It happens almost every day. Sitting at the communal lunch table, usually playing Pocket Frogs or reading a book while I eat my lunch, I hear it start up…
“Oh, market day is my downfall, I turn into such a piggy-wig!”
“I don’t eat dairy, gluten or sugar. You know they’re poison and make you fat.”
“Well, I did go for a run yesterday, so I guess I can have bread today.”
“Ohhhhh, that looks so yummy, but if I eat anything like that, I just get SO fat!”
“How many calories/carbs are in that?”
“You’re so naughty, good on you!”
I could go on and on and on with the kind of anxiety and analysing of food and eating that I hear every day from people (mostly women) all around me at meal times. Women often use angst about food to bond with each other and you cannot get away from almost constant analysis and judgement of food and what other people are eating. And don’t get me started on the amount of judgement over what fat people are eating, yeesh! I have heard so many stories of fatties having complete strangers stop them in the supermarket to berate them over the contents of their shopping trollies, or being commented on in public for eating ANYTHING. You can’t eat a salad, because that garners comments on how you must be doing it to lose weight, and you can’t eat an ice-cream because then you’re a gluttonous pig. It’s a no win situation for fatties and food. I have so many of my own experiences being shamed about food and eating by both complete strangers and people in my life, we could be here for a week.
What I wonder though, is how much of our time and energy are we as women wasting on thinking about food? Because it seems, the more people put judgement on food and eating, the more time they spend thinking about food. In my experience, the women who make the most judgemental statements, like I have listed above, are the ones who constantly talk about food. And I’ve noticed my own behaviour change as I’ve removed all that angst and judgement about food from my own life. Back in my dieting days, food was all I thought about. Because I couldn’t have it, and because it all had so many rules and regulations and conditions, I would obsess over the food I wasn’t eating, all the time. I have made all of those statements listed above at some time, and many more. I would spend hours justifying every morsel I ever ate, every rice cracker, every celery stick, every raw almond. Conversations over meals were all about how I had “earned” the food or I how I was “naughty” for eating something.
Basically, I not only wasted a whole lot of time, but I was a crashing bore too. I mean really, isn’t there something more interesting to talk about over a meal? Or if we’re going to talk about food, how about we talk about it without all the moralising? About it’s flavour, it’s texture, where it was sourced from, how it was prepared. Or perhaps we could talk about how some people have access to higher quality food than others, usually based on wealth. Anything has to be better than putting false morality on food and eating.
Personally, I have embraced the #freefatty philosophy. I refuse to be judged for my food and eating choices, and refuse to participate in the moralising of food and eating. Plus, I refuse to justify what I eat. I don’t need to provide a reason for eating either a salad or an ice cream. It’s my body and my life. If other people think I shouldn’t eat something, they can mind their own damn business. While I’m still having to work on undoing a lifetime of baggage around food and eating, I am finding the more I let go of that judgement around food and eating, both for myself and for others, the less obsessive and anxious I am about food and eating.
Part of the oppression of fat people lies in the constant demand for us to justify our food choices. We have to constantly prove we are being “good” because we’re fat, we’re not allowed to ever eat anything that is perceived as “bad”. People watch every morsel that we eat (and they do, I can’t tell you the number of times someone has tried to “out” me for eating something that is “bad” or “unhealthy”) and place judgement on us for whatever it is. Ask yourself, how often have you heard someone describe a slim woman eating say, ice-cream as “sexy”, yet in the next breath, referred to a fat woman eating the EXACT same thing as “gross”? How often do you see comments from fat haters that say “Just put down the cheeseburger.”?
Firstly, what other people eat is no business of anyone but themselves. It comes under the “If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.” rule. So we don’t need to justify our food choices. Secondly, I’m sure we all have things we’d much rather be doing than obsessing over food. What can we do with our time and energy if we don’t waste it on angst and analysis of every morsel that we put in our mouths?
Thinking back over the last ten years of my life, I would have to say that a lot of the conversations I’ve had with female friends & family is about food, losing weight and ‘earning’ the right to eat ‘bad’ foods. What a waste of ten years! I think it’s time I found a new conversation topic!
Life gets SO much more interesting Cas_0192 when we stop that whole roundabout of moralising and justifying food. There’s so much else to take interest in!
I love to think and talk about food… about how it tastes, about how it feels in the mouth, about how it’s best prepared, about the great meal I ate recently, about what I’d like to serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas… pretty much any aspect other than morality.
And yet I have always been surrounded by people (mostly women, but a scary number of men, too) who only seem able to talk about food in terms of either fear, loathing, or chastisement. I can’t stand that. One of my best food buddies went on a diet a few months ago, and now she talks constantly about what she can’t eat and how much weight she’s lost and how being fat was killing her. It makes me want to cry. This is the woman who sat at my table two years ago eating roasted sea bass over a melange of roasted root vegetables and – together with me – made sounds that would have fit perfectly into a lesbian porn soundtrack. Now she would be picking out half the veggies for being ‘bad’ for her, asking how much butter was in the fish, wanting her salad dressing on the side so she can use as little as humanly possible, and skipping dessert so she can get thin and ‘healthy.’ I can hardly eat with her anymore.
Funny thing, she still has the same arthritis she started out with. The only thing that’s changed is that she now looks sad when there’s bread pudding to be had, because she ‘can’t’ eat it.
The only thing that should be sad about food is the number of people on this planet who don’t have access to enough to eat. Here in the US, that number includes nearly one in four of our children. One. In. Four.
Compared to the heartbreak of a fat person eating a Twinkie, yeah, I really don’t care whether someone with access decides a Twinkie might taste good. More power to them.
I love to think and talk about food… about how it tastes, about how it feels in the mouth, about how it’s best prepared, about the great meal I ate recently, about what I’d like to serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas…
This. As I’ve gradually been letting go of food moralizing, the amount of time I spend thinking about food hasn’t markedly changed, but the feelings associated with those thoughts definitely have. Way more happy, way less angst.
Oh Twistie, I could NOT tolerate being around someone like that… and I used to be JUST like that. I just wouldn’t be able to eat with her again, or me again. I’d have to find some other way to socialise with a friend like that, if I really wanted to keep them in my life.
Almost everyone where I work moralizes food or are constantly going on diets. Yet, when someone brings food in, they eat it and it’s gone in a matter of days. Me, being the fattest person in the office, will either eat it or not and go about my business. I’ve even said out loud that for a group who is always saying they can’t have this, they can’t have that, they’ll eat it anyway!
If you are constantly dieting and trying to rationalize what you will eat, you probably will eat more of what you’re trying so hard to stay away from. But if you eat what you want and don’t label foods as good or bad, it doesn’t take up your thoughts and you can concentrate on other things, which to me, is A LOT more healthier mentally and emotionally. I have enough crap to think about—why obsess over a snack or a meal?
I have a lot of similar experiences lifeonfats. The ones that are constantly obsessing over every morsel being “bad” are the same ones raiding the lolly jar all day, or when someone brings in chocolates or bickies or cakes, leap into it like someone is going to take it off them.
Yet I’m the one that gets “looks” if I have a piece of that cake, or a bickie from time to time.
Here is the Midwest (WI) we are too “polite” to say anything to people’s faces (we just talk about you when you leave). The worst people to hear this from are family members, I’ve been guilt tripped for years “do you really need that cookie?” No the cookie needs me damnit.
Well, I’m from Wisconsin as well and I just sat through a meal where I was berated (by my mother) for what I ate and the speed at which I ate it – so I know how you feel.
My mother and sister had salads (no croutons, iceberg lettuce, not too many veggies and just a hint of low-fat dressing) while I enjoyed the eggs and steak that my father and brother were also eating. I was accused of being “un-lady like” for not feeling like salad tonight, and for (LE GASP) finishing my meal before my brother. When I was younger this would have (and did) destroy me but tonight I just shrugged and went home to my boyfriend. I didn’t even try to defend myself by pointing out I’m almost 8 months pregnant, because I shouldn’t have to.
I LOVE YOUR comeback. “The cookie needs me.” If it’s okay I think I’ll use that sometime. 🙂
Yes! “The cookie needs me damnit.” I love it. Yes, yes the cookie does need you. Food is for eating. Food nourishes the body and allows us to live. Yes, including cookies. The cookie must fulfill its purpose. Do not deny the cookie fulfillment.
I love it Andrea!
This is from Marjane Satrapi, talking about living under strictly-imposed clothing laws in 1980s Iran… which is obviously a very different situation, but there does seem to be some resonance with what you’re saying here.
“The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself:
Are my trousers long enough?’
Is my veil in place?’
Can my make-up be seen?’
Are they going to whip me?’
No longer asks herself:
Where is my freedom of thought?’
Where is my freedom of speech?’
My life, is it livable?’”
– Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Persepolis-The-Story-Childhood-Return/dp/0224080393)
In both instances, encouraging people in the oppressed group to focus on minute details of their conduct and appearance (and punishing/shaming them if they are found not doing so) is a tactic — and one that seriously saps the oppressed group’s ability to react against the situation or to fight for larger changes in their society.
Yes, while one can’t compare the situations, one can compare how societal “rules” imposed on women affect women.
As much as I’m dedicated to embracing HAES, I find I’m still guilty of engaging in this type of behavior. It’s a hard habit to break, telling myself ‘I’m going to be bad tonight and have some ice cream,’ or ‘Oh, I’m going to heck for eating this cookie, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ I want to stop, but it’s so engrained in my thinking, that I feel guilty for not at least mentioning it to myself that I should feel guilty for eating something I want to eat. I’m, of course, surrounded by women who do the same thing. A co-worker has been berating herself since returning from her cruise vacation because she ‘ate so much!’ – and now she’s trying desperately to ‘be good’ – the other day she spent ten minutes justifying to me why she broke down and had a piece of pound cake for her lunch. She hadn’t brought a sandwich or any real food with her to eat, because she’s ‘trying to be good’ – then ended up running to a bakery and coming back with cake. So how did her plan to behave and starve herself as punishment for indulging on her trip work out? Now she feels terirble for having eating cake for lunch and her determination to ‘be good’ is stronger than ever. It’s a vicious cycle we’re caught in.
JenC, it’s totally normal to struggle with this stuff. We are bombarded day in and day out with messages moralising food, weight and our bodies, it’s hard work to fight back against that. Not to mention those people in our lives who do it as you describe too. The difference is, now we’re conscious of it, and we can examine WHY we do it and put steps into place to minimise the damage it does to us. We have that power!
Once when I was at McDonald’s, a man behind me in line said, with apparent admiration, that most women would not have the courage to eat a sandwich that big in public. I looked him in the eye and said that I refuse to feel guilty about anything I eat unless I stole it.
It’s interesting how complete strangers feel it is acceptable to comment on our eating!
“What I wonder though, is how much of our time and energy are we as women wasting on thinking about food?”
Yes! So much time is wasted. And as you said there is so much of a ‘false morality’ placed on food, weight, etc. And it seems like you can’t get away from it, even for those of us who have decided to walk away from that type of thinking. When you do something like, check your email (which is a neutral activity, not pursuing any type of information on food, weight, etc.), I always have tons of ads on the side that are demonizing certain foods and pushing weight loss. It’s so pervasive. So many women have such messed up relationships with their bodies and food, and sadly they let that influence their relationships with other women too. As you mentioned, unfortunately many other women are the worst about perpetuating this. They don’t seem to realize the misogyny tied to this, we’re people, not objects or decorations made in a factory on some assembly line. Being people not only do we need to eat, but we’re also going to come in different shapes and sizes. We need to stop treating each other like ‘defective products’, and learn to enjoy both food, life, and each other. Because enjoying life, being confident, and eating some tasty ice cream is sexy no matter what size you are.
Beautifully expressed Beth!
Fortunately, the women where I currently work are not wrapped up in moralizing about eating this way. Sadly, we all had to take this invasive “health assessment” or our insurance costs would go up by up to $30 a month. I was adjudged as being a “high health risk.” Mostly because of my weight. It’s a crock of happy horseshit. I have hereditary hypertension, which onset when I was 45 years old, and it’s fairly well controlled by medication. This is probably the greatest health risk that I have, and there are a lot of people 45 and older who have hypertension. My brother got discharged from the army because he presented with hypertension at 19, and he wasn’t fat. I’d say that his health risk is greater than mine, for having hypertension at a young age. Oh yeah, and having an XY chromosome pattern apparently presents greater health risks from the get-go. Maybe we should be blaming all men for the burden that they will be likely to place on the health care system as they age. (sarcasm alert, for those who might not recognize it.)