Finding out that you’re biased. Where to go from here.

There are many times in life when you have that “Eureka” moment.  For the most part I’d hope they are good moments; like realizing you’ve left a $10 bill in your winter coat and finding it the next year or finding another yogurt in the fridge when you thought you were out.  Sometimes though, you can have one of those moments of insight and it can really make you cringe.

I just had one of those moments today when I read this older post from The F-word; and let me tell you that it is still making my head spin.  Because after reading the post and the comments about poverty and food stamps and trying to stay “healthy” while feeding yourself and others on a limited budget, I realized that I have been (even if only in my head) very judgmental regarding others’ choices.  And that little “Eureka” moment was me suddenly taking off those rosy-colored and extremely privileged glasses and acknowledging that I too was behaving no better than those who would seek to make snap judgments on fat people simply based on appearances every time that I even mentally scoffed at someone buying processed food stuffs on a limited or food stamp budget.

My bias has been to assume that people choose the foods they do either because they are too lazy to make it themselves or because they don’t know any better. Wow.  And to think it took a post to realize this was a huge bias.  Even typing it out is making me cringe.  So I have been trying to analyze this bias.  Not to rationalize it but more as a means of finding out where it is coming from and figuring out how to move beyond it.

Growing up I lived with my single working mother, my brother and my grandmother.  By the age of 8 I was helping my grandmother make perrogies in the kitchen in the early morning and washing our laundry in the afternoon.  While never a latch-key kid since grandma was always there I guess you could say we were the next closest thing.  Since my mom worked 11-14 hour days most times to ensure we had food on the table and clothes on our back it was often up to the rest of us to think up and create meals.  Part of my bias, therefore, comes from a life-long upbringing of learning and loving the entire process of preparing and cooking food.  It was a time to be crafty and inventive and do something incredibly useful.  Not only do I love it but it comes easy to me.  The only time I don’t cook is when I am too lazy and thus resort to boiled Ramen or a grilled cheese or even boxed macaroni and cheese.

The entire idea that someone not only didn’t want to cook but COULDN’T was a foreign to me as Mary Jane shoes (an entire fashion concept that I still don’t quite get, but that is besides the point for now).  I mean, after so many years of cooking and cleaning and preparing and thinking about food and recipes, how could I ever even conceptualize that some people DIDN’T grow up the same way?  How could a person NOT just KNOW how to make gravy from scratch or follow a recipe without getting confused?  I was a stage two concern troll, I know.  I was the quintessential culinary poster child for: “If I can do it, so can you.” And that has forever colored my thinking about the world around me.  If someone in front of me was choosing lunchables and pre-packaged dinners in the grocery store then I was rolling my eyes at their laziness.

Just like the folks who look at me and assume I must never exercise because of my appearances; I was assuming that anyone buying such things was just being too lazy to make a good meal.  Based on merely the appearance of their grocery cart I was judging their character and moral values.  Yeah.  Talk about a slap in the face and huge chunk of humble pie today when I finally addressed this pervasive assumption, grabbed it by the collar and finally asked it “What are you doing here!?  You jerk!  How could you be back here for so long and so undetected, coloring my view of people so negatively!  Out you get!  I don’t need this kind of crap stereotype thinking clouding what I THOUGHT was a judgment free zone. ”

How can I claim to be so forward thinking when even I can suddenly realize that the entire framework through which I view the world has been shaded by my own experiences in a way that made me view others and their choices negatively?  Where do I go from here now that I’ve acknowledged the presence of such an awful thing within my own mind and past behaviors?

First I’m going to be conscious of the ways that I think, even more so, and work harder to question every thus-far unquestioned judgement that I have.  I need to analyze where these beliefs are stemming from  in order to be aware and figure out how to avoid them.  In short, I need to stop being a judgemental dill-weed and THINK about my un-questioned beliefs before spouting off about the need for people to avoid certain things if they want to be healthy.  Good heavens if I don’t then I end up being no better than those who pontificate endlessly about the needs of fat people to get healthy for healthy’s sake.

There is no one single “right” way to view the world and I do understand that how we live and the experiences we have do shape our view of the world around us in important ways.  However, I have had a moment today that has changed my views in a large way and if I hadn’t addressed them then I think that would have only served to hurt my own travels down the paths of self-awareness and self-acceptance.  I have worked hard to accept and understand my body.  It is time to start accepting and understanding my mind as well.  And that, is the unbiased truth.  As I know it.

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11 thoughts on “Finding out that you’re biased. Where to go from here.

  1. Thank you for thinking about this out loud – this is one of the problems I’ve had about the whole idea of moralizing against convenience food. Even in the fatosphere I see a lot of assumptions and implications built on the stereotype of the poor mother feeding her children an inferior quality of food or the lazy fatty who doesn’t cook her own meals and always goes out. Not only is the idea of cooking from scratch intimidating to a lot of people, it’s downright impossible due to time constraints and the fact that you only have so much energy for the day. One safety officer who works at the library I do has two jobs – on some days, she works for 17 hours. In that kind of schedule there is simply no time for cooking, and it’s not a question of “should”.

  2. Great post! I think sometimes this attitude also comes from a retaliatory place… I know there have been times when I thought “and people assume I eat junk because I’m fat, but look at the crap that thin woman is buying!” Anyway, I’ve had to overcome some of the same biases you had (in my case my parents didn’t cook that much or anything too sophisticated, but I like to cook myself and had developed these ideas about what was “healthy” and constituted a “proper meal,” unfortunately based partially on various diets I had been on and whatnot). I think many of us don’t really have to think about exactly how difficult it is to put any food on the table (never mind “nutritious” food) when you’re poor, so we don’t. Your post reminded me that I always need to keep chipping away at my assumptions about others.

  3. Admitting that you may have been mistaken about something is awesome. You are made of win!

    (I totally hate to cook by the way, I buy packaged dinners for this reason. If that makes me a bad person well. uhm… I don’t care? I hate to cook.)

  4. I love to cook and prepare food. I even did it when I worked ten hours days and I grew up in a household where my mother hated to cook. I learned to cook as a young teen so I could have good food to eat. However, I understand the convenience of mixes. I’ve even made hamburger helper a handful of times.

    When my babies were little, we lived on a strict budget. My husband was low ranking military. We ate very well. I could easily feed a family of four on less than 150 dollars a month on very healthy homemade food.

  5. Interesting post. Yes, there are people who flat-out don’t know how to cook. (I think Rachel Ray has built her entire life around teaching people to cook basic things!)

    I do wonder, though, how often you would look at what was in other people’s carts and think about it? Was this something you would often do? If so, yes, this will be a major shift.

  6. I want to thank you for this. I am only now, in my thirties, finally trying to learn to cook. Growing up, I learned how to bake because it was something I did with my mother as a bonding activity, but never really how to cook. Thinking about it now, I don’t think my mother really knew how to cook either; I certainly remember some unfortunate mistakes when she tried to make things from scratch. We weren’t rich, but that meant we ate a lot of spaghetti and macaroni and cheese, not really homemade meals for a variety of reasons.

    So yes, for most of my life I’ve bought processed and prepared foods. I still buy a fair amount now as my efforts at cooking aren’t always successful, plus cooking preparation always seems to take me longer than recipes claim. And yes, I’ve often felt terribly self-conscious about it and feel that people watch what I buy and judge me.

    Truthfully, I’m the reverse: the idea of being brought up to know how to cook just seems odd to me. It’s not that I don’t see the value; it’s that it’s simply not how I was raised (which seems true for a lot of other people I’ve known as well, if by no means all). And the idea of cooking every night and planning meals and everything is a very new way of thinking for me and, honestly, I’m still trying to get used to it.

  7. “How can I claim to be so forward thinking when even I can suddenly realize that the entire framework through which I view the world has been shaded by my own experiences in a way that made me view others and their choices negatively?”

    The only difference between a forward thinking person and a judgemental dillweeed is the way in which each responds to finding out that they have a bias. A forward thinking person will examine the bias to figure out how it works and how to respond to it. A judgemental dillweed believes that the bias is just the way things are and doesn’t give it another thought (or gives it a token thought and does nothing about it.)

    It’s impossible to not have biases. All healthy discernment is based on biases. Biases are only a bad thing when people use them as an excuse to treat others like they are worth less than people who are worth more.

    Keep examining your biases and discarding the ones that cause harm, but don’t beat yourself up for having them. That’s simply the way our brains function.

  8. I agree that you shouldn’t judge people for buying convenience food but it could be that they just don’t know or have never been shown how. So you can still tell people about your ideas just don’t force them on to people. It is easy for people who are better off to make those calls though.

  9. I’m so glad you read the F-word post and realized this. It was a point I was trying to make, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears for the most part. It’s a relief that someone got the concept. Thank you for posting on it too.

    I would also like to say so what if the person was being “lazy” (I quote this because I don’t think it’s laziness that stops them) for not preparing a good meal? It’s like saying it’s okay to be fat, because one eats all the “right” things and exercises while the fattie who doesn’t should be shamed. Cooking is an activity, and like anything else some people enjoy it and others hate it. Just like sex or running or eating or dancing.

  10. Cree I’m glad I came to realize and stopped to think about this too. And your final point is what my mind was trying to convey as well. Saying it is wrong to judge a person’s size because of appearances and then turning around to judge someone’s lifestyle choices based on appearances is what really made the F-word post click for me. Even IF a person is lazy or every stereotypically bad attribute of what your bias attributes to them, that still isn’t cause to judge or dis-respect them; and this is what is helping to shape my reactions to this bias now. A lot of reflection still to be done on my part but I’m happy to have found this out so that I can grow and examine the world around me in a slightly different way.

  11. i came across your blog through Dan from intuitive eating, i love the title!!!!! so true! i lookforward to reading more posts!!

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