Jolie as an actress? She’s not forcing me to watch her, or telling me I just HAVE to like her.

          What it boils down to is that taste is subjective. What you consider “worthy” is not necessarily the same as someone else would consider so. And I’ll say it again. People need to keep their judgement and moralising out of other people’s lives.

      • Okay, I’m about to get a little philosophical, because there is a reason I left working in kitchens for grad school. I’m not a giant fan of Kant’s aesthetics, but he makes this useful distinction between things being agreeable and being beautiful. If something is agreeable, it appeals to the person eating it – it is an intuitive, almost instantaneous judgment, unrelated to rational or critical argumentation. I don’t like KFC popcorn chicken! If someone was to say, well, you like flour, and you like spices, and you like chicken and salt and oil and oh yeah, normal KFC fried chicken, there is no rational way for you to not like their popcorn chicken AND food is simply a matter of taste, then well, okay, fine. It’s subjective, it doesn’t matter, I don’t really need to justify why I don’t like KFC chicken.

        Anyway, you say:

        What it boils down to is that taste is subjective.

        Yes! Okay, amen. That’s fine. Up to this point we agree. The problem is that Kant has this other category – beauty. Aesthetic judgment, which is about something different than taste. So, for instance, I don’t like KFC popcorn chicken because the balance between the chicken and the coating overwhelms the chicken; the seasoning is too extensive and prevents it from tasting like chicken; the coating is thick and unbalanced, leading to an unpleasant mouth feel. The coating appears to be intended to be eaten with a dressing, but that’s difficult and unwieldy when you are driving, which is clearly a significant part of the snack.

        You may argue that is also personal taste, and while it is, in part, it is also a statement about how well the chicken meets the category of “good food,” a category that I have been trained to participate in and judge.

        Food is a tricky category to make this distinction in, because we quite literally “taste” food. The normal models of interacting with food, especially if you aren’t in the industry, are entirely taste based and not aesthetic.

        So, for instance, moving it out of the realm of food. I love the music of Justin Timberlake – my best friend hates him, he gets on her nerves in that indefinable way that things do. Nevertheless, she studies music, and she will concede that Futuresex/Lovesounds is a well constructed pop-album. The production is good, he has a good falsetto, and the song-writing is adequate for her purposes. Nevertheless, she changes the track on my ipod whenever it comes on. She just doesn’t like pop – she doesn’t like the genre. But she acknowledges that the genre exists and has methods of judgment and adjudication.

        I like the genre of fast food! Good fast food is great (sign me up for some Micky-Ds fries, and even their nuggets pull it off better than you’d expect), but KFC popcorn chicken does not have the qualities that make up

        I think that even though, you are a hundred percent right here:

        What you consider “worthy” is not necessarily the same as someone else would consider so. And I’ll say it again. People need to keep their judgement and moralising out of other people’s lives.

        We should be able to judge aesthetics, or the art itself becomes meaningless. I recognize this is tricky, though, and I have yet to find a model that doesn’t slip between judging people and judging the art (or food, in any case). It does strike me as important, though, that we be able to make that latter judgment.

      • Wow. That’s a whole lot of patronising you’ve slapped down there becca. You’re very important there, leaving working in lowly kitchens to go to grad school, aren’t you? I’ll try to make my little librarian brain understand your big philosophy concepts.

        What makes you, or anyone else, able to give the definitive judgement on taste and/or beauty? On whether or not something is good or bad? Why do you think your judgement of something is somehow more valuable than that of anyone else?

        You can quote Kant all you like (whom, I’ll admit, to my taste, was a bit of a wanker, but you’re within your rights to find it to your taste) but when it boils down to it, beauty is just as subjective as taste. The very piece of music, or painting, or meal, that one person finds the very embodiment of beauty can be an ugly old lump of nothing to the next.

        Again, you can try to pass it off as “aesthetics” all you like, but all I’m seeing is that big ole PRIVILEGE. Ooh yes, you’ve got an education and get to read big books by Kant – clearly that makes your judgement of something far more important than say, someone who works a 40 hour week in a manual labour job, and hauls their tired butt home to their kids at the end of the day, via the drive through of KFC.

        You, nor me, nor anyone else on the face of this planet gets to be the final arbiter or what is good taste or bad for anyone other than themselves.

      • I genuinely apologize for my tone. I did not intend to be patronizing, but I understand how it was read that way. I love this blog and I think you are fantastically intelligent, and I really regret ever implying that I did not.

        I don’t want to get into a fight with you, because I respect you and your thoughts and this blog. I’m trying to apologize as sincerely as I know how, but the text only thing makes it difficult. I was genuinely shocked by your offense and I’m a little flabbergasted here, so let me know if I’m reading as condescending again.

        Nowhere did I say that I thought working in kitchens was lowly. I intended that as a self-depricating joke, but oops. I loved working in kitchens, which was a forty (plus) hour a week manuel labor job, and I like grad school and really, none of that is relevant.

        The only reason I brought up Kant is because I found his distinction analytically useful because I /agree/ with you. Nobody but themselves can be an arbiter of taste. Nobody should judge the person that takes their kids to KFC! I go to KFC! I just went and got McDonalds a few hours ago, actually! (this is like a perverse reversal of every other good fattie discussion i have ever been in).

        And perhaps using the word “beautiful” was my initial mistake. What I mean is that I think that aesthetic discussions are valuable. I think it is valuable to be able to say that x piece of art is a good example of classical roman sculpture, or whatever, and this other piece of art is a terrible example of film noir. That doesn’t speak to whether or not it is legitimate for someone to like it — it doesn’t even mean the initial judgment is static! I just think the discussions of genre, aesthetics, skill and all that nonsense are key for at least some people’s enjoyment of art. I mean, without the ability to make the minor judgments I’m talking about, art criticism, literary criticism, and maybe even art history go out the window.

        I sorta think that is important and this discussion is sort of the reason that I posted in the first place. I think food is art. I think an element of it can be discussed like you’d discuss a novel or a painting. But it is such a delicate and difficult conversation. And obviously, my desire to even have a conversation about this sort of criticism is very privileged, but I dunno. I think it is important. Some of the blogs on my rss feed talk about True Blood and feminism, which is privileged, but still important.

        Do you not think that the type of criticism I’m talking about is worth discussing? Do you think that there can be no way to make judgment about food or art without insulting people? Am I still being an asshole?

        If you don’t feel like I’m adding to the conversation or anything, please let me know and I’ll shut up.

      • @Becca: Again, I see your point, however, I think Kath’s point (and even if it’s not, my point) is that the people who are making these aesthetic judgments have a huge wad of privilege. To even be in a position to appreciate food aesthetically is a privilege. Hell, to even know what “aesthetic” means and how to spell it is a privilege! The people who eat KFC (including me), aren’t eating it for it’s “aesthetic appeal”. Personally, I eat it because I think it tastes good and it’s convenient. Most people are not in the same position as you are. I’m not sure if you’re misunderstanding Kath’s use of “good” and “bad’ to describe food, or just trying to show that those labels can be used in a different way – but it still comes down to a matter of taste. All aesthetic criticism is a matter of taste, when you look at it closely.

        You also tread a fine line, because if you think something is “poor taste” or “bad art”, and you meet someone who likes it, what do you think of that person, honestly? Do you think you know better than they do? (I’m not being confrontational here, I’m just trying to get you to look at how you perceive this – I certainly think I know better than the people who like Twilight or Justin Bieber, and it’s an attitude I’m trying to change).

      • @Jen D

        What you are saying makes a ton of sense, and I’m trying to find a way to articulate what I’m trying to say correctly.

        Yes, talking about food as an aesthetic product is a proposition that already has a a lot of privilege built in, the same way learning music theory and learning about what makes a “well-constructed song” involves a lot of privilege. Now, personally, I know very little about music. I like certain things, I don’t like other things, Justin Bieber annoys me, but I still listen to the pop stars of my tweens. I approach music as a matter of taste.

        But my friend (who I referred to earlier) loves music, plays more instruments than I can remember at the moment, is absolutely brilliant. I nod and smile when she goes off about how heavy metal and classical music are the same, or whatever. She approaches music in a fundamentally different way than I do — the way that I have been calling aesthetic as opposed to taste-based. The fact that she can involves privilege. My parents couldn’t afford to give me music lessons when she was a kid, hers could — my brain doesn’t work that way, hers does. She’s also good at math and I’m not. I don’t resent her ability and desire to engage with music on a different level than I do and I have zero interest in learning enough about music to be on that level. At the same time, though, I think it is valid when she hooks up with her music wonk friends and argues about whether or not something is a good example of Baroque, or whether or not John Cage is any good. That discussion has a large element of taste, but it relies on the ability to say, X is true, here is my argument as to why, without the discussion being completely foreclosed by the response, “well, that’s just your opinion.”

        Music for her is food for me. I have and do cook professionally, I read a ton about food, writing about food keeps slipping into my academic work. I bought myself a cookbook for Christmas and I couldn’t help myself from opening it early. I read it like others might read porn. I know more about food that most people. I cook better than most people, in the sense that I can probably cook more things, more consistently. This is a reflection of the particular set of privileges that I have and embody. It also means that I probably interact with food in a different way than other people might. The types of discussions that my friend has with her music buddies, I have with my coworkers. We argue about whether or not “artisan salt” can be tasted in a completed dish or if doesn’t matter and we should just use diamond krystal; we argue about whisking techniques, and the best method for making hollandaise, and if cheese cloth makes a difference when you make a bouquet garnie.

        That’s different, but not better. The only thing, really, that I’m arguing for is that those conversations are okay. I like those conversations, both the ones that I have about food and the ones that other people have about art that I know fuck all about. I think they are valuable and interesting, in the same way that I’m glad other people do science even though I don’t care at all. I don’t think I’m better than someone who eats a meal and likes it, even if I bitch about how the chili isn’t a true bowl of Texas red because it has beans and tomatoes. It is just a different conversation. But the type of conversation that I want relies on being able to make claims supported by arguments, and, correct me if I’m wrong, but the framing of all aesthetic criticism collapses ENTIRELY into taste, and taste can NEVER be criticized prevents that from happening.

        Phew. Does that make more sense?

      • You are judging food within a specific food tradition – the one you were trained in. You seem to think there is something less arbitrary about your judgments because they come from an externally defined framework. There isn’t, and your judgments only have validity within that framework. So I guess it’s ok to judge food in an absolute sort of way in that context, but unless you are surrounded only by people trained the same way as you, so that you can be sure they’re all working on the same set of rules as you, the judgments you’re talking about are absolutely no different to taste.

        To continue your music analogy – Middle Eastern music follows a completely different set of rules, and that which makes a song well put together in western music does not necessarily work in Middle Eastern or other music traditions.

        We all have privilege, and enjoying it in the company of others who share it is ok in my book (although perhaps not everyone would agree with me there), but as soon as you are casting judgments outside that privilege circle, you’re crossing the line, I reckon.

        • Ariane, you’ve hit the nail on the head and expressed it so much more concisely than I could. I’m glad you used the analogy of music. It’s one that speaks to me as someone who was lucky enough to have a whole lot of musical training – I can’t say that I get any more qualification to judge what is good music than anyone who hasn’t had any formal experience in music. I can only speak for what I personally like and why I like it.

          By the very fact that we have access to the internet, can read and write and have a discussion like this highlights some of our level privilege. What concerns me is that one can never, ever assume that we are all on the same playing field as far as privilege is concerned. For example, how many people are reading this who aren’t as privileged as we are? We cannot assume that just because we’re holding a discussion that we’re the only ones present, that there aren’t a whole host of people who don’t have access to the kind of food we do, or the time we do, the access to education we do (and I know there’s a whole spectrum of education levels here already), or the money we do and so on.

          becca can you not see how it is offensive to be holding those conversations without knowing who your whole audience is? Can you not see how it is offensive to assume that because you have access to certain things, that not everyone here does? The world is never a nicely compartmentalised arena. This is not a walled garden. This is a public page and from what I know of the many other bloggers who read and comment here, there’s a whole range of people from all walks of life.

          I cannot in good conscience stand by and let someone waltz in and say that because they have training in food, or whatever else, they should be able to cast judgement on what is good food and what isn’t. Because that just rides roughshod over all of the people who don’t have the same measures of privilege. It implies “This person has all of these things and you don’t, so your tastes and opinions and choices aren’t as valid as theirs.” I find it belittling of anyone who has a different experience to yours.

          Yes, you can say you like or dislike something. Yes you can discuss why you like it or don’t like it. (Which may include the level of skill in creating it.) But check your privilege at the door and realise that not everyone is on the same playing field, or even playing the same game, so there is no right to be the final arbiter of good taste when taste is so markedly varied in all of us.

      • Eeek, all that “you” and “your”. Terribly written and sounding more than slightly judgmental. Sorry, that wasn’t the tone I was going for.

    • @Ariane

      In regards to:

      You are judging food within a specific food tradition – the one you were trained in. You seem to think there is something less arbitrary about your judgments because they come from an externally defined framework. There isn’t, and your judgments only have validity within that framework. So I guess it’s ok to judge food in an absolute sort of way in that context, but unless you are surrounded only by people trained the same way as you, so that you can be sure they’re all working on the same set of rules as you, the judgments you’re talking about are absolutely no different to taste.

      Okay! No, seriously, that’s all I want. Of course the paradigm in which you make those judgments is important, of course you need some sort of baseline in order for any discussion and judgment to be meaningful. I agree pretty much completely with this entire post.

      Now I am going to go slink off and hope I offended the bare minimum of people today.

      • Hi, Becca. I think your, well, Kant’s, distinction between agreeable and beautiful is useful. Both because it is an important distinction and because saying “good” and “bad” mean so many different things. Morally good, a good example of the genre, pleasing to an individual, etc.

        (English geek here, so I’m using “genre” for category with specific rules. I’m not a music geek or a food geek, so there are probably other terms, but the same way you can categorize, say, sonnets or science fiction novels and talk about the characteristics of those categories, you can talk about chili or sushi or fast food as categories and discuss the characteristics of those categories.)

        I agree with you that there has to be a way of discussing quality without being judgmental, which is a really fine line to walk.

        Like, when you’re describing KFC popcorn chicken as bad, you’re taking a more or less agreed-upon definition of the “fast food chicken” genre to measure it against. Oversalted for fast food probably means something specific in that particular “genre” because fast food is supposed to be somewhat salty and greasy.

        I also think your point about the need for dipping sauce being an issue when you’re driving is valid. Being quick, easy car food is part of the point of fast food, so being difficult to eat while driving makes that less representative of its genre. On the other hand, most chicken nuggets or tenders come with dipping sauce. (In my opinion they need them, but that is not universal.) So is it really that the popcorn chicken needing that sauce makes it a bad representative of “fast food” as a genre, or is it that the criteria being applied (food you can eat while driving) don’t really go with the “breaded chicken pieces” subgenre?

        See, I think it’s totally useful and valid to talk about things like this and to distinguish between whether something is what it’s trying to be and whether an individual personally likes it. There are genres of art I have no interest in, but that doesn’t make them not art.

        But, again, it’s really tricky to distinguish between judging something as art and arguing about what characteristics it’s supposed to embody and judging it from personal opinion.

      • Becca, I do understand what you’re talking about! Is there any way to say, not “I don’t like this food,” but, “by some credible and defensible standards, this is bad food”? My feeling is yes, but not on the Interwebs.

        Seriously, there is such a hairsbreadth between “this is bad food” and “you are a bad person for eating it,” and so many of us have been food-shamed to such an extent, that I think it may be impossible to have this discussion in a wide, public forum. The noise just wipes out any signal. Not because anyone is bad or wrong; it’s just inevitable.

        I think there are ways to set up criteria and judge food by them, just as with literature/writing (my gig) or philosophical arguments or whatever. And as in lit. crit. at least since the 1950s, one debates the criteria as well as the judgment. But societal shit we’ve all gone through makes this, for most people, tougher with food.

        For me, the issue is health. For most people I know, there is no defensible way in which a lot of food, especially fast food, could possibly be called healthful. But what good is there in saying that? It’s not like it’s new information! Also, aspects of health that are a high priority to me are not to someone else. So with some friends who share my views, I might discuss specifics that help me make judgments, but mostly, not.

        Reading stuff on food & eating is weird for me, because I read “this food is crap and making it the basis of school lunch programs is almost criminal” and I’m thinking YESYESYES, and then I read the same book saying “obesity crisis, moral repugnance, no one would be fat without this stuff” and I’m thinking, “IDIOT, NO NO NO!”

        And I’m over 25 years post-weight-loss-dieting, forced to process some of these issues due to diabetes and arthritis running in my family. So how weird and hard must it be to encounter *any* judgment of food for many FA people? Very.

        “This food is bad”=/=”you are bad for eating this food,” but it’s almost inevitable that many, even most FA people hear the former as the latter.

        • “The noise just wipes out any signal.” is an excellent analogy.

          Food has been policed so heavily from all quarters, and even more so for fat people, that even when the intention is to discuss the qualities of the food itself, the discussion is loaded. It slips right into the food policing zone even without that being the intention.

  • This is a great post, really relevant to me as I struggle with the judgement part. Not because of weight and health, because as we all know these are not inextricably linked expect for in our values. I am a judger of food based on ‘ethical’ grounds. I am a vegetarian, I mostly eat vegan and whole grains and local produce blah blah blah.

    I can look at people with disgust when I see them eating KFC simply because I am so appalled at the treatment of animals, customers and workers by such companies that I will slip into the lane leading directly to the moral high ground if I don’t examine my own privilege

    I don’t think it is any of my business what people feed their bodies with and I have no right to judge them. But it is my business when we as consumers are lied to, given poor choice, are not properly educated about these ethical issues and ultimately are made to contribute unwillingly to the degradation of the planet and the cruel treatment of sentient beings.

    It’s definitely not my place at the person level but I will try and lead by example (hopefully without being arrogant) and gently educate people (is this possible?) at the end of the day I have to remember to hate the system, not the people in it.

    • Absolutely, Bekhed, call out the way foods are made, their marketing, the industry, the ethics of the farming etc. But it’s the assumption that people even know how things are produced, or have an alternative, that is problematic. Bust open the system, and let people choose their own way of responding to that information. Besides, maybe someone can’t choose otherwise right now, but what’s to say they don’t want to and won’t down the track when the opportunity arises?

      But really, it’s arrogant to think that what you would consider “poor” choices ultimately lie with ignorance. I’m quite well aware of the ethics of farming and meat consumption, and I choose to continue to eat meat. I’ve consciously made my decision as to my food ethics, and it’s not anyone’s place to tell me that I’m ignorant for doing so.

      The example I use is a non-food one. I loathe Unilever with a passion. You know, the company that makes Dove and Lynx. Now I will not buy any product made by Unilever, and I’ll tell everyone what unethical crap comes out of the company, but I can’t force anyone else to boycott their products because of my ethics. I can’t assume people have the luxury of time that I do to check who manufactures a product, what brands belong to that company, or even how to recognise that. Or that they even care. I can however, tell them which products are manufactured by Unilever, how to find the manufacturer on a label and why I boycott the company. But I have to leave them on their own after that. I can’t cast judgement on someone for using Unilever products, nor can anyone cast judgement on me for eating meat.

    • Yes I agree wholeheartedly with your point here. I am an unabashedly judgemental foodist. I claim it. I am a vegetarian and I while I cannot always afford all organic food I definately make the best choices I can about what I eat. Food, food production, what we eat and how it is raised has taught me that environmental rights and human rights go hand in hand. They are linked and we cannot have one without the other. After living in three developing countries and saw poor people in those countries had better nutrition on average than people in the inner city I now live in in the US I saw that this had to do with a system that rapes the planet, horribly horribly abuses animals as commodity and makes insane profit on the backs of the poor. Its not about wealth at the end of the day, it is about systems and allocation. This country has a very unhealthy relationship to nature and food. But I think the good news is that that’s turning itself around as more people become aware and voice their concerns through their paycheck.

      To rile sleepydumpling (and you know I love you girl but!) I DO take issue with carnivores. I think what is happening to animals in the meat industry is absolutely horrific. I don’t think I even know a word in English that can adequately describe the evil being wrought on animals on a daily basis. In my mind, I see it no different than people who looked the other way when we once had slaves or had slaves themselves. Its a huge injustice and is a marker to show a society completely out of wack with its planet. Do I tell people not to eat meat? no. I do not proselytize and most of my friends and family eat meat. I wish they wouldn’t though and I also wish their choices would be as humane as possible. The thought of the chicken living its entire life in a 3 by 4 cage with broken legs because its breast as been over bred and its beak burnt off so it wont peck its sisters in sheer insanity… just to become a drumstick. That I cannot abide and would hope others would feel the same. We love our dogs and cats greatly, yet carefully ignore the suffering caused by the huge meat-production complex in the US.

      Ok rant over.

      • You can try to rile me all you like but when it comes to my choice of eating meat, you’ve got Buckley’s of policing me out of it. I have every bit of respect for the animals I eat and I know exactly where they come from and what happens to them to get them to my plate. I can’t say the average meat eater does, but you can’t say all meat eaters don’t make a conscious choice.

        And just to clarify, non-vegetarian humans aren’t carnivores, we’re omnivores. Lions and tigers are carnivores, meat eating humans are omnivores.

      • This is a great point, but I can definetely see where Kath is coming from when she wrote;

        ““The noise just wipes out any signal.” is an excellent analogy.

        Food has been policed so heavily from all quarters, and even more so for fat people, that even when the intention is to discuss the qualities of the food itself, the discussion is loaded. It slips right into the food policing zone even without that being the intention.”

        The thing is any kind of food policing, ethical or otherwise can be triggering for a lot of us here because we have had a lifetime of it and it has contributed greatly to our mindset and our bodies. I for one as some one who has struggled daily with an ED for the past 10 years knows exactly how it can be taken.

        However, I do believe in the value of trying to choose a lifestyle that attempts to aliviate suffering in some way (it’s just the buddhist in me) leading by example and gently educating people. Beyond that I am powerless to stop anyone from making their choices and I do not have the right. I like to drink, A LOT and some one might say that is unethical and unhealthy also, but it’s my choice. As JenD say’s she loves herself a quarter pounder (and I can’t blame her as I remember they used to be amazing after a night of binge drinking) and I am not going to judge her. I am going to judge McDoinalds for being open 24hours, poisoning our minds with advertising (especially around dinner time) underpaying their workers, exploiting natural resourses and being way way way too convenient so as to make it such a better option for people who obviously need to eat. I know it’s big business and whatever, but seriously, is it so hard for them to make a decent salad or a veggie burger at least so there are OPTIONS, so people have a wider range of CHOICES? These big companies, these people up the top of the food chain making the decisions that affect peoples lives are to blame, not the consumer. People just gotta eat!

        Do I sound like a hypocrite? maybe. But I know that these days given the magnitude of social injustices it is impossible to be for one cause without hindering another

  • Great post, Kath, and interesting comments.

    @becca: I see where you’re coming from with the whole aesthetic thing, but as Kath points out, that is still, really, a personal taste issue. I would personally rather go to Lone Star and get a huge steak with a baked sweet potato and veges, than go to, for example, Nobu, and pay 5 times as much for a tiny, “aesthetically pleasing” dish with ingredients I can’t even pronounce. I know this is an extreme example, but I hope it makes my point that the aesthetic value of food, just like the aesthetic value of music or art, is subjective. I loathe Justin Bieber and Twilight, but the millions of screaming fans clearly don’t. You might think KFC is over-salted, but I personally really like their chicken, and so do millions of others.

    @Bekhed: I agree that choice and education are important, but here’s the thing: like Kath, I know plenty about how KFC and McDonald’s are produced, but I can’t resist me a Quarter Pounder. Plenty of people don’t have that knowledge, but if they did, would they change their habits? I didn’t. It’s good that you’re aware of your privilege, and I hope that comes through in your example and education of others.

    My own personal issues with food: I think I’ve probably gone through every one of those listed above. Food, to me, is very tied up with emotions. I am far more likely to bake when I’m upset about something. I give food to friends as a way to show I care about them. All of my comfort foods are comfort foods because they evoke a certain memory. It’s hard for me to look at food as just a fuel.

    I’m also a “recovering good fatty”. I would only eat “good” foods in front of others, especially coworkers, and feel guilty if I had “bad” food for lunch. Finally, I realised that it was really their issues, not mine. If I want to have pizza leftovers for lunch, it’s none of their business. If I have a box of biscuits in my desk drawer, it’s none of their business. If I feel like eating only a salad for lunch, that doesn’t mean they can ask me if I’m dieting – it’s none of their business!

    I’m still learning to participate in these sorts of conversations. My usual tactic is to politely change the subject. But I’m slowly developing my own tools for engaging others about their food-police-ism.

    • Jen I am in no way denying a sense of usefulness for food emotionally. I really have a problem with a lot of the schools of thought that try to remove the emotion from food. Human beings have been using food to express emotions for an awfully long time. We use it to soothe, we use it to show love, we use it to celebrate, and for many other reasons. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea trying to deny that.

      However, one of the things I’m trying to work on is not letting food control or mask my emotions. That’s when it gets dangerous for me. The minute I feel bad about myself, my instinct is to punish myself by withholding food. I believe I learned that from the policing of food by my family. It was the first way of punishing me as a kid – send me to my room without dinner. Or give everyone else some kind of delicious food but not me. I got the messages that because I was fat, I was somehow bad, so the punishment of choice was withholding food. It has taken me a lot of hard work to begin to let go of that.

      I believe that if you prefer, you CAN change the subject. You don’t have to engage if you don’t want to. I also think we should be able to speak up when we want to, but I know that’s REALLY difficult to do. As bolshie as I can be here, in face to face situations I still have to fight the instinct just put up with being policed, even when my head is screaming out in frustration.

      We just keep workin’ it I guess. One step at a time.

      Now I feel like a big Lone Star steak and baked spud!

      • Yes, I agree, and my post was a bit disjointed. I think my point was more what you address in your second paragraph – I don’t want to remove the emotion from my food, I just want to analyse why it’s there and make sure it’s not for the wrong reason. I want to make sure that I’m eating because it’s what I want to eat, not for a subconscious reason.

    • I can’t agree that a lot of people liking something makes it “good.”

      I have no problem saying that the first *Twilight* movie (the only work in that series I’ve personally experienced) is bad by most defensible standards. This issue has been hashed & rehashed in lit. crit. circles, and it mostly comes down to that, while standards vary, one can come up with standards, both applying them and arguing for their appropriateness. Part of what qualifies a person to make judgments is the ability to explain better than “it’s great” or “it’s rotten,” based in knowledge of other examples of that type of thing.

      And one can–and, if one is interested, I think should–have these discussions about food, also. But only in the right circumstances, as I wrote above. We’re all sick of shaming over food, I think, so it makes sense to go to great efforts to avoid even *seeming* to be doing that.

      This discussion delights me, by the way. Very chewy!

      • Agreed (BTW, hi – I used to read 😉 that defining terms is important. As an example, a friend is struggling with low blood pressure, so right now her definition of “good food” includes “lots of salt”. It’s more salt than she USED to consider palatable, but it’s what she’s craving right now, and eating it abates her dizziness and other symptoms.

  • I love being able to say “Yes, I ate lots of local food today.” Of course, local food (if you go for “within 10km”) is lots of organic soft cheese, wine, strawberries, olive oil, yoghurt, garlic, eggs, chicken, lemons, chocolate, potatoes milk and beef, crayfish (if I liked seafood) plus my own tomatoes, rosemary and basil in season. Not exactly the humble dirt-covered beets that seem to show up in most “locavore” articles! Then, if you widen that to 60km I can have beets, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tuna, organic pork, cherries, nectarines, lots of fish, bread, cakes… you’re all welcome to visit!

    I think there is a difference between food judgement and food equity, though. Locally grown food is cheaper *for me* because I can get to the local farmers and small local shops that sell it. Even if you get into the bigger rural cities, the cost of local produce soars, and fruit and vegetables are really expensive, plus then there’s the time to prepare them. Here’s a pdf article on the dominance of supermarkets and effect on fruit and veg prices and public health. People in many rural and regional areas have very poor access to these items – personally, I have to drive 60km to get fruit and vegetables (excepting my list above) that are not wilted and bruised – and in many more remote areas, prices are vastly inflated. Google “aboriginal community store fruit” to see many articles about the battle to get affordable and edible fruit and vegetables into remote communities. If you’re eating poor quality food because you have no choice, I think judging that as a bad situation is reasonable – just not judging the individual people involved.

    • I totally agree lilacsigil. Taking on the system is in no way casting judgement on those who use the system. Personally I believe that diversity and access are two of the most important concepts when it comes to not just food, but everything – clothing, housing, education, health care… you name it!

  • I find I catch myself referring to delicious decadent desserts as evil and realise that what I mean by that is no longer the same thing as other people mean by it. Evil desserts are tres awesome and should be enjoyed with glee! Ahem. Anyway, I’m trying not to say that any more.

    It’s tricky to negotiate talking about food with kids, I think it’s important that they understand the nutritional value of various foods and the needs of their bodies so I have to find a framework in which to talk about that without making food the enemy. I’ve been going with food as fuel and building blocks and the importance of making sure you get enough of the things your body needs to grow and feel good.

    • I struggle with this too – I think the language of minimum requirements might help. Like “don’t eat the whole bag of lollies before dinner or you won’t have room for the other types of food your body needs”. Of course, I don’t need to follow this advice, as I can fit in the whole bag of lollies AND the other types of food my body needs. 🙂 That’s what being an adult means.

      And of course, the exact same argument applies to “don’t eat that third apple before dinner or you won’t…” etc.

      I’m totally making this up as I go along, I’ve been really wrestling with this for years now.

    • I can only partially relate to holding all of these issues together when it comes to having kids. It’s such a minefield for me personally, I’m not sure how I’d handle it with the added responsibility of shaping young minds around food. Kudos to those of you who are doing so while wrestling with your own demons.

    • I don’t have kids, so my take on this is totally theoretical, but Ellyn Satter has a lot of good info & ideas on this. Katja Rowell’s Family Feeding Dynamics blog, too. There’s not so much teaching kids about nutrition in terms of vitamins and minerals and calories, until they’re at an age where they can process that info in a manner that’s helpful.

      • I quite like Ellyn Satter’s ideas, wish I’d come across them years ago! My kids are 13, 12 and 9 so we’re well into the processing of more complex info. Plus, my two boys are fat, so there’s a whole bunch of fun stuff involved there in supporting them in coping with the inevitable negative messages that come at them from all angles. No commercial TV and no magazines to speak of in the house helps a lot.

    • To me, some of the decadent desserts are “evil” because they’re time-consuming to make, may require special equipment I don’t have, and difficult to make in single or 2-serving sizes BUT don’t freeze well.

      Yes, I know how to make a delicious tiramisu. But it doesn’t freeze well and I haven’t wanted to try to quarter the recipe (and have no idea what I’d make it in if I did) and it doesn’t freeze well. Ultra-chocolately cake? Yummy, but takes forever to make and doesn’t freeze well.

      Which means either I plan a party around “people eating _____”, or we spend a few days eating mostly ______, or we accept that some will get thrown out. Why the heck should I buy pasteurized eggs mascarpone cheese if I’m going to throw half of it out? Easier to throw the money into the trash directly.

      So, yeah. Those are evil desserts.

      • I don’t like the term “evil” for food. Food is not moral. Yes, those things might be expensive, or wasteful, or inappropriate… but they’re not going to send you to hell in a handbasket. So long as we’re anthropomorphising food we’re putting shame, guilt and far too much power around it.

    • haha I used to say that ‘Sugar is the Devil!’

      but you know, sugar is in every food so it’s inescapable and in many cases benenfial, and literally speaking it it not the devil (if you beleive in that sort of thing)

      Your comment just made me think of that, and how silly I used to be lol!

  • Wonderful piece!

    Liked the motif of food references, too. When I gave up weight-loss dieting, I noticed I began using eating metaphors a lot: for work, “I have a lot on my plate,” etc. I think I’d been ashamed to use them when I was self-hating fat, so they all came out when I was no longer ashamed.

    Did anyone else here notice themselves doing that?

    • Most definitely. Not only food puns, but I’ve found a love of kitschy food accessories and clothing. It’s like I’m throwing food in the face of all stereotypes of fat people being gluttons.

  • I don’t eat fast food because I don’t like it. But I’m not going to come down on people who do, what they do with their bodies and their dollars isn’t my business–

    –I freakin love that you’re driving that point home!!

    I hate these privileged douches that have real kitchens and bitch that “if only people cooked at home more they’d be less fat” oh please. I live in a cramped studio with barely any space for food prep and I have a godawful rodent problem which makes food and prep tool storage an issue. The “cook at home more” richsplainers clearly never lived in a NYC ghetto.

    If I had a bigger paycheck and a real kitchen, yes, I’d do organic whole food cooking from scratch. Because while I do enjoy cooking and would LIKE TO afford nothing but organic veggies and whole-wheat pasta, it’s too taxing on me to do that regularly in my current living and economic situations.

    But noooo, since my ass in size 18 jeans, I should be dropping my fucking life to cook all day! (The rant about fat people not having lives is a separate one I know, but it coincides with this a little.)

    The other thing these people don’t realize too, is about people who are totally cooking-inept and are also single-member households, such as my sister. She always says she prefers getting take-out and premade meals from the store because it’s just a waste of money for her to buy ingredients then screw it up and end up having to toss the whole thing in the garbage whereas “you get a shitty meal at a restaurant, you can always send it back!” Good point. For people who are good at cooking and also have multiple people to cook for, home cooking makes sense. For single person households…sometimes takeout just makes more economic sense.

    BTW, I was too hungover to do anything yesterday so I went to my favorite Indian restaurant for an awesome feast of naan, sag paneer, 3-lentil dahl, and rice with nummy gulab jamun for dessert. 😀 I had the leftovers for breakfast. (That’s why this place is also one of my favorites, I get enough food for 2, or even 3, meals sometimes!) I actually got a few dirty looks from some guy in the restaurant– what, a fat woman enjoying an awesome meal is a fucking crime? Fuck the food police with a capital F!!!!

    Great post!

    • Very very true. Cooking for one is a challenge for a bazillion reasons. You would *think* home cooking would be cheaper, but for a single-person household, it isn’t necessarily. Not when you consider expenses like throwing away things that go bad or paying a higher unit price for ingredients in order to get quantities you can actually use up.

      And the cooking skill thing is a major point too, and it’s fairly self-perpetuating. Not to say that everybody “should” cook or “has to” be good at it. But if you don’t have the time, money, and inclination to practice, and the cash to order pizza if you burn something beyond recognition, it’s really hard to improve. Nor should you be expected to invest that money and effort into learning to cook well if it’s a pain or not your priority.

    • I’m a single member household so I know how your sister feels. However, I CAN cook (I’m a bloody good cook!) and I CAN afford and access high quality produce and I DO have a decent kitchen… but I live a busy, full life that just doesn’t give me the time to cook everything from scratch. I have to make a choice – have a social life, or cook everything myself. My work and other commitments take up a HUGE swathe of my life, and if I want to have any kind of social life or hobbies, which to me are important to being emotionally happy, then something has to give. I do love to cook when I have the time and spoons to do so, but I also really to come home and just know that I can have something for dinner and not have to spend an hour of my precious free time preparing it.

  • The first thing I think when I hear bad food, is bad cooked food, overcooked, watery, oversalted, dry etc, etc…I don’t think about the calories or the nutritive quality of the food, but the quality of the cooking instead. A masterpiece cake who tastes like heaven is for me good food, a dry cake who leaves a taste of sand in the mouth is a bad food. But I am from Spain and the notion of bad food, in the sense of inmoral food is a bit new from me.

  • I completely agree with you, my dear Kath. I struggle with placing value on food, and even judging myself and others for what they consume. I am trying to be less judgmental regarding food and what I eat.

    Regarding any arguments with Becca, I regret to inform you that due to my lack of “privilege” I may not have the same beliefs as her with regards to the aesthetics of food. I do however take offense to her comment that she can “cook better than most people.” My husband would also disagree with you. I may not have years of experience in the restaurant industry have you, or have the knowledge of food that you do, but I consider myself to be a good cook. How is it you are better than I am because you have the training? I suppose my feeble, un-privileged brain couldn’t handle all that information.

    Kath is simply discussing the moral values placed on food, and the judgment that others place on what we eat. Never did she discuss the aesthetics of the items, as you so quickly pointed out. Then again, my simple-minded, uneducated brain may have missed it. :/

    • Some of the most amazing cooks I know are those who’ve never had a day of formal training in their lives. I think of my Grandma, of lots of Grandmothers who all learned by passing food skills down from one generation to the next. I think of people who have that natural skill for making flavours work. I think of people who seem to be able to take what others would deem a disaster and create something wonderful out of it. Like any other art form, creativity and talent are not things that can be learned out of books or in classes.

  • All of those items you’ve listed fill me with emotions ranging from mild annoyance to rage depending on who says them. Except for the “I’ll watch you eat it” line, I’ve never gotten that. In my teen years, I always got “Are you sure you need that second serving?” or something similar.

    The thing that I personally hate is when someone tries to introduce me to a new food by rattling off health benefits and/or trying to scare me with every possible disease under the sun (“eating so many processed foods will give you diabetes or cancer!!”). I like food, but even if the food being talked about can cure or prevent every illness and condition under the sun, but if I don’t like it, or if it makes me physically ill, I won’t eat it.

      • When someone does that, it makes me not only disinclined to try the food (which I probably would do if, say, I saw it in a recipe or something), but it makes me not want to talk to that person. With me, it feels like the person rattling off the benefits of some purported wonderfood or the risks of not including this magical fruit or vegetable in my diet thinks I’m a complete idiot. Of course, insults to someone’s intelligence based on what they look like could be a blog post of its own, but this specific line, “You have to try Food X because it has Y Amount of Nutrients and if you don’t you’ll get Scary Disease Z” makes me angry because I feel like the person saying it thinks I’m stupid.

  • Commenting on what others eat is just rude. Keep your opinions to yourself about other people’s choices.

    I am teaching my daughter this. She doesn’t have to like what other people eat but it would rude and hurtful for her to say, “Ick – I hate sushi or XYZ – yucky.” That would be rude and immature and yet you hear variations of it all the time.
    I don’t think people who declare themselves pigs are necessarily including others. There is so much self-hate around food. The person who calls herself names may be doing so because she fears everyone else is thinking it. It is hard to hear and listen to however. I sometimes want to hug that person and tell her about FA and that it will be OK. But I don’t, at least not at that moment. I find I get hostile reactions when I even mention FA. This is probably the worst time of year to mention it as those who believe diets work are having their last hurrah before diet season begins. Can I say how happy that is behind me? I still struggle with ED but I am convinced diets do not work and I refuse to restrict my food.

    I have/had an ED and I am/was mostly concerned with myself. I was very kind and tolerant of others.

    • The intention may not be to imply that other people are pigs when they say that, but the implication is there. It’s such a loaded thing to say, what if other people have eaten more than the self-proclaimed pig? What if they’ve eaten the same amount but are thinking they’d like some more? It’s just a really charged thing to say.

  • Oh no thanks, I’ll just watch you eat it.

    This one really, really burns my bread (stop it Kath, just stop it). Not only is it rude, it’s really insensitive. Having people watch me eat is really triggering and puts me off my food in a matter of moments. Even when they’re not intentionally doing it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    And no, you are NOT the only one. I usually stop at this point. I have actually been known to say, “No thanks, that’s too exhibitionistic for me.” If questioned further I explain about feederism and that I’m not comfortable with it.

    Generally, the fact that I’m linking this to a sexual practice helps explain why I’m uncomfortable with it — without getting into my dieting history, which is the OTHER reason I don’t want someone to just watch me eat.

    • I have one at work that does it to me. I’m fairly sure it’s because she’s using me as thinspo. But even if she wasn’t, it’s still very, very triggering for me.

      Recently I was sitting in a cafe on my lunch break from working on our new library, and one of my colleagues joined me just for some lunch time company. He was in no way “watching” me eat my lunch – just sat down and we were talking. But for some reason I completely clammed up when it came to eating my lunch. I just stopped eating, and sat there talking, because I could not bring myself to eat. After awhile, he noticed I wasn’t eating, but he didn’t say anything, I could just see that he had noticed. I still couldn’t bring myself to pick up my sandwich and eat.

      It took almost 45 minutes of us sitting there before I could even do anything remotely like eating, and instead of just eating my lunch, I picked at it with a fork, taking the tiniest of self-conscious bites, really having to force myself to do so. All the while feeling SO uncomfortable and self-conscious. Sadly, he was being so nice, trying to be patient to wait for me to finish my lunch before going back to work, but it was actually (and inadvertantly) forcing me to take longer and longer.

      Just when I think I’m getting better about my eating disorder… something like this happens and I realise I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

  • I don’t know why I’m reminded of this, but we went with my little sisters and another couple and their daughter to the easter egg hunt on the White House lawn. There is a considerable wait for this event and they have activities ‘outside the gate’ to entertain the kids while they are in the queue. People in cow costumes were rollerskating all over the park handing out chocolate dipped ice cream bars. The couple with us was the sort who always have an insulated bag of ‘healthy snacks’ for their kid, who is never allowed to have sugar or processed food ever ever ever. What was funny was that the kid didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but when Mrs. Healthy Police was on the other side of the park, her husband had himself an ice cream bar bingefest. At one point he looked at me and said, “I’ve had FIVE of those!” And laughed maniacally like he was getting away with something heinous. I felt bad for him. I felt worse for him when he started feeling ill. It taught me a lesson about how sometimes the policing CAUSES the very problem one might be trying to avoid.

  • I know I’m late to the discussion, but I would say my motto towards eating is personal choice. I choose what I like to eat, and I let others do the same. I don’t understand why we spend so much time bothering others about what they want to eat. The same goes for what we wear, what we listen to, what we watch… well, you get the point. It gets tiresome when everything you enjoy is constantly belittled – drop the snobbery and attitude! Enjoy your life, and let others have the privilege to do the same! Sincerely: A McDonald’s loving, Twilight watching fat woman ; )

    • I couldn’t agree more, Sarah! But people waste time worrying about what others eat, wear, look like, etc. because it’s easier to bitch about things that don’t affect them than it is to worry about REAL problems in the world, or just plain learn to let go and enjoy life.

      After all a great man once said, “Little things affect little minds.” 😉

  • The one bone I have to pick (oops!) is with foods from places such as KFC and McDonald’s and also with snack foods such as Doritos. It isn’t because anyone’s bad for eating it, but because it contains a substance that is extremely unhealthy for everybody and downright dangerous for some: Monosodium Glutamate or MSG. This is literally a neurotoxin. It has no flavor of its own. It affects the neurotransmitters in the brain so that the flavors of other foods are enhanced. In many people it causes gastric distress and in some it causes respiratory distress, including in the worst cases, anaphylaxis.
    I was able to stop taking all asthma medications when I started looking for MSG in foods.
    I don’t mention this as an “ew, this makes people fat” remark (I’m fat myself) but rather as something that might help someone (like me) who has been struggling with gastric and respiratory problems and being put on one medication after another to no avail.

    • I disagree with you. MSG is a chemical, just like a million others we put in processed food these days. It’s not satan, it doesn’t kill everyone on contact, and you won’t go to hell for eating it.

      Sure, it causes anaphylaxis in some people. So do peanuts. And shellfish. And avocado.

      Yes, it causes respiratory distress in some people, but so does red wine. Or honey. Or milk.

      Yes, it also causes gastric distress in some people. So does milk. And wheat. And sugar.

      But some people can eat it with no ill effect at all. Just like peanuts, shellfish, avocado, red wine, honey, milk, wheat, sugar and so many other things.

      Again, moralising ANY foodstuff is pointless. If it makes you ill, don’t eat it. It makes me sneeze, but I’ll tolerate some, though I do prefer to avoid it. (I actually get a more violent reaction from red wine.) But if other people choose to, that’s their choice.

    • It is naturally found in a lot of foods – seaweed extract is where it originates – but I would debate that it is “unhealthy for everybody”! It’s concentrated in soy and seaweed products, which are often broadly (and erroneously) cited as the most healthy things to eat – and Japanese people are the highest consumers of these things and have the world’s longest lifespans. People with asthma are often sensitive to MSG, but that doesn’t make MSG a toxin. I have to avoid soy because of my thyroid issues, but that doesn’t make soy a toxin, either.

      • Soy is bad for thyroid issues? Crap, I can’t win! (Not supposed to have much calcium within 4 hours of taking the thyroid meds, started putting soy milk on my cereal because it has much less, at least if you can find it unfortified.)

        I agree with you that we throw around terms like “toxin” too readily. A lot of things are perfectly healthy for one person and harmful to someone else.

        I wonder what the threshold should be. If it’s harmful to 20% of people who eat it, that’d be a lot, but I don’t think it makes it a toxin. Half? Three-quarters? Or is it not the number at all but the reaction–like if the thing itself does something chemically, that’s different from your own immune reaction to it.

  • @KellyK – soy *can* be bad for people with thyroid problems because of iodine content. It just depends what kind of thyroid problem you have. If you had cancer, Hashimoto’s, hyperthyroidism or any condition where it’s hard to stabilise your thyroid levels, avoid it. If you have uncomplicated hypothyroidism, a low to moderate amount of soy isn’t going to hurt you.

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