Listen, barring the professional diagnosis of any medical conditions that would make it so, carbs are not the devil. If it’s okay to eat pounds of bacon and pork rinds on your diet, then it’s cool to have a banana or sweet potato too.
You don’t have to explain that you’re “being bad” and “you don’t usually eat like this” when you order your favorite dessert (or mozzarella sticks or french fries) at your girls’ night out.
We must stop putting a moral value on food. It’s a breeding ground for disordered eating, shame, and fat phobia.
We’ve been trained and conditioned to do this. Myself included. I’ve battled an eating disorder and body dysmorphia for decades, and while I am currently learning to unpack the misguided and untrue beliefs diet culture has sold me, it’s still an everyday battle to just appreciate, respect, and nourish my body without fixating 24/7 on how to make it smaller, thinner, leaner.
Even if your story isn’t as extreme as mine, all of us have been impacted and influenced in some way by this cultural conditioning that prizes a thin body above all else, including one’s physical, mental and emotional health. Thinness first, then worry about your happiness and wellbeing later. That’s the message we are relentlessly bombarded with.
I’m so fucking over it.
The other day at Starbucks, a young teen and her mom were standing in front of me in line, and her daughter said she wanted a bagel. The mom, without hesitation, said “Too many carbs, you don’t want to be a big fatty!” No bagel for the girl, and they took a nearby seat as they waited for their drinks.
I wanted to grab that girl, look her in the face, and tell her “Listen to me, please. Your weight is the least interesting thing about you, whether you are at your biggest, smallest, or somewhere in between. You are beautiful. You are amazing. And you can eat whatever the fuck you want, so let me buy you a bagel.”
I didn’t do that. It was so hard to bite my tongue, totally against my nature. But I don’t know the family dynamic between that girl and her mom, and coming from a home where my relationship with my own mother was very toxic and weight-shaming, I didn’t want to do anything to make life harder for her after she left the cafe. So I smiled at her warmly, met her eyes as I walked by, and willed her to read my mind and believe that she was worthy and valuable.
The examples are endless.
A few weeks ago at a school meeting, there were refreshments available, including a large bowl of various mini chocolate bars and candies. Everyone was munching on snacks. As one mom selected a piece of candy, she looked around and apologized to the rest of us in the room. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t pass it up. I’m just having this tiny piece. I don’t want to blow up like a balloon.”
Now I totally understand that this type of response is likely stemming from someone who has their own story with food and/or body image issues. It wasn’t said in such a way that it was meant to shame others who were partaking, or to trigger someone else who was on their own recovery journey, but the intent doesn’t erase the impact. These words carry weight, and they can do undue harm to others around us.
I’ve been there. I have felt like I needed to make it clear to strangers that I did care about my weight and I was only indulging because I had “worked out extra hard earlier” or whatever. (I’m so glad that I’m not like this anymore.)
The key issue here is that she felt that she had to apologize at all, as if she was doing something shameful by eating the damn mini candy bar.
We have been conditioned to feel like if we are not thin, we should feel guilty eating anything that isn’t considered rabbit food. This is especially true when fat women are publicly consuming food that does not carry a “healthy” label, like treats and comfort foods. As if fat people don’t have to eat too. As if big people don’t get to enjoy food the same way smaller people do.
It’s all so fucking enraging and gross.
We know nothing about someone’s health, diet, or anything else by looking at them. And honestly, even if we do, that doesn’t matter. People don’t have to be healthy, thin, or on a diet to be worthy of respect. They are still allowed to eat whatever they want, whenever they want without judgement or commentary.
Part of healing from an eating disorder often involves gaining weight, so I have gained weight. Also, having four kids changed my body. My body is not as small as it used to be. My tummy is softer too. But I used to work double shifts as a server in college and “challenge” myself to make it through by only drinking water. I’d track my steps each shift too. If I just had to consume calories, I would head to the gym and work out after work, until I was almost too dizzy to stand. My stomach was constantly begging me to fill it, and I was constantly thinking of ways to distract myself from my hunger.
I was thin, and I had a thigh gap and a flat tummy, but I was definitely not healthy.
So, if you are one of those people still holding on to the “glorifying obesity” trope as you see body-positive women work tirelessly to shift this pervasive cultural narrative, please shut up.
If you talk — unsolicited — about your diet plan, weight loss efforts, or make value statements about food, you definitely need to zip your lips.
If you make judgement calls about others based on the way they look or what they eat, please go to therapy and unpack that. It’s about you, not them.
If you want to eat a mini candy bar (or a king sized one), go ahead and do that. Just do it. Part of having a healthy, intuitive relationship with food, and giving a middle finger to diet culture, is allowing yourself to partake in foods that you enjoy without guilt and without making up for it later.
And, don’t forget to honor your hunger. Don’t spend your life preoccupied by hunger pains. I wish I could go back and love myself, feed myself. I can’t, but I can implore you to not let our bullshit societal norms prevent you from living your best life.
You can’t live your best life if you’re always hungry.
And please, for the love of all that is good in this cruel world, do not make value statements to your children based off their size or their food choices. A bagel will not make your daughter a “big fatty,” but speaking to her in that way can saddle her with a lifelong battle of disordered eating and mental health struggles, as well as compromise your relationship. Don’t do that your kid(s).
We can all work to do better, so we do not pass this bullshit on to the next generation. STFU about your diet already.