Sizeism Meets the Candy Bowl: Or How I Learned to Stop Indulging Diet Talk and Love Chocolate

You know what’s really annoying? Hearing skinny people complain about being “fat” in front of you while they justify their decision to eat the slightest bit of junk food.

There are tons of problems with this, here are the main ones I can think of:

1. The obviously stupid and harmful classification of those sizes as anywhere near fat. If you happen to be around when this conversation is happening and are above a certain size, when and if they realize you are around they make a point to “bracket” you and continue talking to their skinny friends, fully maintaining this standard while expecting you to not take offense.
2. It spreads bad body image issues not just from the person who obviously happens, but also poisons the thoughts of those around them, including people who have in the past struggled with body image. It’s like smoking next to someone.
3. Unnecessarily and hurtfully moralizes skinniness/restrictive eating habits. It’s ard not to feel judged when they’re freaking the fuck out about a small morsel when your plate has a decent serving of food.
4. It is an insanely, fucking insufferably, mind-numbingly banal topic of conversation. Just eat the fucking Hershey’s Kiss  and move onto something cool like politics, or religion, or art already, or don’t mention it at all.
5. It’s just not nice, and awfully rude, to complain about food put in front of you, no matter what allergy, cultural preference, or concern over weight gain, one has.

Here are ways to deal with this nonsense:
1. If you are comfortable doing this, bring up your own size and eating habits, and how yet you are still happy with your body (if you are) and confront them about how their own self-agonizing makes you uncomfortable – where they have bracketed you in a conversation, force them to consider you as part of their discourse.
2. Put a note like this  http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2011/10/14/optional-candy/ on bowls of food if you are the person hosting. Let guests know that this is not just a cute invitation to disregard the note, and maybe start a (polite) conversation about why this is hurtful/banal if people press you on it.
3. Pile up a generous, hearty serving of food you love and chomp down on it with gusto as they keep blathering – right in front of them, preferably. Savor each decadent, juicy bite, paying closer attention to the richness of the flavors than you usually do – don’t let other people take the enjoyment away from you.  It is always good to eat healthy and in moderation, but it is also good to enjoy life  (please excuse my Aristotelian moralizing), and this situation gives you an opportunity to enjoy food and make a point while doing it (if it’s a particularly decadent portion and you are concerned about it for whatever reason, know you can always hit the gym later, secretly, without having to make a scene about it).
4. Don’t indulge the complainer.  This type of whiner thrives on the sympathy of others, and it is a conscious attempt to either signal their “skinny pride” or fish for compliments.
5.  Find a new lunch crowd – with people who enjoy eating and will not try to insert their own skewed approach to food into your meal.

PS – I acknowledge that eating disorders are a serious issue – and those who engage in annoying behavior such as that which I have mentioned in this post out of an eating disorder have my deepest sympathy. My goal in this post is to highlight a specific problem and a few specific resolutions, some of which might benefit from a bit more nuanced approach if one is dealing with someone who has an eating disorder. Obviously, when dealing with someone doing this from an eating disorder, one should be very concerned about the other person’s safety and encourage them to seek help and to overcome this disorder.

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9 thoughts on “Sizeism Meets the Candy Bowl: Or How I Learned to Stop Indulging Diet Talk and Love Chocolate

  1. Chatulim says:

    Or you could do what I do – it’s an adjusted version of #3: acknowledge that the food is unhealthy, and then say “I don’t give a fuck.” This is my approach for all of my baking adventures.

    I recommend this particularly if they’ve got the nerves to criticize food that you’ve made yourself. I mean, that’s just rude as all hell. If they wanted healthy food, they could have made it themselves. I don’t usually have body image issues with myself, but I’m damn proud of the food I cook.

    Another way I address this problem: making food for which one can easily change the portion size. This is particularly easy with simple baked puddings, most stews, and things involving rice. If they don’t want to indulge, they should feel free to only take one tiny piece. If someone wants to have a big chunk, they’re totally free to do so (and they make me feel really good).

  2. LadyG says:

    First of all, I love that passive-aggressive note. (I love that whole site, mainly because I *do* often communicate better with written words than with speech.)

    Second of all, I am not really kidding when I say that I think if you encounter such a sparkling specimen of the human race, you should take your third tip to its extreme and abandon table manners entirely. CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN, GROANING WITH CONTENTMENT. Food is great.

    Also, the problem of banality is why I often have trouble making friends with straight women in the secular world, especially non-feminists and non-nerds. Because I want to talk about issues and concepts and ideas and problems IN ADDITION to pop culture and feelings.

    Great post!

  3. chortlevork says:

    Something else: at my office, the white females of the 35-50 set are MUCH MORE ANNOYING about food and figure than those of the 20-30 set. #progress?

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