Psst… Wanna Talk about Food?

Published February 10, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I have this piece up on Adios Barbie today.  A post I was asked to write after commenting on the piece about Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) a couple of months ago.  I would have had it written back then but between major work projects, disaster-zone flooding and various other life events, it took me far longer to write than I normally would.   Every time I picked it up to work on it again, it would bring me back to thinking about food and how we as a culture treat it, perceive it, moralise it and fear it.

Plus I’ve been home on annual leave from work for the past two and a half weeks, so I’ve had a whole lot more time to prepare, cook and eat food than I normally would have.  It gives me a lot of space to think about this stuff.

My eating habits are radically different when I have all this spare time.  I have the time and energy to shop, to prepare and cook food, and to sit down and eat it.  And when I have this time, my relationship with food is far better.  I’m not feeling guilty or shameful about eating at all.  I’m enjoying planning each dish, of writing shopping lists for the things I need to make something, and I’m eating pretty much exactly what I want at any given time, and eating the exact amount I want.

But the reality is, this is a vast luxury for me.  Even with the fact that I have a good wage and can afford pretty much any foodstuffs I want, which is a huge privilege to have, I only have that because I spend huge swathes of my life working.  When I’m working, I just don’t have the time to prepare and cook or even shop for the foods that I’m enjoying just now.

And I’m one of the lucky ones.

There’s also a vast kind of snobbery to being able to buy, cook and prepare foods.    Where once the work of feeding people was passed off to servants as “housework” by the privileged few, now it’s seen as incredibly chic to source your food locally from organic growers, choose it yourself, and take it home and prepare it in your expensive kitchen.  Time has more value than it has ever had, simply because it is becoming a more rare commodity.  And of course, that means those who have it, look down on those who don’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way food is demonised.  No matter what the food, at some point, somewhere, there’s someone talking about it as if it’s the stuff of evil.  Carbs are bad for you.  Sugar is poison.  Fat is going to kill you.  Fruit and vegetables are covered in pesticides.  Meat is clogging your arteries.  Milk and it’s derivatives aren’t supposed to be eaten after we are weaned.  Processed food is all chemicals.  Fast food has “zero nutrition”.  X food is “not what it used to be”.  Blah blah blah blah blah.

But what it usually boils down to, is the belief that “food makes you fat”.

I had a bit of a rail on Facebook the other week at a cultural phenomenon of young women who moralise food as something that they have to earn, something that they’ve been “good” for avoiding, but will brag about how much alcohol they have consumed.  It seems to me to be a mighty double standard.  Is alcohol not a foodstuff of kind?  Does it not get consumed and digested like any other foodstuff?  How is consuming alcohol different to consuming any other beverage, particularly one equally loaded with sugar?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with adults drinking alcohol (note: I currently don’t drink alcohol, but that may or may not change in the future), just that there is something wrong with a culture that allows women to “drink like a man” but not eat like one.

That was certainly my attitude for a lot of years in my youth.  I used to be a BIG drinker.  Not only did I drink a lot, but I seemed to be able to do so without most of the effects it had on my friends, both male and female.  Oh yeah, I’d be drunk, I’d slur and stagger, but I was still standing after a bottle and a half of Jim Beam or Absolut, when my friends had passed out long ago.  I would party because it would be an amazing escape from the real world.  And it was the one thing I could do well.  My friends and people around me celebrated the amount I could drink, cheered me on and were impressed.

But at the time, I was also starving myself of all other food.  Or purging what I did have.  It’s strange, but during one of my lowest weight periods, I was drinking far more than any other point in my life.  Nowdays with hindsight I know that I was really ill at the time and the weight loss was a symptom of this illness, not my “virtuousness” in dieting and purging.  Adding alcohol to restricting/purging made me sicker, and the sickness made me thinner.  When I got well again, and stopped drinking so much, my body put back on the weight it had lost, despite me still restricting and purging.  Friends, family and people around me celebrated my starvation and purging kicks as much as they celebrated my drinking.  “Aren’t you amazing for having the willpower to diet?  Well done you!”

Remember breatharians?  I remember seeing them on TV and just admiring them so much for not needing to eat.  I’d think “If only I had MORE willpower, and could be like them.  Then I’d REALLY lose the weight.”  What the??

Why did I have it in my head that it was ok to consume alcohol at huge quantities, but loathed myself every time I consumed anything else, even tiny amounts?  Where?  From the very culture around me.  From the people who congratulated me on losing weight (whether they knew of my disordered behaviours or not) to those who cheered me on as I drank.  From the magazines I read, the television shows I watched, the movies I saw.  Even in something like Sex and The City, which was supposed to be empowering to young women, had the characters getting stuck into cocktails but demonising food.

The reality is, every single human being requires food.  All food has nutritional value.  And as Michelle the Fat Nutritionist says in her paper on How to Eat (In Front of People)*:

“People have as much right to judge what you eat as they do to judge how much you pee, how much water you drink, or how often you breathe.”

So how is your relationship with food? What bothers you about our cultural attitude to food?  What are your challenges to eating in a way that you would like to?

Let’s talk about food folks!  Radical huh?  After all, it’s more socially acceptable to talk about sex these days than it is to talk about food and eating.

*which you can obtain by signing up to her mailing list.

32 comments on “Psst… Wanna Talk about Food?

  • I’m glad you brought up that bit about rich folk in the past not cooking – that’s one past/present trait of the wealthy I’d never considered before!

    After “Supersize Me” came out (We had to watch it in 9th grade health class. That right there is pretty bothersome), I started down the path to the crazytown diner. I eventually got into the raw food diet, which actually worked well with my body for a bit, but towards the end I was feeling guilty all the time for chewing up and spitting out mouthfuls of cooked food, fainting all over the place, and losing hair (parents never thought anything of it since I was so SLIM and therefore HEALTHY!). While I was on this diet, I constantly preached to my best friend on the evils of cooked food and the virtues of eating locally and organically. At the time I didn’t realize it, but I was the biggest asshole in the world for it! Her family was dirt poor! Ack, looking back on it makes me cringe!

    These days I’ve mostly repaired my relationship with food. Now that same friend and I can drool over haute cuisine, browse grocery stores like most people browse malls, or eat mac’n’cheese from a pot together while watching trashy tv. 🙂

    • Yeah I got to thinking about it and it’s very much the case – where once it was a status symbol to have someone shop, prepare and cook for you because you could afford it, now it’s become a status symbol to have the time and money to do it for yourself. Which of course comes with the inevitable snobbery from some.

      And I’ve been the food arsehole too. I remember when I lost a lot of weight and was just manic with the lifestyle it took to do that (ridiculous dieting and hours and hours of exercise every day), I preached like the most evangelical zealot. In hindsight, I was such a jerk about it. I bought into all of those old tropes, the “I can do it, so can you!” and “If you really cared about yourself, you’d do it too.” and blah blah blah. Ugh, it’s embarrassing what a jerk I was about it.

      Just a gentle nudge though, please don’t use words like crazy/mental/insane etc as it’s very stigmatising towards those with mental illness.

  • I love this. Yes unprocessed home cooked food is great and junk food not so great but that doesn’t mean you have to have a 100% perfect diet. I used to diet and worry, did 7-8 hours a week in the gym, got approval for my thin body (my parents don’t like me now I’m fat) but I smoked, binge drank, had insomnia and my self esteem was in the toilet.

    I accept myself now. I eat a wide variety of food. Sometimes I eat a lot of so-called bad food, other times I eat a lot of so-called good food. Whatever. There is far more to my life than what I eat. I’m smart, funny, pretty and darned good company. Life’s for living, not fretting over what you eat.

    I wish others could get this. I get VERY annoyed when people comment on my food, be that “ooh aren’t you being good” to “oh, are you having a treat”. Both sentences have me imagining a large hand whacking them in the gob. It’s food. Only food. Yes I find it hard to eat well with a lack of time, so I try a lot of freezing (bread, portions of soup, tomato sauce for pasta), which usually means getting into habits like baking days and cooking double. it can be done, just takes a bit of planing. Mind you, I don’t waste my time like the bints on SATC, sitting about drinking cocktails and gossiping 🙂

    • I don’t like to label any food as great or not so great. It leads us too close to the good fatty/bad fatty thing, and all food has value. It can however be useful or not useful. Personally, I don’t give a damn how nutritionally valuable home cooked peas are, they’re of absolutely no use to me, because they make me barf! So something can be chock full of nutrients, but if you’re not able to afford it, or allergic, or don’t like it, or can’t cook it… it’s useless to you. So you have to find what is of use to you.

      I’m sorry that your parents don’t like you now that you’re fat. I hope you know that it doesn’t reflect on your value though.

      Doesn’t that stuff about “Aren’t you good?” and “Oh that dessert is so sinful!” get up your butt? It really bothers me. I have to remember the imaginary giant hand next time, that could be the way to stop myself from getting all up in their face!

  • I’m still having a honeymoon with asking and answering the question “What do I WANT?” I now know that I can trust myself to ask that question and act on it no matter what the answer is, which I chalk up as having finally set aside the virtuous food/evil food dichotomy. I used to be so divorced from my own needs I couldn’t even honestly say whether I was hungry– and when I did eat, the old ‘food virtue scale’ made it impossible for me to determine satisfaction. (If I ate a ‘bad’ food I was afraid to eat too much) I like to cook now simply because food is food, not some dangerous hazardous substance. Eating is not ‘taking the tiger out of its cage and petting it’, to use a phrase from a 12 step program. And like others have said, when I think about the self-righteousness I used to spout off during my bouts of ‘virtuous eating’ I cringe.

    • I understand those feelings Shieldmaiden1196. I remember being hungry ALL the time. Even after I just ate. For the first couple of years after I got off the whole weight loss roller coaster I had those feelings. Sometimes when I’m stressed or upset, they sneak back. My knee jerk reaction when I get that feeling is to restrict, restrict, restrict. Which in hindsight, is utterly pointless and turns into such a spiral of messed up behaviours, but it’s so deeply ingrained it’s hard to shake.

      The other one I have problems with is recognising when foods aren’t doing me any good. I don’t mean in the good/bad food way. The example I can give is milk. I like milk, and I did have to learn to re-introduce it into my eating. But I started to notice I was getting terrible stomach pains every time I had full cream milk. Rationally I knew pretty quickly that it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to consume it, because that’s why I was getting the pain. Instead, I found all kinds of ways to excuse the pains, because I didn’t want to restrict anything anymore. Of course, once I worked through all those irrational thoughts, and switched to lactose free milk… surprise surprise, no belly pains. But the time and agonising it took to get me there… aye caramba!

  • It is a pain to have everyone watching and/or commenting on what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat it, how you cook it, etc., etc.

    I am an Italian woman. I love, love, love to cook, eat and feed others. Food is central to me…to my family. It is part of the definition of who we are. Now, I’m not going to say that I don’t take a lot of crap from my family because of my size because I surely did as a child and still do to this day….but, I have never lost that “Italian” part of myself. There is nothing more comforting to me on a cold winter’s day than a pot of sauce with meatballs, sausage, chicken or pork simmering for hours, or a lovely pot of soup. Or grilling out steak in the summer with a lovely caprese salad on the side (and, of course, some grilled bread with REAL butter). I’m sorry, I just can’t give up that part of me. It’s core.

    My parents have gone on this no salt, no sugar, no flour diet. And while they have lost a lot of weight, I feel sad for them. They eat yucky crap all the time and try to convince themselves that it’s scrumptious. Gross! They don’t even eat pasta anymore. I’ve tried that whole wheat stuff – pasty nasty stuff that it is. Of course, at this rate, they’ll live to be a lot older than I will, but at what cost? There is something to be said for living life to the fullest. I’m not talking about stuffing your face 24/7, but eating the foods that you love and identify with – that’s entire a different matter.

    • People watching/judging/commenting on what I ate is what pushed me into an eating disorder. It’s why when Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist recently asked “What, if anything, they would most like to change about their relationship to food.” people responded “How to eat in front of other people.”

      I have to say, while not being entirely free of issues around food, the Italian friends I have seem to have far better relationships with food than many others. Some of them are fat, some of them are not, but mostly they’re strong and healthy. We could learn something from that food culture, I’m sure.

      The question about your parent’s current diet, is although they have lost weight, how long are they able to keep it off? And how long are they able to maintain that diet?

  • I was just recently thinking about my partying days, and how interesting it is that while I was much thinner it was likely because much of my calorie consumption was booze. If it wasn’t booze, I was consuming pills, weed, mushrooms, LSD, and whatever else I could get my hands on. My peers cheered me on, much like you, and yet these were the same people that I would diet talk with. God forbid I eat a yummy taco before a night of partying, because *GASP* there’s meat, cheese, sour cream, and avocado in it! At the tail end of being inebriated, I, along with my dorm friends would eat disgusting amounts of Taco Bell tacos (which is like an actual sin when you live in the southwest and can get legit Mexican food 24/7). Its cool, we’ll all throw these up in an hour, I promise! It frightens me to think about how dangerous this type of behavior is, especially because most people I know think of it as a right of passage, and a necessary part of becoming a red-blooded American.

    For years my own issue with food choices and consumption stemmed from my traditional family. My food choices were always policed by my mother, father, grandmother, aunts, and uncles. Some adult would dish up food for all the kids, and then we would all be forced to eat everything on our plates. My cousins and I today laugh about what a ninja I became- I would hide extra food in napkins, or purposely drop it on the floor, sneak food to the dog, or shovel it on someone else plate when they weren’t looking! I learned to distrust-trust or ignore my own hunger signals because I was given zero choice in the matter. My mother once saved a huge glass of milk for me in the refrigerator for weeks because someone else poured it for me and I couldn’t finish it. How seriously fucked up is that?

    As an adult, I know how provided I am to have access to any kind of food I want, at any time I want, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like a privilege when it was used as a tool to control me. My great-grandmothers favorite guilt trip lines were to make me feel ashamed for food I may have wasted because starving children all over the world didn’t have anything to eat, or to remind me of the depression era she lived through. As a concept, teaching a 4 year old about these things wasn’t the problem, but the execution damaged the true value of food for me. Sometimes I still catch myself finishing up my plate, even though I’m absolutely stuffed, because I feel terrible about not being the “good girl” who doesn’t waste food.

    • Yikes, I didnt check all my spell checked words! I meant just plain distrust, not distrust-trust. In that last paragraph, the first sentence, it was supposed to read privilege not “how provided I am”. Sorry…

    • It’s the same here in Australia Bearlyonearth. I engaged in all the same behaviours, though instead of Taco Bell, it was Hungry Jacks or bacon and eggs at some greasy spoon.

      I know that screwed up family attitude to food as well. My grandfather force fed me things I hated at times. Or it would get served up again and again, meal after meal. Plus I got the “starving kiddies in Africa” lines too. Add that to the fact that my mother is INCREDIBLY fussy, and that I was constantly told I was fat from as early as I can remember (even though I wasn’t until about 11 or 12) I learned some weird habits around food. I would finish everything on my plate (or chew and spit) and then go and purge. Or take laxatives/Sudafed.

      Sigh… we all have so much work to do to improve our relationship with food. Thank God for people like The Fat Nutritionist!

  • I feel sad to hear cooking described as something privileged people do. That it’s even discussed in those terms shows how far we’ve moved away from having a good relationship with food, although I know that in some places being able to cook well is a class marker.

    There is extensive research about the value of home cooking, including that it’s protective against eating disorders in adolescents. Also, it takes all the stress out of worrying about ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods, because it would be a rare home cook who was constantly making very unhealthy dishes, or not using any variety. Basically, if you eat home made meals all the time, you’ll normally be in good shape nutritionally.

    I worry sometimes that the conversation about cooking and eating – particularly in FA spaces – is very skewed by the American experience. The food system in the USA is seriously broken. Unbelievably so. It is genuinely cheaper to eat crud than to eat fresh ingredients, and what food you eat is a class marker. In countries like Australia, making meals from scratch ingredients is relatively affordable, and it’s easier to get good ingredients (though the variety of ingredients may vary, depending on whether you live in rural Australia or not). There are lots of ordinary, non-organic, non-Le Creuset people who cook from food they’ve brought from Coles and Woolworths, who would be surprised to hear themselves described as privileged.

    Likewise, you can even eat well at many cheap commercial venues – a city food court is likely to offer fresh salads and sandwiches that are made for the customers on the spot, unlike in many parts of the USA, where everything is processed.

    So not eating at home in Australia isn’t quite so dire a prospect as it is in the US – though cooking is definitely better!

    • It is still problematic though Alexie. There are many, many people who don’t have the skills or the time (rather than just not having the money) to shop for, prepare and cook food at home. Yes, we are lucky in Australia that produce is proportionately cheaper here than in other parts of the world. But it’s not just about money and product availability any more. It’s about having the time, the skill, the space to do so. I learnt to cook from my Grandma, who, despite so many other people having messed up attitudes towards food, has always been very balanced about it. I also did cooking all the way through high school, it was expected of all students for the first 3 years. Parents don’t have the time to teach their kids to cook any more, and the compulsory requirement in schools for cooking and food is greatly reduced from what it was when I went to school (though at first we were segregated – girls did home ec, boys did shop – that changed my 2nd year of high school to be all students did home ec and shop was an elective). There is no importance placed on the basic living skill of buying, preparing and cooking food to feed yourself – it’s all about nutrition, “health” and weight loss.

      And I have to say, what buys you a sandwich in a food court will buy you a hell of a lot more by way of volume at Maccas. No matter where you are.

      But yes, it is a different environment in the US, I noticed my eating habits changed radically while I was over there for several months. Finding the range of vegetables and fruit I am used to here was nigh on impossible.

      • The operative word here is ‘skill’ and it’s appalling that there is such mystique around cooking. If you can read, you can cook.

        I wonder where this weird fetishisation of cooking came from, where on the one hand we have this huge range of glossy magazines and cooking shows devoted to cooking, but so many people claim they can’t cook. Maybe the one is leading to the other and people genuinely think cooking is difficult, because the cooks on telly make it seem so. It’s not. If you can read instructions, e.g. follow a recipe, you can cook.

        As for time… it’s true and it’s not true. Again, partly this conversation is driven by the American experience, where you can find people who are working three jobs just to pay rent, who are so exhausted when they get home that microwaving something is the only possibility. Things are not like that in Australia, the UK or Europe, even though work is taking more of people’s time. What people often mean is, cooking is not a priority for them and they don’t want to set aside the time to do it, because they prefer to do other things.

        Sorry to keep banging on about this, but cooking is – as you note above – a basic life skill and it’s loss has done us TERRIBLE harm, not just nutritionally, but socially. A lot of human bonding takes place around the table, and we’ve done ourselves huge harm by blowing that off.

        It’s such a shame that any discussion of food inevitably leads to discussions of weight loss, and I think the best thing about the FA movement is it’s trying to decouple ‘weight loss’ from everything else.

        If we could get people to get into cooking, for its own sake – and completely forget about whether it will make you lose or gain weight – it would help our social and physical health enormously.

        Bring back the school cooking class!

      • Alexie, I need to call you on your assumption that “if you can read you can cook”. Cooking is easy for some of us. We’ve been taught confidence in the kitchen, we also have the funds to be able to afford to experiment (and possibly throw away a failed experiment) and we have kitchens to cook in. I alone have two friends with flats that are almost devoid of a working kitchen, and even I would struggle to cook in them. And that’s right here in Brisbane in fairly affluent suburbs.

        Even the most confident of readers might have valid reasons they can’t cook, not just because “it’s not a priority” or they’re lazy.

        Also, it really sits bad with me the “if you can read” bit. 47% of Australians are sub-literate (a figure slightly lower than in the US and UK). That means that 47% of Australians either are illiterate, have bare bones of literacy, or who can read words, but not comprehend paragraphs and sentences clearly. A lot of those people can still cook, probably better than you or I. But it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth to just state “if you can read, you can cook” when there are a myriad of valid reasons why people are not able cook.

        We cannot assume there are no class/skill issues in Australia when it comes to cooking – because there ARE.

  • You know, I feel tremendously lucky reading this article and the responses to it. My family wasn’t big on serving up guilt along with dinner, I never went through a drugs and booze and bulimic behavior ‘party phase’ and the most fucked up thing I ever did in the name of restriction was try the Slim-Fast plan for two days… during which time I drank a week’s worth of the damn shakes trying to feel like I’d had an actual meal.

    But I’ve known so many people who have been down this road of food fear combined with an extravagant use of alcohol and/or drugs. It’s never once been an entirely benign thing. Some managed to come through the period mostly unscathed, but a couple didn’t survive it at all.

    It frightens me that this is something so often encouraged by society at large.

  • This kind of reminds me of a self-esteem book my mother bought for me when I was in middle school. She was really worried about me because I was being constantly bullied, at school and in my church youth groups and even in my girl scout troop, so she thought it might help me to read some inspirational stories. All I can remember from the book is the section on eating disorders, particularly a very disturbing personal story of a girl who starved herself down to 85lbs. Thing is, at the time I was just left thinking that if only I had that kind of will power, I could be thin. I wasn’t scared off by her tales of poor health, just the desire to be accepted by my peers for the first time in my life. I never could manage it though. I would just get too hungry and wind up binging in the middle of the night after everyone in my family had gone to bed. I didn’t purge though. The horror stories of girls burning out their esophagus was a big enough deterrent I guess.

    I was never skinny enough to have parting friends, or so I thought. Stayed pretty straight laced actually. But yeah, alcohol pretty much turns straight into sugar when processed by the body, so in the end winds up having a lot of calories. I remember reading in a women’s magazine once about how women were skipping dinner so they could have the calories in their diet to go have martinis after work. I remember the practice being lampooned by the article, so go them on that point, I guess. I stopped reading them awhile ago. To depressing.

    I still have restrictive urges, but I’ve learned that if I give into them I will just binge later and wined up screwing up worse in the end. For me though, restrictive eating has taken on a whole new dynamic as someone who is poor. Buying healthy food a the grocery store is expensive, and eating out is expensive. I’m on a fixed income right now, so when ever I am confronted with food, I am also confronted with the guilt of spending money. It can be paralyzing. I want to eat healthy, but I can’t afford it. I don’t buy certain fruits or vegetables not because I don’t want them, but because they go bad too quickly for a household of two in the quantities they are sold in. I also don’t have a car, and I live in an area that doesn’t have a grocery store near by. I can only get to the store every couple of weeks when a family member can drive us, and I have to make the most of it when I do. Then on nights when we are too tired or it’s too hot to cook (easy to do in a third floor apartment with no central air), we can only afford to eat at the lowest rung of fast food. We have been finding ways to cut costs even there; we don’t buy soda and split our side dishes.

    So yeah, just to remind y’all, health is a class issue, coming from someone who is living it.

    • Health, food, medical care, time… all class issues that so many people take for granted.

      I remember being in that place. I am one of the lucky ones that I’m not there any more, and I fully acknowledge that privilege, but believe me I’ve not forgotten what it’s like. It’s bloody hard work just surviving.

  • I might write a blog about this later, but for most of my teen years, I have had a really weird relationship with food.

    (Potentially Triggering Content Below The Line)

    In my younger years, between living with an aunt for two years whose idea of punishment was withholding food (and seeing as I routinely got in trouble, if I didn’t go to school or if I wasn’t sick, I was getting about one meal a day) and prescribed church fasts that I stopped doing after passing out more than once, I had, until I was a sophomore in high school, a fear that someone was going to take food away from me. This was especially true in fourth, fifth, sixth grade when I started gaining weight and my mother started giving me Diet Talks, and when I went to extremes on fasting. So it was a process of learning that no one was going to take my food away, whether it was a salad or a sandwich or a slice of apple pie. No one was going to snatch the pie away, hit me with a newspaper and say “bad girl, the pie’s not for you!”. Because I had this fear that I’d have my food taken away and because I had been told constantly to “share” even if it meant that I had nothing left because I was the oldest (and I really didn’t need cookies anyway), I still have this… thing where I have to have something that is specifically “mine”, so that when I want it, I know that it will be there. So even on days when my confidence is running high, I have a hard time not “sneaking around” to eat because I’m afraid I’ll be yelled at, or eating an entire box of cookies out of a fear that I’ll be forced to “share” them and I won’t have any left.

    (Potentially Triggering Content Over)

    As for things that bother me about the current culture around food and eating: The whole idea of “guilty pleasures”. It goes with the idea that “salad is good and cake is Satan incarnate”. The idea that it’s okay to have, like, a hot dog or a cheeseburger or a bowl particularly rich clam chowder (which I do not eat, because I am not fond of seafood), as long as you apologize profusely in the form of eating nothing but veggies for a week or running on the elliptical for hours on end (And I find nothing wrong with vegetables or elliptical-running in and of themselves, I just hate the idea of these activities being used as penance for eating).

    And Subway ads. Hate, hate, hate Subway ads. It’s not a general thing, it’s an extremely specific thing that I see as the byproduct of the idea of food as being something scary and only through some sort of culinary alchemy, can certain foods be “okay”.

    I’m sorry if I didn’t make any sense.

    • Made perfect sense to me rubyfruit.

      This sense of food having moral value, something scary, or something one can bargain with is absolutely messed up. Every single living creature needs it, and our needs are as varied and unique as we are.

      I read your blog post by the way, and I’m impressed by how open you are when it comes to your feelings about food. That’s not easy to talk about in a world that shames fat people with food.

      • And the thing is…I lived for a long time within a subculture that valued restraint in men and women alike, so the fat body, especially the fat woman’s body, became the physical form of all the Bad Bad Things that could happen if they didn’t live with hearing the constant din of shame for twenty minutes, never mind an entire day.

        Thank you! That is what my blog is for. And I feel that if I talk about it, then it takes away some of the power that those messages have over me.

  • For an incredibly long time I had a really screwed up relationship with food. There many factors into it.

    What rubyfruit said about the fear of having someone take food away from you because it had happened to them before– my mother used to hide food on me and then she and my sister would get like “She’s sneaking snacks!” And the whole thing with having to “share”…dude, I think we had the same exact experience when we were younger. Those messed up experiences of having my food taken away kinda traumatized me. It wasn’t like when I was older and living with various roommates and in a collective, and they’d eat my food on me where it wasn’t weight-shaming related but just plain stealing from me.

    Even though I’ve been living alone for 5 years now I still get those feelings time to time of being afraid being yelled at, told I’m sneaking food, fear of having to “share” or get my food taken away…

    Then all that aside, in my days of taking diet pills and literally killing myself with trying eat less than 1000 calories while burning at least 5000 every day…I think these doctors totally cheered me on with this disordered eating and thinking, and having such a fucked up relationship with food– it wasn’t so much strangers, acquaintances, the diet industry, and these so-called experts (like an exercise instructor who said never to eat carbs after 6PM or else oh noooez teh fatz TEH FATZ) but actually DOCTORS who encouraged me to have this whole “food is evil” mentality. That rather than eating healthy foods in good balance, they just pushed this whole thing of eating horrible bland food, keeping a food diary, and obsessively counting calories and essentially making myself and every person around me fucking miserable.

    That’s the thing…I eat the food that I like, can afford, and can cook. I agree about the whole time rather than money thing being a luxury. But even if you do have the time– what about cooking skill? Buying cooking equipment? I do enjoy cooking but getting tools and the like set me back a little. For someone like my sister who’s horrendous at cooking, it’s not a worthy investment. I buy what’s within my budget, time constraint, and cooking ability. I’m a vegetarian and have my own reasons for it. Fuck being miserable for no reason! Don’t these people realize that this kind of food policing can have the exact opposite effect?

    Post diet pill madness, I was something of an exercise bulimiac. (of course still being fat, no one believed me.) Like if I ate a cupcake or two I would make myself pay for it at the gym later. I would keep working out even if I felt hungry, even if I was in pain or fucking tired. Nowadays I do what makes me feel good and the kinds of exercise I like, for as long as I need to until I start to tire out.

    I think to this day I’m still healing with my food issues but have gotten a lot better with it from a friend studying to be a nutritionist, reading the Fat Nutritionist, and the wonderful support I’ve found in the fatosphere from others who’ve had similar experiences to me.

    • Rachel I had a lot of so-called professionals pushing disordered behaviours on to me too. I believe it’s fairly commonplace – that mentality of “thin no matter what it takes”. Nowdays it makes me angry more than anything else, but it almost killed me back in the day. I guess it goes to show we’re made of pretty hardy stuff being able to survive that shit.

      I also hear you on the exercise bingeing too. That was my modus operandi – just run yourself into the ground with exercise, whether you’ve eaten or not.

      We are so lucky that we have a community that we can turn to with this stuff, to work through our issues, share our commonalities and find support.

      • It makes me angry too, based on both my own experiences, that of others around me and in the fatosphere, and just the pure self-hate I see being inflicted being people by the forces I mentioned.

        The fatosphere has been valuable beyond measure (ha pun intended!) to me in healing from the living hell I had put my own body through to conform to some arbitrary beauty standard.

        Me, an non-conformist, try to conform. It’s amazing how fat is vilified in our society that it crosses all sociocultural and subcultural borders…

        I’m still struggling with some issues surrounding food. But I’ve learned not to hate myself for enjoying an indulgent meal or in turn, feeling proud of myself for having only a small breakfast…eating as much/little as I need is a FAR more sane approach to life than trying to do some bullshit like limit my caloric intake to 1200/day like some of these fucking doctors had suggested. 1200 is not enough for me since I can’t subsist off just salad all day. Hell, it’s not enough for MOST people. And it’s pretty scary when people become that inflexible and as we know…sets one up for failure often.

        I wish I could end food policing and the shameful talk around food forever.

  • All right, if we accept that 47% of the country haven’t got enough functional literacy to read a recipe and that even in affluent parts of the country people don’t have functional kitchens, what’s the solution?

    Is this an area that we need real political action on, and should that political action be initiated by FA? Is this an area that FA should have a position on? Do food politics and FA intersect?

    Or is it just a phenomenon to be remarked upon?

    I’m not being sarcastic here. This is something I’m giving a lot of thought to. I reject the idea that cooking isn’t within reach of people, though I accept what you’re saying that in the real world it often is. How should this be changed? Does FA have a role to play in this?

    • Acknowledgement and resignation are not the same thing. You have to actually understand what the issues are before you can do anything about them.

      And there is no singular solution. As far as FA’s involvement, I think we need to start by removing the classist attitudes about food, and then follow that up with challenging the demonisation of food… which is what we’re talking about here. With so many of us battling our own demons, isn’t it smart to work those out so that we can continue that outwardly to the rest of the world? Does changing cultural attitudes not begin with changing your own?

      Perhaps if it’s so offensive to you that someone is not doing “enough”, it’s time you started working on something that is yourself.

      BTW – it sounds very much like you’re being sarcastic.

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