Thursday, May 26, 2016

Please Leave Your Food Anxieties At The Door

I'd Like To Enjoy My Meal, Please

Original Post: April 13, 2015

Fat person eating in Spain.
About 10 months into our courtship, my then boyfriend and I went out to eat with some friends at the Pink Teacup in New York's West Village. The food was sumptuous--exquisitely prepared macaroni and cheese dripping with grease, collard greens simmered in a smoky broth, and fried catfish. MMMM! And then there was dessert. Bread pudding soaking in something alcoholic. I ordered a slice. And then I ordered another.

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.


From 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.


  1. Standing ovation happening in my living room right now. This is the very sort of negative self-talk I did for YEARS. Honestly, it's what still happens in my brain sometimes, but never, NEVER out loud. Since my first daughter was born, I promised myself that for her sake, I would never speak negatively about my body again. (At least about how it looked. I complain about my plantar fasciitis all the time.) And I cringe when I hear other people do it in front of my kids. PLEASE shut up. PLEASE just eat. Signed, a mom whose kids are listening

    1. Thanks so much Vanessa! I also have to watch myself around my pre-teen son. It's a hard habit to break, let me tell you!

  2. I wish I could eat as I wish without the self talk and bargaining...I wish I dared to run again as I did in my 30's. Thank you for letting me view that as a real possibility, plantar fasciitis or not, difficult-to-fit myself into running gear or not.
    Rebecca P Brackett in Maine

  3. I saw a nutritionist recently that told me: "even prisoners get to eat" and WHOA. You mean... *I* deserve to eat?! I knew I had issues but wowza. I didn't realize how deep all that negative self-talk/guilt/shame went. Thank you for this post!

  4. I really love and appreciate this post. It is so important to remember and pass on to the younger generations, especially the young women. Thank you.

    1. As an educator of adolescents, this is a top priority of mine--through positive role modeling and acceptance (I hope!). Thanks for your message!

  5. We had a birthday party at work the other night and I joined in and enjoyed a slice of cake and ice cream with everyone else . A coworker spoke to me saying I thought you were trying to be healthier. Now i know they didn't mean anything by it but am I not allowed to celebrate ? I mean you'd swear I pulled up a chair and claimed the whole thing as mine by the way he looked .

    1. Seriously? UGH. LIVE AND LET EAT. Why are we so worried about what others put in their mouths!

  6. I love you. This is the truest thing I have read today and I studied 130 pages of European Contract Law so there's that to compare with :) It is incredibly affecting whenever someone makes a food or weight comment, any comment, with what can be interpreted as praise or disdain. What we say and do always has an impact. It has in the past months taken me through a weight change of healthy weight x that i always maintained, plus 10kg on my brilliant swiss exchange semester (still superhealthy but unhappy as the 21st century girl influenced by social pressure i was) followed by a subtraction of 20 kg (incredibly unhealthy but society has so praised the way of reaching that underweight by 5 kgs bmi) and a weight gain up to x right now that will still continue because of starvation repairs. It has been and still is effing creepy to deal with re regulating my body. I have had comments as well as looks on the amount of food i take in, but while it is extreme i am the only person qualified to determine when i am hungry and when i want a piece of cake. Your blog is the most wonderful thing, Mirna. Thank you for such another brilliant post.

    1. Haha! So wanna educate us about contract law?? The looks, the tones of voice, the other body language that people receive when putting food into their mouths...ridiculous. Can I just eat? Can I just BE? Thanks for your comment Julie!

  7. I'm tearing up reading this. In the past year and a half, I've gained 90lbs after a knee reconstruction and hormone therapy. My family is constantly on my case about what I put in my mouth, yet they bring in junk food (hello enablers!).
    I've recently laced up my old Gel Kayanos just to begin walking again, and the chorus of "you sure have a big appetite" and "are you sure you want to eat that big salad?" have become louder.
    Your post reinforces the message that no-one deserves this, and that in truth, they have their own deeply rooted issues with food. Thank you for such a passionate blog post.

    1. I'm so glad you're feeling well enough to start walking again. Wow! The things we have to go through as our bodies change as we go through this thing called life. I'm so glad this post spoke to you in the way that you needed to hear. Soldier on, eat, drink, walk and be merry! Much luck to you as you regain your walking mojo!