You Can’t Tell How Much Someone Eats By Looking At Their Body

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
Vedrana Sučić/Reshot

For some reason, there’s a pervasive belief in society that if you have a fat body, it means you eat a lot. Not just a little bit more than other people, but some kind of absurd, cartoonish amount. Fat bodies are constantly being reduced to our eating habits. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone tell a fat person to “eat a salad” or “drink water” or “step away from the cheeseburgers.”

People have big opinions about very thin bodies, too. If a person has a very thin body, some people think it’s okay to tell them that they “eat like a bird,” “stop starving themselves,” or “eat a cheeseburger.” (Why are people so obsessed with cheeseburgers?)

This has to stop.

Let me say that again, with feeling.

This body-shaming, food-shaming, fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, intrusive, ignorant bullshit HAS TO STOP.

The size of someone’s body is none of your business unless they invite you to discuss it.

The food in someone’s diet is not your concern unless they invite you to discuss it.

That should be the end of the story, but we all know people can’t just mind their own damn business, so let’s get one more thing out of the way:

The whole idea that fat people eat absurd amounts of food and very thin people don’t enough is just false.

I have a fat body. I always have. Recently, someone commented on a photo of me, “I can’t even imagine what you have to eat to get that big.”

Sigh. This again?

Do people honestly think that I eat like Gaston? Five dozen eggs every morning so I can become the size of a barge?

Remember when Bruce Bogtrotter had to eat that entire cake in front of the entire school because the Trunchbull was mad at him for stealing her slice? Do people think I do that for funsies and call it breakfast?

Well, I don’t.

I have PCOS with insulin resistance, and that means managing my weight is more complicated than just “not eating cheeseburgers.”

Do I spend my life on a diet, restricting food groups and counting every calorie? Not usually. Sometimes I fall into a pattern like that for a short time, but I try not to participate in diet culture in that way.

Instead, I focus on making sure I am eating things that are nutrient-dense and have benefits to my body beyond filling my stomach. Right now, my refrigerator is packed to the gills with vegetables, and they will all be gone by the end of the week. I’ve spent the last few years experimenting with ways to make my family eat quinoa.

I’m a huge fan of kale.

There are also mini cheesecake bites in my freezer. Last night, my husband turned our chicken breast into fried chicken cutlets instead of grilling it. I’ve eaten a chicken biscuit this week.

What I haven’t done is eat a dozen bagels or donuts. I don’t sit down with a fork and an entire meatloaf and call it dinner. I’m not winning any eating contests, and I probably eat one cheeseburger a year. If that.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe, but some people (Hi! It’s me! I’m some people!) eat normally—just the same as you—and our bodies end up fat.

Other people eat normally and their bodies end up very thin.

This is a thing. If you have been making unfair judgments about people’s eating habits based solely on the size of their bodies, it’s time for you to wrap your mind around it and knock it off.

My friend is one of the tiniest people I’ve ever met. Minuscule. She’s a living Polly Pocket.

You’d never guess it by looking at her, but that tiny little woman has an enormous appetite. (It’s almost as though you can’t even tell what someone eats just by looking at them. Huh. Imagine that.)

She isn’t ashamed of her hunger because she has never had to be. Her small body has made her large appetite a novelty. It’s adorable. It’s her party trick.

“Step right up! Watch this teeny little pixie eat her weight in chicken!”

When you’re in a fat body, it doesn’t work that way. She and I could sit side-by-side and match one another bite-for-bite, and somehow, almost nobody would think it was cute. Most of the time, someone would find a way to tell me I overindulged. Even if my intake was identical to my little fairy-sized friend.

And that makes perfect sense, because when people shame my eating habits, it’s not the food that people have a problem with—it’s my body.

Remember those fast-food commercials a few years back, featuring supermodels laying on the hoods of fast cars, chowing down on burgers with barbeque sauce dripping down their fingers, a dab landing on their chin? Same concept. Sexy for them. Repugnant for me.

This is nothing new, and sadly, I realize it’s not going anywhere. But as long as I have a place to do it, I’m going to keep on talking about how unfair and totally stupid this double-standard is.

Despite the size of my body, I do have to eat to live. It would be really great if society didn’t see my absolutely normal, human reliance on food as a moral failing or character defect.

Body size is complicated. A million intrinsic health and lifestyle factors come into play.

Shaming someone’s eating habits because of your assumptions about their body size is ignorant.

If you just don’t like the look of fat people and therefore choose to view us as less than you, whatever. You suck as a human being, but if you want to suck, that’s your prerogative. There is no law saying you have to be a decent, multifaceted, open-minded, educated, interesting person. You are entitled to be a human trash can.

If you just can’t stand the idea that a person could possibly eat as much as they want and stay very thin, so you choose to paint them with a judgmental brush, whatever to that, too. Again, you’re quite free to be a walking skid mark.

But if you think you can tell everything about a person’s eating habits just by looking at them, well, you’re wrong. And you’re not entitled to portray your opinion as fact and be cruel to people because of it. Be a better person.

Let people of all sizes eat in peace.

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