Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Greed

Published September 6, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

You know, I think it’s time to address another topic in my series on fat stigma.  Today’s topic is going to be on something that is repeatedly placed on the shoulders of fat people, and that is greed and gluttony.

There is this perception, and usually we place it on ourselves as much as others place it on us, that fat people are greedy.  The haters are always going to use greed and gluttony to criticise fat people, so I think it’s best to ignore them and instead, focus on our self perception of being greedy.

It has become such a common trope in our culture that being hungry is equal to being greedy, that so many of us internalise that message until we are at a point that we feel ashamed and guilty for feeding our bodies.  However, all living creatures need to eat to survive.  We need sufficient nourishment to fuel our bodies, both immediately in the day to day functioning of our bodies, and long term, to keep our bodies running efficiently and effectively.  We don’t have to look far to find examples of what malnourishment does to the human body long term.

In my own experience, I spent over 20 years denying my hunger and starving my body to try to be thin, because I believed that because I am fat, I must be greedy.  All that did to me was make my body fight harder to hang on to what it did have, and screw up my body long term.  Thanks to all those years of restriction, starvation and purging, my metabolism is shot, I have damaged teeth (not enough calcium going in and purging makes them brittle and discoloured) and I’ve constantly got anaemia (my body struggles to absorb iron because of how little it got for so much of my life).  If I had been left to feed my body as it needed, I wouldn’t have to worry about these issues now.

We are taught that hunger and feeding ourselves is greedy.  But the human body has hunger for a reason.  It tells us when we need fuel to keep us alive.  It tells us when our bodies are lacking certain vitamins and minerals that it needs to heal, grow, strengthen and function.  Feeding ourselves is vital for us to survive.  Over and over we are told to “Just stop eating.” but no living creature can do that and survive.  We feed ourselves to provide the fuel and nutrients we need, and we also feed ourselves for pleasure.

There is much shame loaded on finding pleasure in food, however we are both hard wired and culturally conditioned to do so.  Eating releases pleasure chemicals in our brains, which rewards us for fueling our bodies.  It is the body’s way of getting us to eat to survive.  And we find pleasure in the ceremony of food, the sharing of food and the exploration of food.  We are culturally conditioned to do this to both bond with each other as a species, to provide sustenance to our families and other loved ones, and to try a wide variety of food so that we can get all of the nutrients we need.

The amount of food we need varies widely from person to person, depending on many factors.  Not only the size of our bodies and the activity we do, but also our genetics, environment, culture, and emotions influence what we eat and how much of it.  But one cannot judge by looking at someone’s body just how much they eat.  In fact, a recent study showed that in general fat people actually consume less calories than their leaner counterparts.  Besides, hands up who has a thin friend who eats constantly and never gains any weight!  I’ve got several, from a tall, lanky relative who seems to eat nothing but KFC and pizza and play video games, to a colleague who will eat anything in his path and spends all day crunching and munching away at his desk, but only needs to get a cold or other minor illness and drops weight until he’s gaunt.

Human bodies are complex and individually unique – we simply cannot judge anyone for their size or what they eat.

Sometimes human beings do overeat and do so for several reasons.  Sometimes it is disordered behaviour, such as binge eating.  Sometimes it is eating to feed emotions rather than the body.  Sometimes it’s overeating after a period of restriction or starvation.  Whatever reason it is, it doesn’t make the person greedy or gluttonous.  Instead of passing judgement towards those who overeat (and as I said above, it’s not always fat people who overeat, though it’s only fat people who are considered greedy if they do), we need to realise that it’s none of our business what someone else eats or does with their own bodies.

If you’re an overeater yourself, the only person’s business it is, is yours.  Yes, overeating can make you sick, but moralising and shaming about health and food is not going to make you well.  What is going to make you well is to learn why you are overeating and to deal with that problem at it’s root source.  To learn what habits and foods make your body sick and what make them well.  You are entitled to feel well, worthy of feeling well, and if you feel you need help to do so, then you have every right to have that help without judgement.  A decent doctor, therapist or any other health professional worth their salt will help you compassionately and empathetically.

It’s really daunting to give yourself permission to eat.  As a very fat person myself, when I started to get help for my crippling lack of self esteem and eating disorder, I was terrified to eat.  I still have trouble sometimes when I’m stressed or very tired, not falling into that pattern of restriction.  My doctor and I are constantly working on getting me to eat enough, particularly to keep my blood sugar levels in check.

But when I first started changing my thinking around food and weight and body image, there was this perception that because I’m fat, if I didn’t restrict myself, that I would EAT THE WHOLE WORLD!!  That lurking beneath my long term dieter’s facade was a horrible, greedy person, because after all, I was fat.  I must be horrible and greedy right?

Wrong.  Firstly, one cannot eat the whole world.  In fact one would be unable to eat the whole town, let alone the whole state or country or world.  One cannot even eat ALL THE FOOD.  Because even if one was to just eat and eat heaps of food, before one got very far, one would feel sick.  You’re not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, it’s not your fault that there are starving children in the third world and you’re not going to explode like Mr Creosote.

Secondly, when you let go of judging yourself (and others) for what you eat, and listen to your body, you start to know when you are full.  Your hunger cues stop, and you start to feel the sensations of being full, before you get uncomfortable or ill.

When I was first taking steps to get into normal eating, or intuitive eating (I’ve seen it called both around the HaES resources), I did have trouble getting the swing right.  Because I was trying not to restrict or diet, I would make these meals and then think I had to eat all of it.  Or I’d go out to dinner with people and think that I had to finish everything on my plate.  Which resulted in several occasions that I felt sick from eating more than I really wanted.  But the more I stopped thinking and stressing about it, the better I got at listening to a) what I wanted to eat and b) how much I needed to eat.  Slowly but surely I started to see changes in how I felt about food, and slowly but surely I started to be able to feed myself without emotional issues… and most importantly, to really enjoy food again.  Without beating myself up about eating something or making myself sick with guilt later.  Best of all, I have SO much more energy now than I have probably ever had.  I’m not thin, but I’m never going to be.  Instead I’m strong, energetic, robust and happy.

The thing is, when you truly let go of all of that baggage, and remove that idea from your mind that you are greedy or gluttonous, your body is able to regulate itself.  You might have a period where you swing wildly a bit, but instead of beating yourself up about it, you listen to how your body feels, take note of what makes you feel good and what makes you feel ick, and learn from it for next time.  Eventually you start to settle and gradually you notice that you’re feeling better, more energetic.  You might get less colds, or if you do, you recover quicker than you used to.  You have fewer digestive issues.  You go to the bathroom more comfortably and/or don’t get reflux as often.  You start to crave different things, and you don’t feel the need to medicate your emotions with food.

But most of all, you let go of that feeling of being a greedy/gluttonous person because you’re hungry.  No matter what your shape or size, you have the right to eat, and you have the right to feel hunger.  Anyone else can just mind their own damn business.


68 comments on “Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Greed

  • I never thought that basic hunger was ever seen as greedy. Now wanting more and more food even though your body has just been properly fueled 10 mins beforehand, maybe. Excess is what I think a lot of people see a greedy.

    • Ashley even that’s not greedy. Greed is wanting/taking more than your fair share. Unless someone is taking another person’s food, or preventing others from eating, then it’s not greed. Excessive eating is not good – it makes you feel sick and often indicates a deeper issue, but firstly – who gets to judge on what is “excessive” and secondly – who’s business is it but the person who is overeating?

    • I find a few different issues come up with this:

      1) A lot of people see a fat person eating and make all sorts of assumptions about how it must be excessive, based on little or no evidence. Many people will see a thin person and a fat person eating the same thing and assume the thin person has a ‘right’ to the food and the fat person is eating unnecessary calories. (By assuming that the fat person couldn’t have done anything strenuous or calorie burning, and can’t possibly be missing a meal, has inevitably chosen the most fattening possible option, etc.)

      2) A lot of people don’t think it through, and just go with their “fat person eating – bad wrong greedy fatteningness!” without thinking about how fat people need to eat.

      3) I’ve seen a lot of people pushing the idea that fat people don’t need food at all, and go indefinitely without eating (or need vitamins, but not anything else, or can live off a tiny portion of protein and no fat or carbs). It’s a dangerous diet theory, but plenty of people are pushing it.

      4) Some people are nasty enough not to care, and are happy to declare that fat people should starve as punishment for the crime of being insufficiently attractive around other people, so long as they can get enough social cover to not be called out for their viciousness.

      5) People eat more than is necessary to maintain physical health for a lot of reasons, and fat people are far more likely to be subjected to the “You’re eating more than you need because you’re bad” assumption, while thin people are given a lot more leeway in terms of “It may not be strictly nutritionally necessary, but it makes sense for you to eat what’s available/acceptable/appealing/comforting/etc.” For instance, the stereotypical “Woman eating ice cream to get over a breakup” thing is generally presented sympathetically when it’s a thin woman does it, but a fat woman eating ice cream straight out of the carton is far more likely to be presented as disgusting, pathological, and gluttonous.

      • I absolutely agree with you ako on all your points. I think I’ll go through them as you have with numbers so we can keep track!

        1) Indeed – so often if a fat person is seen eating anything at all, it’s judged as excessive. And it doesn’t matter what we eat – if it’s food judged as “bad”, then we’re bullied for eating “junk” and if it’s food judged as “healthy” we’re told that we’ll need more than a salad to fix us.

        2) The default setting is so often Fat + Food = Greed.

        3) As per my comment to Bri, I’ve experienced the old “Fat people should just never eat.” thing all too often.

        4) The attempted eradication of fat people is a very real thing. You only have to look at campaigns like those that Jamie Oliver is currently pushing to see evidence of that.

        5) We also eat because it tastes good. Sometimes humans eat simply for pleasure. We really don’t “need” a lot of foods that we have created over time, but there is this perception that if we are fat, then we are to never consume anything other than the daily recommended dose of each of the vital nutrients to stay alive and not a single iota more/otherwise.

    • Personally, I think I get what you (Ashley) are saying.

      There is nothing wrong with eating “more than you should” (whatever that means), even when you are a woman. There are no hard and fast judgments about what is too much and even if you are a compulsive over-eater, you are not a bad person because of that. I concur with everyone else here.

      I think (and please correct me if I am wrong) that Ashley is referring to people that eat more than their fair share at a gathering such that people who want something can’t get it or don’t get enough of it. Sometimes, I want to get a third or fourth cookie, but if there aren’t a lot left, I don’t want to hog them. If it is near the end of the gathering and no one touches them, then I’ll take them. But I want for a while so other people have a chance.

      However, like Ashley said, it’s not about fat or thin thing but an etiquette thing. It’s a hard judgment, though, in social situations how resources should be distributed and how. And it’s hard to separate those considerations from women trying not to “look like pigs” in social settings.

      Am I right, Ashley? For future reference, just be careful about use of language. Over-eating, greed, etc. are deeply ingrained stereotypes for fat people and they tend to trigger emotional reactions, at least for me.:)

      • Yes you are right. At my family gatherings, my aunt makes more than enough food. But she has 4 grown sons. All big men who always jump in the front of the food line. I understand they are hungry men who love their moms cooking and I don’t want to judge how much they eat because that is their business. But I am usually shorted on the dessert unless I ask my aunt to save a piece before its served to everyone else.

      • I think that’s a long way off the topic of what we’re talking about here. Family dynamics and grappling of food at social occasions has nothing at all to with the topic of fatness, hunger and the perception of greediness or gluttony.

        Too often the kind of behaviour of “leaving none for others” is conflated with the kind of greed/gluttony accusations that are levelled at fat people. I want to draw a very, strong, clear line between the two.

  • Awesome post. I know I have regularly felt guilty for eating anything at all, for putting anything in my mouth. It is something I have had to really work hard on so that I can eat as close to ‘normal’ as can.

    (PS. How can I get the share buttons at the bottom like you have?)

    • Bri hon, not only have I felt guilty for the same reason, but I have also been publicly shamed for eating AT ALL. I will never forget sitting in a cafe eating fruit salad at 3pm, it being the first thing I’d eaten all day, and an old lady loudly saying to her husband “People like that just shouldn’t eat.”

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had things like that happen to me.

      (The share buttons are a plugin for WordPress – it just offered them to me one day and I clicked “add”)

  • Ashley, I know for a fact that a lot of people think a fat person is greedy simply based on the fact that the person is fat. They dont even have to see any food near that person.

  • I have a big appetite. I do. That’s a fact. Always have, always will. I have learned that some things will trigger me to be more hungry: alcohol, for example. Some things take the appetite away a little, like exercise or being really engaged in what I’m doing at any given moment. But, overall, I like my food. So sue me.

    I have to admit, since I’ve gotten into FA, I’ve been noticing who eats what for the first time in my life, partly because I’m interested in who gets judged – hey, I’ve been on the receiving end of judgement. It never occurred to me that I could people watch as well, so I’m taking full advantage. I’ve suddenly noticed that a colleague has anorexia. I’ve noticed that my ‘naturally thin’ friend is obsessed with her weight and critically watches other people and that there’s nothing natural about her thinness at all. Dunno why I didn’t notice that before. I’ve noticed that people who relish good food seem to be more sensual in general.

    People watching is fun. It’s only toxic when there’s judgement attached to it. Having said that, I’ll put my hand up and say I sometimes judge people too. Last Christmas, a cousin brought her boyfriend to Christmas lunch. Her mother had spent all day slaving over a feast for ten, with lots of different foods on the table. The boyfriend? Thin, geeky, sallow looking, only eats microwaved food. He sat at the end of the table and picked at his chicken mcnuggets that had to be bought specially for him, refusing to participate in any way in an age-old ritual of feasting. Did I admire his thinness and think his rudeness was an OK price to pay for it? Not. One. Bit.

    • Alexie, nowdays physical activity makes me RAVENOUS. I used to try to convince myself in the old days that it distracted me from hunger, but now I let my body tell me what it needs, I always find I’m hungry after physical activity.

      And yes, I’ve become far more aware not so much of what people do or don’t eat, but the emotions and behaviours around food and eating. I see my own disordered behaviours of the past much clearer in other people than I ever have before. I think I was very much in denial of just how fucked up other people are around food and eating until I got into fat acceptance. I thought I was the only one!

      • I don’t “exercise” at all any more. Never again.

        Physical activity is not the same thing as “exercise”. Exercise is something that is used to punish, done to lose weight or atone for some other indulgent behaviour.

        Activity is what we do in our daily life – the ways we move our bodies, be they recreational or part of the movement of life.

        When I say physical activity makes me ravenous, I am not referring to exercising or working out, I’m referring to anything that has me expending physical energy.

        I just want to make that really clear.

    • You might have described my son, who will bring his own food to social events. There’s a very narrow range of things he will eat, and believe me, he wishes he could eat along with others. He’s one of those rare super picky eaters and I’m grateful that he does have choices in every food group and takes vitamins. And, no, he can’t just taste other things, he gags. If the boyfriend was otherwise friendly and chatting at table, it may not have been rudeness. Or maybe he felt the judgment and stayed quiet. And gee, “thin, geeky, sallow looking” ?

      • This particular kid was rude. He made it clear he didn’t want to participate with the rest of us, whether it was talking or eating. There’s more to this story – his girlfriend is big and he can be snide about it. I remain disapproving of him, but I accept that’s not nice of me. I also keep my mouth shut about it in real life.

      • He might find Ellyn Satter’s advice for adult picky eaters helpful, if he wants to expand the variety of food he eats.

        I do think non-picky eaters need to cut picky eaters a lot more slack than we currently do. Their food choices aren’t other people’s business any more than anyone else’s. Also, an environment where you’re criticized for being picky isn’t a comfortable place to try new things.

        I also would like to see some of the social expectations about food get changed. I know it’s currently considered polite to eat what you’re offered if you’re a guest, but I think it would be awesome to have it be considered more acceptable to refuse food. The person cooking makes what they want to make, taking into account the likes (and needs) of the other people as best they can, and the people eating are free to eat what (and if) they want without any judgment.

        As someone who likes to cook, I’d way rather have someone tell me what they can eat, even if it’s a short list, than have them bring their own food. If they have to feed themselves, I feel like I’ve failed at the whole “host” thing. But that’s personal preference (and less feasible for big social events).

        • I agree KellyK – picky eaters have every right to be left alone about their eating choices as anyone else. I know so many people who have food issues (be they disordered eaters, allergies, intolerances, or just issues with taste, smell or texture) and life is made very difficult for them. It’s nobody’s damn business what someone else does or doesn’t eat!

    • Something really irked me about this post. I think it was nonchalantly diagnosing your colleague with a mental illness based on minor observances or judging some ‘geeky, thin’ guy you barely know. That’s exactly the type of judgment that amps my social anxiety.

      • What?? I fail to see how you can get “nonchalantly diagnosing your colleague with a mental illness” or “judging some “geeky, thin’ guy you barely know.” from this piece.

        A) My colleague is renouned for his capacity to put away food, and there is no judgement behind it at all. The simple fact is, he eats a lot and loses weight very easily. He illustrates the point that nobody judges thin people who eat a lot. There was not one single mention of mental illness.

        B) The “geeky thin guy I barely know” is a) not geeky and b) someone I know very well. He also illustrates the point that nobody judges thin people who are sedentry and eat a lot.

        If you’re looking for me to be hating on thin people, or accusing thin people of having mental illness, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Do not read the defense of fat people as the offense of thin people. That’s just bullshit.

      • I got the idea that Nina was referring to Alexie’s comment which mentioned her observations of an “anorexic” colleague and a “thin geeky sallow-looking” boyfriend of a cousin. Not the original post. Can’t be certain though 🙂

    • I have to wonder if that picky rude kid had Asperger Syndrome. ‘Cause he sounds a little like my ex. And both rudeness (for lack of knowing polite ways to express that they don’t like someone/something, and/or for not having the executive function, i.e., consistent focus and willpower, to hide that fact) and picky eating (problems with certain tastes and textures and with any kind of novelty) can be enhanced in people with Asperger’s. Not that it’s always an excuse. It might have been better to alert the host of this issue beforehand, or maybe to just not go to the party.

      • Hi guys,

        I accept that judging people for their food behaviours etc is what FA is trying to mitigate against. I also accept that a FA blog, in particular, isn’t the place to bring judgements. On top of that, the internet is a bad place to make short comments, because it’s not possible to bring all the background in.

        You’re right that picky eaters shouldn’t be demonised and I agree with the comment above about social expectations of food needing to be changed.

        In this particular case, I know that my colleague is anorexic and there is also a lot more to the geeky boyfriend comment.

        However, this was not the place to say it, and I’m sorry if it’s taken attention away from the excellent points that Kath makes in her post.


      • I’m really not comfortable with folks being diagnosed over the internet. We don’t know this person, we’re not doctors, so it’s probably not a good idea to be going down that road in our comments.

        Picky eaters also don’t need to have a reason – just like we don’t need to have a reason we’re eating (or even share that reason if we do.)

  • “Firstly, one cannot eat the whole world. In fact one would be unable to eat the whole town, let alone the whole state or country or world. One cannot even eat ALL THE FOOD. Because even if one was to just eat and eat heaps of food, before one got very far, one would feel sick. You’re not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, it’s not your fault that there are starving children in the third world and you’re not going to explode like Mr Creosote.”

    I love this. 🙂 I’m going to have to write it out and stick it somewhere.

  • The idea of equating hunger with greed resonates with me, as someone with an eating disorder. Having lived with anorexia and bulimia for over a decade, I very rarely judge others’ eating habits, since mine are beyond screwed up, but I definitely judge myself. Seeing hunger as greed, weakness, and neediness was actually one of the main drivers behind my anorexia, and I somehow felt that if I stopped needing food, I would be stronger, more in control, and “better”. Since you’ve dealt with eating disorders, you know that the opposite is true, of course…but even KNOWING how incorrect it is, I have a very hard time releasing the idea that hunger is greedy and shameful.

    It doesn’t matter whether we’re obese or emaciated, or whether the hunger stigma leads us to binge or starve. You’re absolutely right that we shouldn’t feel this way.

    Thanks for a lovely post! 🙂

    • Actually Scarlett, now that you mention it, I have never really taken much notice of other people’s eating either. I think I do now, not so much out of wanting to know what or how they eat, but more in the context of seeing how other people have their own issues around food and eating. I used to think I was the only one, now I can see that I am not. I am more conscious of that there is no such thing as “normal” – we’re all diverse and varied in our needs, habits and issues.

      Control is what it’s all about isn’t it? By being hungry, or relaxing and eating what we need/want, then we’re told that we’re “losing control” – which is complete bullshit! Our bodies are not something that can be controlled and mapped out – they are complex systems that ebb and flow and change and show us what they need.

      We’ll get ourselves sorted out, eventually. Especially if we keep talking about it and working this stuff out!

  • Alexie :
    This particular kid was rude. He made it clear he didn’t want to participate with the rest of us, whether it was talking or eating. There’s more to this story – his girlfriend is big and he can be snide about it. I remain disapproving of him, but I accept that’s not nice of me. I also keep my mouth shut about it in real life.

    Hey, you’re allowed to be disapproving of rudeness. I think there are ways of bringing your own food to an event that are friendly and polite (e.g., “I’m picky/have seventeen allergies/have religious restrictions and I don’t want other people to have to go to extra trouble on my behalf.”) and ways that are rude (e.g., “My diet is morally and nutritionally superior to anything anyone else might provide and I don’t want my body contaminated with the junk that other people call food.”).

  • Hello,

    “In fact, a recent study showed that in general fat people actually consume less calories than their leaner counterparts. ”

    This has make me curious. Can you give me a URL or reference?.

    What about studies that shows the opposite?.

    • I don’t have my copy of Linda Bacon’s “Health at Every Size” on me right now, but you will find the references for that particular study in her book.

      And studies that “show” the opposite don’t exist. Again, debunked in “Health at Every Size” and Prof. Paul Campos “The Obesity Myth”. Both books should be available at your local library.

  • I love your blog and I see that you’re quite insightful about overeating and how it is or isn’t linked to being fat. I have a very great understanding of the subject and am finding my own ways to make that understanding known to the public. It’s nice to see someone else doing the same – thinking about it in new ways and creating discussions about it that aren’t steeped in the usual prejudice.

    Thank you.

    Sue Thomason
    editor Beautiful Magazine

  • Many of the men that I dated were adult picky eaters. My ex claimed not to like any vegetables, but he would eat the ones that I served and even eat seconds then claim later that he didn’t eat vegetables. I put vegetables in all my casseroles and added them to spaghetti sauce. I wasn’t hiding them. They were cut big enough to easy see or in some cases were the larger portion of the dish. Sneaking vegetables into a dish is not the way to make someone comfortable about trying new foods. To introduce new foods into an adult picky eater’s life you have to do it without pressure or judgment. I’ve had boyfriends over time want to try my food at a restaurant. My grown sons aren’t picky about vegetables but they won’t eat fish or seafood. Their father doesn’t like vegetables so when they see me they can’t get enough of them.

    As a near vegetarian with food allergies, I find many people are rude to me about my diet. I don’t eat meat because I don’t like the taste or how it feels in my body. I have very slow digestion, IBS. I like my vegetables cooked for the same reason. Eating a salad at night is hell on my body. Food preferences are tricky. Most times, people aren’t being rude about it. I’ve been sick for many days when I eat the wrong food. I’m often afraid to eat food at potlucks since I don’t know the ingredients and I could eat something that could make me ill for several days. I feel uncomfortable asking what oils did someone use, etc.

    • Lillian when I left home, I was the FUSSIEST eater there was, because my mother is. That coupled with an eating disorder had my range of foods down to almost nothing by way of variety. For a few very good years I lived in a house with my best friend and he worked very hard to undo a lot of the screwy behaviours and thinking I had around food. It helped that he’s an AMAZING cook. He introduced foods bit by bit and I discovered that I wasn’t fussy at all. Unfortunately, when life moved on and we moved away, all those disordered thoughts and bullshit with dieting came back to me for another decade or so, and I had to re-learn again when I found HAES and fat acceptance.

  • I’m aware of overeating sometimes – at the times when everyone else does it (Christmas etc.), and sometimes when the food is so good and I’m so hungry that I eat more than I can really stomach, like one night at a new Mexican restaurant (both hubby and myself regretted it afterwards!). I also have times when I’m engrossed in something and forget to eat, and don’t realize until it’s 2pm and I start developing a headache. Neither one feels good, so I tend to avoid those extremes if I can. They happen to everyone – we’re human – but if you wouldn’t feel guilty about being too busy to remember to eat, why feel guilty about the other extreme?

    And, I can’t say how annoyed I get with people who think fat = compulsive eating = greed. I.e. they don’t realize that compulsive eating is a real psychiatric disorder that needs treatment, not just ‘put down the tub of ice cream’, and (if they do realize what it is) that most fat people have never suffered from it. (‘Dear Abby’, I’m looking at you on the latter count. OA is not the answer to every single issue in a fat person’s life.)

    There’s an interesting theory (was it Paul Campos who came up with it? I don’t have his book right by me) that society’s increasing demonization of fat people, for their assumed overconsumption of food, has to do with needing scapegoats for other types of overconsumption that our culture as a whole feels guilty about, but doesn’t want to adequately tackle – the addiction to the Stuff that advertising sells us, but deeper than that, our overuse of oil, water, land and the rest. Pointing at a relatively powerless group of people, calling them ‘greedy’ and blaming them for all society’s ills, enables people to deflect the blame from the rich and powerful who are the real root of the problem. I think it makes a lot of sense.

    • You’re bang on Emerald – both the extremes are uncomfortable and unpleasant, but they’re not enough to hate ourselves over. Even if we are doing it compulsively, we need to work out the cause of that compulsion, and work towards fixing it, not be shamed for it.

      And yes, that was Campos who presented that theory, and I think he’s on to something.

  • Back to the issue of greed…..

    I felt really greedy (and gluttonous as well) this weekend. We are having some stress centered around my husband’s job situation and upon reading your post, realized that the stress triggered me this past weekend to eat things I normally stay away from. Mostly sweets, which I mostly avoid due to being diabetic. Anyway, I felt like an absolute shit for the entire weekend and still rather do.

    When I was a kid (and the only fat kid in the family), there were foods that I (and only I) “wasn’t supposed to” eat – like chips, cookies, soda, etc., etc. So, all the other kids would be able to eat those things and I wasn’t. I would wait until I had opportunity and then I would sneak those foods. I’d run up to the bathroom and eat them or run outside or try not to look like I was chewing. They got to the point of smelling my breath to make sure I wasn’t eating anything I wasn’t supposed to. The whole thing sucked and really set me up for disordered eating and inappropriate feelings about food – not to mention that I am now huge, having destroyed my metabolism trying to to fit my family and friend’s perception (along with society) of what I was supposed to look like.

    All this to say, I really do feel like I am going backwards when I eat more than I think I should. I obviously still have a lot of work to do emotionally, but really appreciate you bringing up topics that help us to see what we are doing. It’s so subtle in the mind – like a general feeling of “I’m so disgusted with myself.” When I read your post this morning, it was like….THAT’S IT!!! That’s why I’m feeling so crappy about myself today.

    Thanks for helping me to diagnose myself. Now, I can try to let go of those feelings and get on with life.

    I think what really pisses me off, when I think about it, is that I wouldn’t be having all of these problems if I had just been left alone to be who I was meant to be. I know that I wouldn’t have been anywhere near this size. Oh well, I need to let go of that too.

    Good post, Kath!

    • La, I can totally understand how your eating became so disordered living like that as a child! Aye aye aye!

      And we will always have times where we take steps backwards. The difference is that with work, we can recognise it, and deal with it, without the shame and stigma that we once would have carried. Keep working on it hon!

  • A friend of mine’s husband was a rail-thin man. But when he ate, he would eat as much as the rest of the family put together, including my friend who is a large woman. Everyone, including total strangers, would marvel at how much he put away. Their tone was more of envy than anything else and certainly not one of accusation..

    So to my way of thinking it isn’t the quantity of food consumed that constitutes greed but rather who is eating it. The topic of “eating more than his fair share” never came up even though he ate truly herculean portions. The assumption made about a larger person, no matter their portion size, is that we are eating more than we “need” because we have body fat.

    • I have experienced the same thing Eselle. I am repeatedly questioned and watched when I eat at work, however my not-fat colleague who really does eat vast quantities compared to the rest of us (he jokes that he is a V12 when the rest of us are V6 or V4) never gets judgement, just wonder and delight. People actively feed him everything trying to see if he ever gets full. But I, a fat woman, get questioned about calories and comments made on how I’m happy to “be naughty” with food.

  • Yeah, I consider it greedy when I eat past the point of hunger – consuming more than you need is generally the textbook description of greed isn’t it?

    We’re all greedy, given the opportunity.

    • That’s ridiculous. No human being ONLY eats the food they “need”. That would mean that nobody would ever eat dessert again. Or snacks. That’s a prime example of shaming people for consuming “excess”.

      That’s not greed, that’s perfectly normal behaviour.

      • Perfectly normal behaviour in the first world.

        Eating more than required to sate hunger and obtain nutrients is no different to building a 6 bedroom house for 2 people to live in. We do it because we can. I don’t think its anything to be ashamed of unless its depriving other people – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the definition of greed.

  • Kath I love this post too. I find that each of your posts clarifies things that I am unable to pull out of my muddled brain. I agree with everything you say and have experienced many of the same things you have.
    I get people in my own family who are scared to put certain foods next to me in case I eat it all and they wont get any. I have even had the food portioned out to me where I need to ask if I want more. This was from a daughter who was under instructions from one of my doctors at the time. He took my power away and gave it to my husband and children. It created a terrible situation. Of course I was the ‘bad’ one.
    Anyway love hearing from you all the time. You are part of my recovery Kath and for that I am ever grateful. 🙂

    • Ugh, how infantilising that is. You’re a grown woman who is able to advocate for yourself. It’s ridiculous the way fat people are infantilised like that.

      Bless you Jan – you too are part of MY recovery, as are all of you who join in here.

  • Great Post. Reading your blog has definitely helped me stop wasting my time by focusing on my weight and has helped me move on with my life. I’m in high school, so fat jokes are circulated around about everyone who isn’t the size of a toothpick. I will definitely reccomend your site to as many people as I can.

  • sleepydumpling :
    What?? I fail to see how you can get “nonchalantly diagnosing your colleague with a mental illness” or “judging some “geeky, thin’ guy you barely know.” from this piece.
    A) My colleague is renouned for his capacity to put away food, and there is no judgement behind it at all. The simple fact is, he eats a lot and loses weight very easily. He illustrates the point that nobody judges thin people who eat a lot. There was not one single mention of mental illness.
    B) The “geeky thin guy I barely know” is a) not geeky and b) someone I know very well. He also illustrates the point that nobody judges thin people who are sedentry and eat a lot.
    If you’re looking for me to be hating on thin people, or accusing thin people of having mental illness, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Do not read the defense of fat people as the offense of thin people. That’s just bullshit.

    I was replying to Alexie’s post about her colleague having anorexia and the geeky guy at Christmas.

  • you know.. I’m going to go ahead and confess to being somewhat greedy. I think it may come from growing up poor. When I was really little I didn’t even have toys. When I got older and away from my aunts I had toys, but if our room was a mess (i shared a room with my sister) then my aunt would come over and throw away everything that wasn’t put away. Maybe that’s why I’m greedy, maybe not.. but I do love me some shoes! I’d spend all our money if I didn’t have other things to think about long term.. and I’m not going to feel bad about being greedy either. And if I was greedy for food (before I learned about intuitive eating and HAES) then it was for the same reason- that sense of deprivation. So fuck those prats who label me greedy and then refuse to ignore the causes which, in the case of food, are caused directly by people like them.

    Bah- sorry about the rant. you know your post was so lovely that it just fired me up 😉

  • I have a friend that told me about her experience with over eater’s anonymous and invited me to join her. My biggest hesitation has to do with the attitude about food. Yes, there are surely bad habits I have related to food and eating but I don’t think that LOVING food is one of them. I told her I love food the way a chef does. It nourishes us and there are so many ways we can create with it. We can use it to feed and please others. We can use it to show others we care. We can use it to tell our bodies we care about it. And yes, we can cry with it, deal with stress with it, or devour it mindlessly.But nothing about loving food in and of itself makes me dysfunctional, greedy, or even an over eater. Thanks for pointing out that being large and hungry does not equal greed. Seems like one of those duh things, doesn’t it?

    • I have a problem with OA myself. Not that they’re helping people get past overeating, but that they treat overeating as some kind of sin, that it’s wrong to enjoy or get pleasure from food. That’s part of being a human being. It just sets up another whole lot of disordered behaviours to me.

  • Kath I am glad you brought up this topic, it really resonates with me. I am fat and this sometimes seems to give people the right to comment on what I eat. Recently we had a morning tea at work where we all brought food. I purposely stayed back from the table for fear of being looked at/judged for what I was putting on my plate. I ate probably 2 small things in the hour the morning tea lasted for. At the very end I got a piece of chocolate cheesecake and started eating it and a colleague turned to me in a loud voice and said “Are you STILL eating?!”. I was mortified and slunk back to my desk..The other day the same colleague went and bought some chicken and chips for lunch and came back to eat it. I had already eaten a sandwich at my desk so wasn’t hungry and not particularly interested until she said “you’ll probably want chips now”. WTF. I get so sick of people making dumb comments..

    • I’m sorry you have to put up with such harassment at work. I’ve been there myself. What I did when these things happened was just smile and make no comment and go back to what I was doing.

      This person sounds like the sort who tries to get a rise out of others in order to make themselves feel better. It might take a while, and they might even escalate their harassment at first, but if you don’t give them the payoff they are looking for they will stop bothering you and move on.

    • Ugh, people are so judgey about fat people and food. I’m sorry you have to suffer behaviour like that.

      May I suggest following Mrs Clarence L Avoirdupois on either Twitter or Facebook? She gives such wonderful retorts to people making comments like that. I’ve used a few myself!

  • I really need to take this on board.
    For almost 10 years (that’s almost 1/3 of my life) I didn’t eat in public. I was so worried about being judged, worried about others seeing me eat and assuming I was a “pig” “greedy” etc. When I was forced to eat at a restaurant or cafe or in a work function I would pick at salad, drink a lot of water, and hope nobody looked at me. I never ate dessert-after all I was fat so thus I didn’t “deserve” it. I went away to a work event for 3 days and didn’t eat in front of anyone the whole time.
    Unfortunately as anyone else who is fat knows only too well, the comments come wherever I am, walking along the side of the road, at the gym, waiting for a train..
    I’ve really struggled to break out of that way of thinking, and over the past year or two I’ve started to enjoy going out and eating at a nice restaurant instead of buying takeaway and eating at home or in the car.
    What a sad world when we allow ourselves to be changed because of fear of others.

    • melhoneybee I did the exact same thing. I didn’t eat in public, and I didn’t eat in front of a lot of friends either. It was the measure of trust for people in my life, whether I ate in front of them or not.

      Always remember this, when you get comments about your weight from anyone, that is NOT a reflection on you. It’s a reflection on them, and their shitty lives. Not yours.

  • I’ve written a post about this on my blog, a while ago. Entitled Sausage rolls or something, tt’s about why I found myself choosing food I don’t actually want (or eating more than i need to) so being perhaps more greedy solely because of my past relationship with food.
    I also sometimes find myself coming over with a feeling of guilt for how much I’ve eaten that day, and then when I think back I’ve either not eaten at all (!) or had what anyone what consider a modest amount. What the fucks that all about???

  • My food issues are pretty minor as such things go, but sometimes my appetite has a two-day cycle, and I do feel a bit more as though I’m being the way I’m supposed to be on the low-appetite days. This makes remarkably little sense.

    As for the larger issues, it’s amazing that fat people are considered to be culpably greedy when there’s never been a society in human history with such a food surplus. At the same time, people who eat extra thousands of calories a day because they’re body-building or doing endurance sports are considered either somewhat weird or supervirtuous, but not greedy.

  • I just had a struggle with this! I found myself hungry, hungry, hungry, long after I had eaten what I “should” have. Then I checked my calendar and remembered–of course, I get extra hungry at this time every month! It’ll pass; it always does.

    I used to just settle down and hate myself for being such a big fat greedy you-know-what, then gorge late at night because I was so hungry I couldn’t sleep. Now I just make myself an extra bowl of something satisfying. A combination of fiber-rich and fatty food seems to do the trick: beef stew made with some shank cuts and lots of root vegetables, or whole-grain cereal with full-fat milk, for example.

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