Eating While Fat

I got an e-mail from a reader asking me “I have a really hard time eating in public because I feel that I don’t want to reinforce stereotypes about fat people and eating but I also don’t want to choose foods that make me feel, or give others the impression that I’m on a diet.  What are your thoughts?”

I think it’s an absolute shame that our culture around food is based on fear, shame, and attempting to assign moral value to food (sinful dessert, guilt free chips etc.).  The weight loss culture has also given rise to the belief that we cannot trust our bodies in making food decisions.  I’m told to believe that Jenny Craig knows better than me how much food I need and what type.

These things can combine to make choosing foods for ourselves incredibly stressful but when you add a public element it can send you right over the edge.  In addition to all of the pressures of choosing foods for ourselves, public eating introduces other people and their issues.  It can be super stressful to eat with someone who is constantly talking about “being good,” or their diet restrictions, or who has to comment about how every plate that arrives is “SO MUCH FOOD!” or that nobody could possibly finish it, or how nobody could want dessert after all that food, especially if you cleaned your plate and are eyeing that cherry cobbler.  It can start to feel like your dining companion is in charge of food morality and that you have to go to cherry cobbler confession.

I don’t know about you but that can be really frustrating for me to deal with.  It helps me to remember that I don’t know why they are behaving this way.  There are certainly always people who try to make themselves feel good by being The Best Healthy Eater Ever (TM) or believing that it’s their job to be your food conscience and that behavior is some bullshit. But we don’t know if that’s where this comes from and I think it’s worth it to remember that these people are also the product of a culture that is seriously, seriously messed up around food.  To me this is one of those boundary setting situations.  So I might say something like “I’m really dedicated to eating in a way that opts out of diet culture and food shame.  There are so many things for us to talk about, would you mind if we didn’t talk about food or food choices when we have lunch?” Or you could use it as a springboard to start a discussion about the ways that our culture screws us up around food.  Or you could choose to just model eating without talking about your food choices. Or you could just ignore it.

There’s also the issue of food becoming almost a political statement or revolutionary act for fat people.  Do I choose the salad so that my food choices aren’t judged?  Or because I want to show something outside the stereotype?  Do I choose the bacon cheese fries with ranch as an act of rebellion?  I personally try not to choose foods either to avoid judgment or to rebel – rather I try to eat the thing that I want, taking into what is available, how it will taste, how my body will probably feel after I eat it, and what I’m doing for the rest of the day (do I have to fuel my body through a six hour dance rehearsal or am I going to sit and write for the rest of the day).  That’s most of the time but sometimes I choose food because it looks delicious or it’s a rare opportunity or it just sounds amazing or because I kind of can’t turn down candy corn. And I’m ok with that and that makes it ok because this is my body and these are my food choices.  But that’s just me and my choices – you get to choose for yourself.

The bottom line is that you get to choose whatever food you want in whatever amount you want for whatever reason you want every time you eat.  Your food choices are for you alone and there is no morality to them – there is no choice that is inherently more or less virtuous and you don’t owe anybody anything when it comes to your food choices.  And you are allowed to make different choices from meal to meal or day to day and it’s absolutely positively without a doubt never anybody else’s business. [Edit for clarification:  One of the choices that you can absolutely make is to choose to moralize food for yourself, but please be clear that your food morality does not apply to anyone else. From my perspective there is no inherent morality in food or food choices. Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that this wasn’t clear in the original post.]

I think that, rather than trying to make a citizen’s arrest as a self-appointed member of the food police, people might consider focusing their energy on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose to eat and that everyone has access to good information about food so that they can do whatever research they choose and then make whatever choices suit them.

If you want support when it comes to specific food and eating choices you are out of my realm of expertise but I have been really impressed by Golda at Body Love Wellness and Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist.

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I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on September 10, 2012 at 11:37 am  Comments (91)  

91 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Y’know, this is an issue that spans all body types and functions. I’ve seen really thin people feel guilty about their food choices, teenagers eating candy bars for lunch and offering no apologies…once I good-naturedly chided a guy in the canteen because he was just having a packet of crisps and a soda for lunch. Turns out he was the President of the MD State Senate…oops.

    My MIL is one of the biggest food police around, but the problem there is that she has CELIAC DISEASE. Yes, it’s in all caps because she’s made it her entire identity and is one of those that if she has something, the rest of the world has it and needs to STOP EATING WHEAT IT’S KILLING US ALL WE DON’T NEED IT AAUAUGH RAGNORAK RAGNORAK! When we’re at her house, she creates “clean zones” for anything that has wheat in it, providing she allows it in her house, and makes a point of saying everything she cooks is gluten-free and how we all should be eating less wheat products anyway because it’s just not good for us…the whole shebang.

    Every meal becomes about food choices with the attitude that we’re not making the right ones. If anyone goes anywhere near the kitchen sniffing for a snack, her head pops up, and she asks, “What do you want? Is there something you need? I can get you something…” I always lose weight there because she makes such a tense atmosphere you either can’t eat or everything comes out the other end from pure nerves.

    • Sounds like my ex sister in law. I never felt at home visiting over there for fear that my unclean hands would somehow dirty her spotless home, which of course contained only approved foods. She would wake my brother up every day at 4 in the morning to clean the house. He must be a nicer person than I am because I would have told her to eff off. If I’m asleep at 4 AM, nobody better dare wake me!

  2. Another thing that makes being around food as a fat person in this culture difficult for me is that people are *always* pushing candy, sweets, and other stereotypical ‘bad’ foods on me in the increasingly rare event that I’m in a social type situation where food would be involved. Any reason I give for declining is seen as an “excuse” because I just don’t want to be seen eating in public. Funny thing is a lot of the time if I just cave and take it, I don’t actually have to worry about eating it… the person pushing it on me always seems to want “just a taste” and ends up eating it all!

    Oh and we can’t forget the ever increasing number of people who will jump all over your ass for eating “dangerous” GMO foods, foods with HFCS, foods with this that or the other boogyman of the day. Not sure if it’s the run of the mill population doing that which irritates me more, or the people who present themselves as fat activists, HAES practitioners, body/size diversity activists etc which piss me off more. Because so very often if you dig a bit at why they think these things are bad, you’ll find “oh and it causes obesity”. So basically, they’re just as much invested in the whole “fat is the worst thing ever, don’t be fat!” thing that the mainstream of society bludgeons us over the head with, only instead of blaming us for being fat, they’re blaming our food. Some go for the “your food choices are bad, but it’s not your fault you’re just uneducated!” route, others go the “your food choices are bad, but it’s not your fault evil corporations foist fake foods onto you”.

    Either way, I’d just like to be able to enjoy my cheap apple that might have some bit of foreign DNA in it but doesn’t cost $5/ea in peace. Not that I can eat apples much, since they naturally contain sorbitol which gives me an upset stomach if I consume too much lol. But you catch my drift. Hmm… if a GMO Apple was invented that eliminated the sorbitol, if it didn’t otherwise affect taste, I might be interested in seeking it out actually. I like apples heh.

  3. Unless the person making a comment is fully cognizant of my lifestyle, my holistic health status, my personal body metabolism and eating choices, they have no right to comment nor can they possibly make an informed statement. They can only comment based on themselves, which makes their comment irrelevant at best and prejudiced at worst. That’s how I feel, anyway.

  4. I tend to eat out with my b/f who can out eat me most meals and doesn’t put on much weight doing so, since he does not police what I am eating I don’t worry to much about it. I used to be pretty hung up on it, especially after a complete stranger told me it was disgusting I was eating in public. I’ve also had a trainer on a course tell me that I should be locked in a cupboard and forced to eat lettuce until I lost weight, during my lunch break, but since the man was a proven idiot I wasn’t as affected by that.

    What I find really odd is when people offer me sweets repeatedly, they seem surprised when I politely turn them down, if I want a sweet I will take one when offered , but if I don’t want one they I’m not gonna eat it (even my gran does this, sometimes right before or after telling me the only way to lose weight is to eat less >.< I love the woman but that really makes my brain hurt.)

    • I had parents just like that. You need to be on a diet. Here – take this last piece of ___ so I don’t have to put it away. You had to take the biggest piece, so you’re just gonna sit here till you finish it! You have such a pretty face, you need to stop eating.

      Really, people? REALLY? Those are absolutely crazy-making, double-bind messages and they drive me right off the mental cliff. The “so I don’t have to put it away” thing boggles my mind now. If she didn’t want to have to put it away, why didn’t she just THROW it away instead of teaching her daughter to eat beyond her capacity??? GAH!!!

      • THIS.
        I actually understand were it comes from with my parents. Both of them were war children and suffered through food stamps and very little to eat in their childhood so throwing even away a dry crust of bread or a mouldy apple kills them. My father still drinks the last bit of dressing from a bowl of salad so as not to waste it.
        BUT, both of them are fat – as am I – and they have always struggled with their weight. So the message has always been “eat this, we can’t let it go to waste” followed by “don’t eat too much, you’re too fat”.
        Oh and my mum also believes in food as a reward, so there’s also “have a chocolate, you’ve earned a treat”, followed directly by “you shouldn’t eat so many sweets, you’re too fat”.
        It boggles the mind.

      • My mother gives these double messages to this day. “You’re very overweight/don’t you want dessert?” I’m almost 50 years old. Let me make up my own damn mind!

      • I got these mixed messages too, although I wasn’t fat as a teenager. It was more general. “Fat people are lazy, disgusting slobs. Here, have seconds. What’s wrong with you, don’t you like it?” I was so terrified of becoming fatter, believing that I was already fat. In reality I weighed 110 pounds and was forcing myself to vomit after meals.

    • I get that from my mother in law. Constant speeches about losing weight “to be healthy,” lectures about how much food I’m eating (which are totally not based in reality) alternating with getting mad at me when I don’t eat sweet stuff (I feel better if I don’t…) “Just do me a favor and try this cake!” Why should it matter if I don’t eat cake in a restaurant?

      She had some of the family convinced – I finally sat down with her husband and worked through what I’d eaten over the previous (typical) day to convince him I really wasn’t eating more than anyone else… (And it really wouldn’t have been any of their business if I was – but, as it happens, I wasn’t. I decided correcting that perception worked better for maintaining the family relationship.) It was nuts.

      • Oy. Why is it a “favor” for her for you to try her cake?? What possible…–ACK. I’m getting caught in the crazy. IT BURNS!!!

  5. While I agree that what you eat is no one else’s business, I don’t agree that choosing what to eat, when, and how much is a choice that carries no moral weight. As a human being, I have responsibilities and a moral obligation to meet those responsibilities. I also have a moral obligation to not be a jerk. When I eat certain foods, it affects my body, my energy, and my mood negatively and I can’t fulfill my responsibilities to the best of my ability. I can also become a jerk. I know which foods these are (and they are delicious). If I want to eat them, I am a more responsible person if I choose eat them at a time when I can kick back and relax. To me, this food choice carries moral weight BUT it is nobody else’s business if I eat these or when. No one gets the right to make judgements about what I eat but me. But I feel it’s my responsibility to fuel my body properly for the tasks I need to accomplish.

    • I agree with that. To me, as a woman with an eating disorder, oftentimes eating IS a moral choice. If I eat what I know is not a healthy choice for me (regardless of whether it’s a healthy choice for someone else), then I am being a really poor steward of my body, especially when I repeatedly make excuses to myself for why I can have something that isn’t good for me, like “I never get this at home,” or “I survived my test, so I’m gonna splurge,” or “It’s Thursday – grab the chitlins!” Not to mention that I’m reinforcing neural pathways that make it even harder to make a different choice next time as well.

      What I would say is that it’s not an objective moral choice like stealing or rape (both wrong, just FYI). It is, however, a subjective moral choice, but only God and I can know the appropriateness of a choice in that moment, and it ain’t NOBODY else’s business but ours.

      • Morality judgments associated with food intake (I’m bad, I’m ugly,) are a basis for eating disorders. It doesn’t seem like it would help to continue to approach food intake as a moral issue; shouldn’t it fuel the eating disorder?

    • I disagree. Food is neutral. Any morality that it may contain is purely in the mind of the person eating it.

      What you eat has moral weight for you but should never, not every carry that same moral weight for someone else.

      What you choose to eat does not make you more or less responsible to anyone but yourself. And if you choose to judge yourself based on the morality you assign to food, then so be it. But understand that that morality exists solely within you and does not, nor should it ever, exist for anyone else.

      Therefore, it is false to make a blanket statement that food has moral weight. Because someone else, from a different background, with a different morality won’t assign the same weight to the same foods.

      • You know what? You are absolutely correct. The choice (what/when/how to eat, etc.) is where the morality lies – not in the food itself as an object. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

        • Sorry, I was actually responding to the original poster but it somehow attached it to your post.🙂

          • Well, that’s OK because I was capitalizing on what she said, too.

  6. whenever i dine out (which is often – heh heh) i like to take just a few seconds to look around at all the different shapes and sizes around me. trust me, they always run the full spectrum! its a realization for me that no one is judging because first of all, they got no right to, secondly, they’re all there for their own good time, and third, i’ve just joined the party in my own way.

    • I like that.

    • I do that too! It especially makes me happy to notice that pretty much always, there are “unstereotypical” shapes and sizes at every type of restaurant. Thin people at the fast food joint? Check. Fat people eating salads at Panera? Check.

    • I’m with you! Rarely (extremely rarely) do I ever feel judged when eating in public. And if I do, I figure it’s their problem not mine. They’re the ones wasting energy on it. I’m out to have a good time.

      Now what I DO get a lot of times is people coming over to me and my crowd and saying what a good time it looks like we’re having! Not because we are overly loud or anything, just because we are all really good friends and love to laugh and have fun. Which makes me believe that “attitude” is a big definer of how people treat us. If I go into a restaurant tentatively, fearing that people may judge me, then I’m on the lookout for that behavior and people can read my hesitation. If on the other hand I go in hale and hearty lookin’ for a good time with good friends – people react to that and good times are had by all. I’ve even been known to say (loud enough for nearby diners to hear), “No, not that booth. As you can see, I my corpulance will not fit in that svelte booth – do you have a larger booth/table?” All this in good humor. The server usually smiles and leads us to a great, size appropriate table. And the parTAY commences.

      • Look at it this way – there’s a lot of free-range worry in the world. They’re just kind enough to pick up some for you so you can be freer.😉

  7. Even though I’m not someone who is usually considered “fat” by others, I still get incredibly self-conscious about the amount I eat in public. This isn’t such a problem for me at parties where little noshes are put out for people to pick up as they choose, because it’s harder to determine how much another person is eating without really paying attention. At a restaurant, though, I feel like I’m being judged as a glutton if I clean my plate (though another part of me rails at this and says, “why give me that much food if you don’t expect me to eat it?”). I feel like I’m being judged if I eat more than another person at my table, particularly if they’re thinner than I am or if they’re male (because it’s “ok” for men to eat a lot, but not women, in the eyes of society).

    What makes it worse is when a server coming to take my plate makes a comment about how much I’ve eaten. “Wow, you did a good job on that!” “Oh, a clean plate!” Even though they make it sound like a positive thing, it rings false in my ears–I hear condescension and judgment. I hate it. Hate, hate, hate. Same when they ask if I’m done eating while I’m still enjoying my meal (and sometimes while my fork is still in my hand). What, are you saying I SHOULD be done eating? That if I eat more, I’m eating too much? Please, wait until it really looks like I’m no longer eating. I might want to eat more than you think, folks.

    It’s bad enough that I get feelings of anxiety when I leave food on my plate and then my boyfriend decides to eat some of what I’ve left. Now, I certainly don’t begrudge him the food, but I feel the urge to explain to the person who comes to take my plate, “Look, I didn’t eat all that myself, OK? He had some too. Don’t look down on me, please!”

    And then I scold myself for feeling this way. Oy.

    • The server thing would make me make a phone call of complaint to the restaurant or call the manager over at the end of the meal.

      • Really? When I worked as a waitress, I used to say things like “you must have enjoyed that” or “pleased you enjoyed that”. All I was thinking was that I was glad they enjoyed the meal, I never thought about their weight or whether they “should” be eating a certain amount.
        All that would be in my mind was that I could tell the chef someone enjoyed something he made!
        Maybe I should think more in future.

        • I think noticing positively that someone enjoyed a meal is different from *complimenting* them on cleaning their plate. Largely because “good job!” comments are patronizing unless the diner is about six years old. It sounds like your comments are fine.

        • I think this is something where a lot of people will have different comfort levels.

          For me, I definitely don’t mind a server remarking that their glad I’ve enjoyed a meal, particularly if: a) I’ve remarked as much to them; b) to a lesser degree, if I’m a regular at the restaurant and maybe they are more familiar with the nonverbal ways I express my enjoyment of food.

          To me, it makes a lot of sense that restaurant staff would express pleasure when a customer has indicated that the food is good.

          That said, I am less comfortable (I don’t know that I would necessarily ask over a manager, but less comfortable) with a server equating eating all the food on my plate with really liking the food. I mean, sometimes, that is true, yes. But sometimes I have a near orgasmic experience eating only a small portion of the food on my plate. And other times, the food is barely tolerable, but I know I need to eat X amount of food in X time to both get to and make it through the rest of my day, if that makes sense.

          • Actually it *is* patronising to say good job on finishing your plate to a six year old as well. Children are people too, and those judgments start then (as can be attested by the many comments in here about destructive patterns of behaviour from their parents.

            • Absolutely!!

            • When I said that I don’t mind a server making those remarks to me, I meant precisely that. I’m pretty sure I get to decide what is or is not patronizing to me.

              • Tori if you looked at the comment that you replied to, you would realise that I was responding to their comment that implied it was fine to say “good job” to anyone under six, which I find very short sighted and uneducated in light of this discussion.
                I did technically reply to your comment but it was directed at the comment above. Your defensive/aggressive response to me was unnecessary.

                • I think it’s just because of how wordpress nests the replies. It’s a lousy system.

            • Good point. You’re 100% right and I should’ve phrased that better. I don’t think it’s okay to comment on *anybody’s* eating (and might actually be more harmful to a kid) but I think it’s *more* patronizing to talk to an adult the way you would talk to a six-year-old.

            • …. I’ve noticed myself doing that to my grandson (almost 3) – and it makes me feel weird, because I don’t want him getting the message that eating more is better. On the other hand, for him, eating more IS better – he’s at that stage where he only eats a solid amount of food every second or third day, and the other two days are just “picking” – he doesn’t eat the equivalent of a whole meal throughout the day, and he’s so scrawny his ribs and vertebrae stick right out of his skin. In my head, I know it’s normal toddler behavior, but then that messed up part of me is like OMG HES GOING TO STARVE HIMSELF TO DEATH WHY WONT HE EAT I GOTTA GET HIM TO EAT… I wish this particular eating stage was over already LOL

  8. This is timely. Last week I rushed to an event without time to eat dinner and was STARVING. The event ended up including snacks: Apples and Pastries. I was so conscious of being the only fat person there that I only allowed myself to eat one apple despite having a low-blood-sugar headache coming on. By the end of the evening I was shaking, sick as hell but I STILL wouldn’t allow myself to eat anything until I was in the privacy of my own home because I was convinced I would be “judged.”

    • Oh Rosie, I certainly hope you won’t go through that again! You’re worth so much better.

      • Thank you. I am going to try to learn from this incident and take care of myself better next time.

    • To put this into blunt terms, you chose to allow actual harm to come to you so you could avoid the possibility of a different sort of harm. Oh, Rosie. I am so sorry.😦 This kind of fear is just debilitating – and I speak as one who has done exactly the same thing before. In trying to process such events, I have found that looking at the actual situation in the plainest terms has the most impact on me. When I look at the situation in the most absurd light, it helps me make better choices the next time around. I hope you never again are in a position to do this to yourself. And I’m angry at the social constructs that have created that fear inside you. *hugs*

      • Thanks, you are very sweet.

    • I’ve done similar things. Once I wouldn’t allow myself to have a Sprite, which would have helped the horrible sour stomach I was suffering, because I was worried about the tongue-clucking and finger-pointing that would ensue from my fellow nursing students. “See, she’s fat because she drinks soda.” Even though I hardly ever drink soda.

  9. For me, eating (and cooking, too!) is one of the great pleasures of life. I damn well refuse to allow anyone or anything to deny me something that is not only a physical necessity, but also a source of so much personal delight.

    By the same token, when I’m done eating, I’m done eating and nobody better try to force me to budge on that, either. It’s my body. I know what it wants and what it doesn’t want.

    I decided a long time ago that what goes into my mouth is nobody’s business but my own. Now I order the salad or I order the bacon cheeseburger or I order the fabulous new halibut dish based entirely on what sounds to me as though it will satisfy my stomach and pique my palate. Oh, and if I decide a salad and a milkshake is what’s going to make me happy, as I did on saturday night, I don’t care whether anyone else finds that contradictory.

    If anyone else chooses to have an opinion, I mentally invite them to wash their own underwear and leave mine alone.

    Yes, this took time and effort and practice, but dammit, I did it!

    What’s more, I will enjoy the hell out of the fabulous beet risotto I’m making for dinner tonight. Mmmm… risotto.

    • Ahem….I would like some beet risotto!

      • …. BEET risotto? never … thought of that. I like chicken parmesan risotto. 🙂

  10. “But we don’t know if that’s where this comes from and I think it’s worth it to remember that these people are also the product of a culture that is seriously, seriously messed up around food. ”

    thank you, for this bit

    i’ve been spending time with a new social group this summer and for the first few months, whenever a snack was shared around, each person would make a disparaging comment while reaching for the treat

    that was so very unusual for me!

    i still twitch every time, but i’m getting better at wanting to *fix* them

    (i never did find a suitable action to take, and just ended up modeling how happy people enjoy food)

    • Modeling how happy people enjoy food is powerful stuff! Good on you!

  11. I really appreciated seeing this. I am going to have lunch with one of my bffs this week and I love her to pieces but she makes me absolutely crazy when it comes to food. Last time we went out to lunch yummy chinese! I didnt eat all of my food (I wasnt hungry anymore) and she immediatly asked if I was “watching” what I ate… I told her no I just was full for the time being. She immediatly launched into “Oh I wont be eating dinner now… wow I ate so much” and so on. This is typical behavior and I want to tell her to just be quiet and enjoy lunch but I dont want to hurt her feelings. She has serious body issues and is super critical of herself but Im tired of hearing her say things like ohh I never eat dinner or I just eat… my weight is this or that. At times it makes me feel like Im her Fat friend so she can feel better about herself.

    • I am so sorry you’re left feeling that way.😦 That would make me not want to be around her anymore.

    • Yeah – I’ve never found a good intervention technique for this behavior. And I agree with you – I’m often left feeling like the “fat confessor” for my friends/relatives with this body/food/fat obsession.

      I would love to hear what other people do to shut this down or divert the conversation.

      • Personally, I think shutting it down is actually the better option. In my experience, diversion means it will happen again the next time you’re together. Shutting it down means they may not want to, but they will think twice before they say something the next time. It’s mindfulness. What I’m learning to do is when they start in on this kind of conversation is to say something nicely. I’m making this one up on the fly: “You know, Susie, I’d really prefer if we not talk about food and body image. I value you – and myself – because we’re awesome people, not because of the shape of our bodies. That’s so changeable. But who we are inside? That’s what I love. So let’s talk about how awesome we are.”

        Anyway, that’s just my thought.

        • Love it. Thank you!

  12. When thinking about my weight I think of one of my closet friends. She’s much smaller than I am and recently has had a lot of stress in her life and has gained some weight. I hadn’t seen her for about 12 months and when we met up for dinner I told her how great she was looking (she always seemed a little too thin, fragile even). I think she looks healthier now. Anyway, she looked at me horrified and said she was so fat and she had to lose weight and stop eating so much. She ate only the main meal, no entree, no dessert. She didn’t have wine or soft drink, only water. This was my first time out for dinner on my own since having my children (I have 17 month old twins) and all I wanted to do was enjoy my food and catch up. I felt so sad for her, with all the challenging things happening in her life, she couldn’t even let go and just enjoy a meal without worrying about gaining more weight. It breaks my heart to see her bring more stress on herself by being so focused on her body image and what others think of her. I told her the truth. I really do think she looks great. Just as she is.

    By contrast I had lunch with two other friends a few days later. These lovely ladies are like me, with beautiful curves and generous waistlines. And we don’t care. We drank iced chocolates (cos we wanted to), we ate chips and salad and burgers (cos we wanted to) and we finished off with coffee and yummy cake (cos we could). We talked for four hours, laughed, had a great time and only discussed food when deciding what to order. We ordered what we wanted and enjoyed every bite. That’s how food is supposed be- it’s supposed to be enjoyed.

    • What is “iced chocolates” … because it sounds DELICIOUS.

  13. I actually had someone come over to my table and pray over me in a restaurant. I was having lunch at a buffet my mother. A elderly man came over to me and asked me how long I had ‘been this way.’ It took me a second to realize he was referring to my weight. I told him I’d always been large and that there were people of differing sizes and shapes in the world and I was one of them. He proceeded to lay his hands on me and pray to Jesus to heal me.

    I was speechless.

    As the man was praying, I noticed his wife, still sitting at their table, turning bright red. I could tell she was praying, too. Only she was praying that she could vanish into the ground. Because she looked so mortified I didn’t say anything and allowed him to finish praying and go back to his table without making any negative comment. I even thanked him. Why? Because he truly thought he was doing good for me. That’s a far cry from many people I’ve met, so I let it be.

    I have had many misadventures because I dared to eat while fat in public, but this one was really wasn’t one of them. But it was the most bizaare incident by a league.

    • There are no words. His poor wife. And you. How absolutely mortifying.

    • No one wants to hurt the fundies’ feelings! My dad used to pray over his patients. He always asked them if he could pray for them, and they always said “yes.” But then a couple of them complained to his boss, saying that it made them feel uncomfortable! I’m sure they were probably just caught off guard when he asked to pray for them. I think the praying-over-people thing is disturbing, even though I was raised in a fundamentalist church and household.

      • It really wasn’t about not hurting his feelings as much as it was taking the event in the spirit in which it was intended. Also, his wife was in enough pain over her husband’s actions without me making her feel worse.

      • I also am disturbed by this. As a teenager, I used to get mad when my conservative mother would pray over me because I wasn’t doing things the way that she wanted. Praying over people who make different choices than you is very judgmental in my opinion. It is saying “I’m sorry, but you do not please my view of God or me. Therefore, I must pray that you get fixed even if you don’t think you’re broken.” The judginess of being prayed over because of your weight is just unbelievable though.

        • You knowm it is really odd but this incident was one of the few times I didn’t feel particularly judged or even threatened. The reaction of the fellow’s wife was sort of “Oh no not again!” so I gathered that he did this sort of thing a lot.

          Perhaps my own religious upbringing, or rather lack of it, makes me able to see this incident as more semi-humorous than others do.

          • I have had similar happen. Being an athiest made me just kind of take it in stride. And sometimes, I think that some folks might have mental issues when they do this kind of thing. I have a bi-polar uncle and when he is not on meds, this type of thing could happen. So I give the benefit of the doubt.

            But I get what you’re saying about the “judginess” of it all. It’s why I opt out of religion.

          • I think you’re right about your secular upbringing allowing you to take things in stride/ laugh stuff off. I’ve had friends who were raised in secular societies and households who have told me that they notice that the athiests with fundamentalist backgrounds (like myself) are much more anti-religious than athiests (or agnostics) who didn’t have much exposure to religion.

            Although, I wouldn’t say I’m, ANTI-religious. I am just more critical of religion. And when I see people praying over other people or being touched by “the Holy Ghost,” it brings back creepy/scary memories.

        • I was raised Catholic. This has happened to me too. Not for my weight, but because I was an evil sinner who questioned church doctrine.

          • Odd…I’ve always considered Catholics to be the “sane” Christians (I was raised in a fundamentalist, non-denominational cult…err, I mean, church). Was this a long time ago?

            • It was about 30 years ago. I was 16 at the time. I was always opening my big mouth and it tended to get me in trouble. Even at that I would agree with you, the Catholics I was exposed to were more sane than the Fundamentalist churches that some of my friends dragged me to. Yikes!

    • You’re a kindhearted soul to try to look passed the offensive behavior and find a nice motivation. I’m on the fence about whether good intentions outweigh bad behavior…praying for someone’s well-being, comfort, health is always a kind gesture. But, praying for someone not to be fat is like praying for someone not to be Jewish or black. In that case, they’re actually praying for you to be someone different than you are…and that just isn’t ok. It’s like saying, “I think being fat, black, or Jewish is a bad situation to be in, so I’m going to pray that you’ll turn thin, white, and Christian…” Thanks anyway, keep the prayer!

      But, again, I admire that you were able to be so kind regarding his ignorance…he obviously thought he was doing something helpful.

      Jen

      • Just for argument’s sake, look up Ragen’s post on “concern trolling.” It’s her response to that issue.

        • I know about concern trolling. But I didn’t get a sense of that here. He wasn’t snarky or judgemental. He was all about getting Jesus to heal me.

          • You don’t need no healing, girl! Not of what he was was praying for.

            • Amen!

  14. I will say I’ve been lucky and haven’t had many icky experience will eating in public. There was one incident though.

    It was a few years ago now, and I was walking home from work. I was sick that day, so was in a bit of a fog and feeling well rubbish. I’d brought and cheese roll at a bakery on the way home as I was starving, and was happily munching away when I bumped into a colleague of mine who worked on a different floor.

    I waved “hello” and the first words out of her mouth were: “Everytime I see you, you’re eating. That’s naughty!”

    Yeah. Needless to say, I was struck dumb, and before I could think up some snappy retort, she was gone. At first, I was truly baffled as to why eating was so naughty and bad (plus, she was wrong- she had seen me on many occasions when I was not in the presence of food). Then, I figured it out. She was referring to my weight. And that eating in public at the weight I am was naughty and sinful and an assault on her poor eyes. But of course.

    Honestly, I don’t know if these people genuinely think they’re trying to help, or they’re just genuine dickheads. Either way, it sucks and they should mine their own goshdarn business.

  15. I am so tired of having to listen to people at college worrying about “the freshman 15” or listening to my parents talk about how piggy they feel after eating out at a restaurant. Thanks for this.

  16. What gets me is the waste of effort and energy, because if the time people spent talking endlessly about food could be used in a better way we might have a better planet. It’s inefficient and wasteful.

  17. When I was on high school date in the ’70s, I ordered Chef’s Salad for dinner. My date was obviously annoyed so I asked what the problem was. He asked if I thought he couldn’t afford a “real” dinner for me. No, I just wanted a salad. We went on, with him obviously stewing. Finally he said, “I’m sick of girls always being on a diet. Why don’t you just order some real food.”

    Laughing, I explained that I was absolutely not on a diet (despite plenty of social pressure!). I worked part time at a burger place and had my fill of meat, fried foods, pop and shakes. It was hot out and I wanted something crisp, cool and simple.

    He went back to his theory that I was ordering something cheap to save his wallet. I enjoyed that salad immensely.

  18. I used to spend a lot of time hanging out with fat-acceptance people, so I had become used to that. Unfortunately, I was with another group one day when they were passing around donuts. I wasn’t in the mood at the moment, so I passed on them, which brought on a whole roomful of approving nods and ‘Oh, Jane’s being GOOD today’. GRRRR…I said, ‘I’m not being GOOD, I just don’t feel like a donut! Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean that I have to eat everything in sight, all the time!’
    Someone else said, ‘I wish I had your willpower. I can never turn down a donut’, and I said, ‘FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY! Once you remove the stigma of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, it’s all just FOOD and the cravings and binging go away.’ Well, a lot more went on, and you better believer they never did that again.
    It’s true, though. Binging is caused by deprivation, and once I removed the deprivation, the binging stopped. Most of the cravings stopped, too. Brownies do NOT call me from the kitchen anymore. Cookies actually go stale once in awhile. I find that vegetables are just as wonderful as ice cream, If I’m In The Mood For Them.

    Food is not the enemy.

    • I am trying to find that place. Kudos to you!! By virtue of being there, you show others like me that we can get there, too.🙂

    • Ugh – I grow so weary of the “good food/bad food” discussion. Geez – it’s food. Get over it already people. Perhaps an actual conversation about something of interest instead of a moral/crazy making discussion could even happen once in awhile. Ponder the possibilities!

      And good for you for getting to that space!

    • I love this response! I try to remember to say, when people comment disparagingly about what they or we are eating, “Oh, don’t worry, this is guilt-free cheesecake .” And when they ask why (probably assuming that it’s low fat or low calorie or something) I say, “Because I don’t feel guilty!”

      • That has a beautiful, amazing simplicity, and I’m going to start using that line!

  19. I turn food shaming into religious and socio-political experiences for people. Food is sacred, the act of gathering and preparing food is sacred, and nourishing one’s body is sacred. Food, eating and all involved in that binds us to everything else on the earth. The only ‘bad’ food out there is that which has been rendered inedible by the processes of decay (or contaminated somehow) – and that is still feeding something, even if it’s not safe for human consumption.

    The immense amount of work it takes to feed the average urban human is monumental. Whether we are the ones working to provide food for ourselves and others, or paying for food why should I, or anyone, feel guilty or ashamed to participate in that process? If I’m hungry, I’m going to eat well. If there’s still food on my plate, I’ll package it up & make sure someone eats it, lol.

    I get more upset by unfair and dangerous working conditions to which food service/industry workers are subjected. You want to turn someone off food-shaming and diet talk, engage them in what migrant workers have to go through to feed their families!

    • I like it!

    • Amen to that!

  20. Time for a rant! I need to get this off my chest!
    Why do some people think they have the right to make comments on my weight!
    I was walking to my car at 5pm this evening. I hadn’t had a chance to eat all day. I was eating a sandwich. Some moron winds down his car window and shouts out to me:- ” don’t be eating that, you’ll get even fatter”. Idiot. Yes, I’m overweight. But I still need to eat! AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH

    • Bastard.😡

    • This asshat needs to stop breathing and save the oxygen for the rest of us. What an awful moron. Sorry you had to endure that.

  21. Now I want cherry cobbler.🙂

  22. It’s easy for me to deal with dining out. It’s harder to deal with family members, specifically my mom who’s deep into Dr. Oz and my thin younger sister who often lets fly with “I’m like soooo fat omigawhd” every time she eats anything, and with fat jokes that make me want to tell her, in public, to have a heaping helping of Shut The Hell Up followed by a steaming cup of Mind Your Own Business.

    But then I remember we’re in public so I tend not to say anything.

    • You know, tell her once in public and put the shame back on her and she MIGHT just think twice about saying it the next time. Just my thought.

      • I agree. Remember she herself is being rude; why protect her feelings over yours?

  23. I like fruits and vegetables. I am in fact eating a bowl of grapes as I type this. Whenever I eat them in front of people (like at work at lunch), people will ask “Oh, so you’re on a diet?” I want to scream at them” NO G-D IT I JUST LIKE VEGETABLES!”

    This food policing of fat people goes both ways.

    • Tart green apples with peanut butter. Carrot sticks with ranch dressing. Romaine salads with ranch. Well, pretty much ANYTHING with ranch. 🙂 Cherries – the fat, dark red kind with pits in them. Those tiny little sweet oranges – clementines, i think. Sweet grapes. Dried mango. Those garlic green beans that they serve on pretty much every chinese buffet. Frozen peas – not the mushy canned kind, the kind that kind of POP in your mouth when you bite through the skin. … I wish fresh produce was cheaper. *sigh* I never get to eat the amounts I want. THough probably, if I had unlimited amounts of cherries and carrots, i’d make myself sick LOL

  24. You’ve made some really wonderful statements with this one🙂 One thing that would still be a problem, something that actually caused me particular and ongoing pain growing up, is being the only fat person in your family, and sharing a fridge. My brothers and parents always told me not to eat all of this or that item, and I DO understand where they were coming from, but it was always painful. The memory alone remains hurtful as I bring it up to write this comment. How does a fat child manage with a “thin” family? It makes it impossible to adopt the “what I eat is my business” philosophy when it comes to shared food, doesn’t it?


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