Come get fat with us!

Eating is such an interesting part of life.  Culture creates so many norms and values pertaining to both the consumption of and words used about food.  This morning as I made my way into the work cafeteria a few co-workers were sitting and enjoying some blueberry scones and one looked up a bit guiltily, as though caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar, smiled as I came in and said, “Come get fat with us!”  Not being fully awake I certainly had no interesting reply to give and could only reply, “I don’t think eating one scone makes one fat.” 

Thinking about it now, the thing I find most intriguing is how people can associate so much guilt with eating.  And there was guilt there, betrayed by the beckoning verbal cues to “join in” on the obviously naughty behavior of eating something other than green leafy veggies in public.  Is this guilt some sort of puritan left-over?  Is it more a media-induced craze wrought by the conscious effort of actresses and models always needed to be thin, having each action and bite of food scrutinized and moralized that creates this desperate need to avoid eating in public and feel guilty if we do?

Despite a year of working on my own self-acceptance and fat-acceptance journey I find that the urge to defend my food choices is still very much ingrained as a part of my response to any questions regarding what I’m eating for lunch or a snack.  And despite this growing self-acceptance it is hard to tamp down the equally ingrained positive glow when someone approves of food I eat in public and the equally annoying nasty guilt resulting after seeing those negative frowns and hearing the negative comments when something is deemed “unhealthy” or “not the best choice”. 

It is still a hard thing to get out of this mindset of avoiding conflict when eating in public.  When really, it is NONE of anyone else’s business what I’m eating.  No, not even my friends or my family have any sort of undeniable RIGHT to mock, criticism or comment on my food choices, in any way shape or form (negative OR positive).  Unless you’re trying to tell me there is a big old bug or fuzzy hair in what I’m about to put in my mouth, I really don’t want or need your praise or scorn for my eating.

I’m interested in your thoughts though. Do you feel guilty when eating in public?  Does the need to justify your food decisions still overpower your staunchest efforts at self-acceptance/fat-acceptance?

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14 thoughts on “Come get fat with us!

  1. Think I might be a first-time poster here, but I really enjoy reading your blog! Anyway, I sometimes feel guilty about *cleaning my plate* in public; I’ve had a number of waitpersons make jokey comments to me along the lines of, “you sure were hungry!,” and while I realize they were likely just off-hand remarks, I always feel like they are pointedly implying that I ate more than I “should.” I have sometimes deliberately left a few bites on my plate that I could have eaten just to avoid that kind of commentary — which, of course, I now believe goes on in every waiter’s head, whether s/he says it or not. Even if I’m eating a big salad — and, oh! *especially* if I’ve cleaned my plate and my boyfriend hasn’t cleaned his! It’s such ridiculous sexist b.s. — “ladies should be dainty and eat like birds,” and I can’t believe I’ve actually internalized it to this degree.

  2. Hi Sarah 🙂 I agree about the sexism part too. If a woman happens to eat more than a man people assume all sorts of things that just don’t make sense! Not that assumptions are generally ever the greatest things but still. Besides, if I ever start eating like a bird I’ll probably be kicked out of any restaurant for crapping all over the place and throwing anything I don’t like all over the floor. Birds are messy! 😉

  3. I don’t feel guilty eating in public, but there are a few aspects of it that make me feel self-conscious. The main one is how long it takes me to finish a meal. I’m a very slow eater. So much so that it’s a source of humor among my friends and family. The fact that I’m still eating when everyone else is finished makes me uncomfortable. I worry that onlookers will assume it’s taking me longer because I’m taking in much more than everyone else, as in, “Look at that fatass – she’s still eating! All the normal people finished half an hour ago, but she’s still CHOWING DOWN!”

  4. I have only recently become conscious of the fact that I “monitor” my eating in public. This weekend one of my boyfriends friends was staying at our house and we went out to eat several times. Despite my progress in loving myself as I am I was surprised when thoughts such as “He must be thinking that my boyfriend sure got himself a pig for a girlfriend” or “I bet he thinks this is why I am fat” while I ate onion rings at an alarming rate (I hadn’t eaten all day after working a volunteer event and was starving!) I was glad that I at least recognized the negative self talk and countered it in my head. The funny thing though was that I found out later that day that this person who currently paints houses for a leaving previously had worked as a cook for a facility to treat eating disorders. After all my worrying about this man watching me eat, I found out that he of all people knows the sickness of someone not eating.

  5. I have the opposite problem – I’m thin and I can’t eat very much in one sitting, so I hate eating in public because I know that I probably won’t be able to finish my meal and people will think I’m anorexic. It was a really big source of anxiety for me when I was younger. I still decline invitations to join people for dinner because I don’t want them to think that about me.

    I like to snack a lot, but part of why I bring snacks with me to class is because I want people to see me eating so they know that I DO eat.

    Why can’t we just EAT and not be judged by how we eat, what we eat, how much of it or how fast?

  6. Christine my husband has the same situation, he has always been a slow eater. I think it is difficult for other people who might wonder if they are eating TOO FAST in comparison. Which, is at the root, the entire problem. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and judging good or bad. We need to do what works for US each as individuals. Like KM said, let’s just eat and leave the judgements (good or bad) out of it!

  7. This is one area where I’ve never had a problem, actually. I think in part it’s because food was never a battlefield in my home growing up. If something was on the plate, you had to at least try it once before refusing to eat it, but that was pretty much the only food rule going.

    Beyond the family, I was usually a pariah anyway, so it didn’t matter if people saw me eating ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’

    While I have had some internal issues over weight, never once did I worry about what people thought of me eating in public or of what I was eating in public.

    Once again, I’m abnormal, but this time I think it’s a good thing.

  8. I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to choose lunch or dinner companions based on whether I feel comfortable eating what I want in front of them. I don’t care what random strangers or waiters think, but I don’t like eating with people I don’t know very well or people who I know are into being “healthy” because they might judge what I eat. Mind you, sometimes I feel like eating salad or other “healthy” options, but I don’t want to feel constrained.

    On the other hand, I’ve also been known to tell people, “You don’t have to apologize for what you eat.” I know a few people who would say, “I know I shouldn’t have this brownie, but I’m going to anyway,” and I tell them not to apologize. That behavior really bothers me anyway – you can either eat it or not, but if you do eat it don’t feel guilty about it!

  9. Eve ~ I know, the guilt is all part of the whole infuriating internalized process though! Feel guilt at eating in general, feel proud of eating leafy greens…it is crazy making to hear it vocalized too. As though even as adults we still feel like we need to seek permission to nourish our bodies as we please!

  10. I can’t eat normally around my family (as in, at my parent’s house) because I know they are judging…it’s salads and chicken only…if even a slice of bread crosses my lips I risk that single slice of bread being held responsible for my current condition (“you need to cut out the _______ if you ever want to lose weight”). I agree, we shouldn’t need permission to eat what we like!

  11. You know, this is an interesting point. I give myself enough guilt about what I eat, but for me that usually occurs at home because I do my “bad” eating there- sweets and stuff.

    However, lately at work I have noticed that one of my co-workers has taken to commenting on almost everyone’s meal- I think for her it is a maternal thing, she thinks she’s helping out, i.e., “You’re not just having crackers for lunch, are you?” But sometimes I find myself feeling guilty for what I’ve picked for lunch (I tend to graze over snacks like low fat cheese, whole wheat crackers, and fruits) and wondering ahead of time what she will have to say about it.

    It’s a little scary how much we pay attention to what others say to us, about something that is a personal choice!

  12. While visiting my brother in Chicago, we went to this delicious little Thai place for dinner. We love their egg rolls and since they only come with two on a plate we ordered four orders, one order per person. The waitress kept repeating “you mean you want four orders total” and gave us that look of disgust. The table next to us began staring and chuckling among themselves and yes, they were very thin people. At that moment I wanted to get up and leave. I wish people would be more sensitive to the feelings of others. I too am on a journey of self-acceptance and trying to reclaim my self-confidence. You can read about it on my blog at http://www.losingaton.wordpress.com.

  13. I’m a pretty fast eater, and that’s because for most of my life, due to school and previous jobs I had, you had no time to really sit down and enjoy a meal. As a family, we never ate around the table unless it was a family gathering at someone else’s house. So I’m sure people will see me and think I’m just another fat glutton who can’t wait to eat. So yes, I will at times be deliberately slow to show people that I don’t scarf a meal down at one sitting. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t care what you eat or how you eat it. Sometimes we just need to worry about ourselves and not the stranger in the next booth or table chowing down on that cheeseburger and fries.

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