I'd Like To Enjoy My Meal, Please
|Fat person eating in Spain.|
My boyfriend noticed this and surreptitiously placed his hand over mine with the intent to stop me from enjoying my dessert.
"It's not too much?"
I don't know if it was the (very) nasty I-WISH-HE-WOULD look I gave him or the fact that I said in a low voice that I was going to eat what I wanted, where I wanted, in front of who I wanted, and when I wanted and don't ever say anything like that to me again that ended that particular conversation. Six months later I married him. That was 15 years ago and to this day he has not made another attempt to ask what he thought was probably an innocent question.
I'd like to note that at this particular juncture in my life, I was running, swimming, working with a personal trainer, living in a fourth floor walk up in the Bronx, walking everywhere, and just being plain active every single day of my life. My then-boy-toy-now-hubby was very, very much aware of this and in fact offered to run with me one morning. But that, my friends, is another story...
I like food. I enjoy eating good, quality food. Whether that food is a salad, or a piece of homemade apple pie with cheddar baked into its crust, or some good ole-fashioned bracciole with pasta and gravy simmered all day on a Sunday, or my mom's crispy baked chicken I'm going to eat it--and that is with or without your approval.
I'm being so bad right now.
Are you really going to eat that?
Aren't you on a diet, though?
I really shouldn't be eating this.
Wow, I'm going to need to run a marathon tomorrow after this meal.
I'll just have half. I mean I really shouldn't even be eating half.
I probably shouldn't eat this.
I'm gonna have to put my fat pants on after this.
I'll just eat this salad and be hungry all effin-day.
You eat too much.
LIVE AND LET EATFrom the personal stories told and showcased on shows like Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss, to the less sensational shows such as AE's Heavy, there is always a plethora of "before" pictures in which fat people are "caught" engaging in the ritual and necessary act of eating. The following may be controversial statements. People eat. Skinny people eat. Fat people eat. Fat people, in fact, need to eat too.
So why is there this incredible shame attached to doing what we as humans, as living and breathing animals of this planet? Why do we have this obsession with what others put in their mouths?
Why do people feel the need to sabotage their own food experiences and others'? There are no easy answers here. I think about this on a daily basis--not a day goes by that I don't hear someone engaging in this type of behavior. I often catch myself doing the same thing.
This is not to negate the existence of the major epidemic of obesity that we are currently dealing with in the US. This is not to deny that fact that we are facing a real problem with the very low quality of food that many people either have to eat or choose to eat. Also, my purpose here is not to ignore the real issues with eating disorders that many men, women, and adolescents have. This is not any of that. The issue here is that negative food talk is so pervasive and omnipresent in our society that it has become normalized. We are accustomed to excoriating ourselves and subsequently projecting our negative and destructive feelings towards food on others. This isn't fair. It is especially unfair for fat people who may already be dealing with compromised self-image.
We have enough of this to deal with. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that many of us who are either overweight/obese/perceived-as-being-abnormal-because-we-have-big-bones-big-thighs-and-big-asses have dealt with, at some point in our lives being looked upon disdainfully when we eat, NO MATTER WHAT WE EAT. Salad? People are judging. Fries? Judging. Chewing gum? Drinking water after a sweaty workout? Fried chicken? Let's not even go there.
We have deeply held beliefs that aren't always substantiated by research and science about what constitutes a healthy appearance, lifestyle, diet. Let's deal with the REAL and very complicated root causes of obesity and what causes people to be unhealthily fat (it's not always as simple as calories-in-calories-out, folks.) Let's do this without judgment, without yelling at fat people, without portraying them in reality shows as unwieldy, out of control, and gluttonous; without parading them (us) in front of the world so that everyone can gawk at their profound shame.
Concerned about a friend who eats what you perceive to be an unhealthy diet? This is a dilemma, I admit. Have you considered why a person may be eating what and how they're eating? Have you modeled healthful eating yourself without relentlessly and thoughtlessly forcing your own food values and choices on others? Have you considered WHY you are worried? Have you considered that your concern might actually just be judgment?
But sometimes our concerns are just that, genuine concerns--that we can choose to express carefully, lovingly and respectfully without shaming in the process. Let us stop interrupting our own and others' enjoyment and pleasure in eating and nourishing our bodies and minds.
Live and let eat.