Our culture has a pretty messed-up attitude toward food. That’s not really up for debate, as the evidence is everywhere. Diet culture is rampant, and many culturally-acceptable things that get said about eating, not eating, exercising, weight, and so forth, are downright disordered. I never want to contribute to that.
Disordered talk is so normalized that most people don’t even realize they are doing it. If we take a look at ourselves — yes I’m including me in this — we probably all say and do these things. Even if we’re far along on our fat acceptance journey. That’s how commonplace they are. Comments about what we “should” eat, or how we’ve “earned” something, they’re rampant.
Every single one contributes to a culture of fatphobia. See, whatever else you THINK you are saying, it’s rooted in a fear of becoming fat. You might not think it is, but if you dig deep enough into any other reason you will eventually find fat hate. There are, of course, reasons to eat nutritious foods and exercise that have nothing to do with weight. But if you’re truly doing those you shouldn’t be saying the guilt-ridden, shame-inducing things I mean.
People make a lot of unacceptable comments about food — there’s moralizing, judging, unsolicited “advice,” and so on. They do it everywhere — in the office, in restaurants, just walking down the street. If you listen to the conversations around you, no doubt you will hear something diet related. I’m not here for any of that, so I’ve come up with a list of things I will not say about food.
Things I’ll Never Say About Food
- I won’t call food “good” or “bad.” I mean, I might give my opinion on how it tastes to me, but I’ll never use those terms to describe it on a moralistic level.
- I won’t call myself or anyone else “good” or “bad” based on what they eat. Food is nonmoral, full stop. You’re not a better or worse person based on whether you got chips or a salad.
- I won’t talk about whether I or anyone else “should” be eating something. Unless you have a known allergy and there’s an ingredient in there that could make you sick or kill you — in that case, I’ll step in. Same if you’re vegetarian or vegan and there’s a non-obvious meat/dairy/egg product in it. But otherwise, have what you want.
- I won’t look down on fast food. We’ve all gotta eat, and sometimes we’re short on time or money. And sometimes we just WANT the fries and Frosty. No shame in any of it. Frosties are delicious.
- I won’t treat eating like a transaction. You’ll never hear me say you have to “work off” a meal, or that you can eat something because you “earned” it through exercise. The only transaction there should be during a meal is paying for it.
- I won’t make a show out of why I am or am not eating something. If someone wants to eat something, great, if not, also great. The reason doesn’t really matter. The only exception is if someone making the meal knows you have an allergy or need (like vegetarianism or veganism) and deliberately doesn’t accommodate it; that’s just rude and you should speak up. But most of the time, a simple “no thanks” is plenty when you’re avoiding something.
- I won’t talk about calorie counts, “points,” fat grams, or any other dieters’ statistics. No one cares. If you’re keeping track of those things for any reason, do so privately. Because of my Meniere’s, I keep an eye on sodium, but I don’t talk about it. You can get journals pretty cheap on Amazon or in most drug stores, so consider writing down your numbers and how you feel instead of forcing the topic on others.
- I‘ll never stop you from eating for joy — or any other reason. Unless we are stranded on an island and need to ration for survival, how much or what you eat is none of my business.
It’s OK to Mess Up — You’ll Never Be Perfect
I know we’re all living in a culture that promotes some seriously screwed-up thinking about food. It’s easy to get sucked into it. Believe me, I’ve been there. What you decide to do with your own body and your decisions about how you fuel it are your business, so if you want to take part in diet culture, I can’t stop you. But keep it to yourself. You never know who is struggling with an eating disorder and could be triggered by that kind of talk.
Even if that’s not the case, frankly, it’s boring. There are much more interesting things to talk about. Just within the topic of food, it’s much more fun to discuss a yummy recipe or hear about the amazing dessert you had last week than it is to hear about how many calories are in a spoonful of glazed carrots. So let’s keep the food talk to something enjoyable and non-judgmental.
In fact, PLEASE tell me about the dessert you had last week. If possible please share the recipe as well.
If you catch yourself talking like this, however, there’s no need for excessive flagellation. Stop, correct yourself, apologize if the situation calls for it, and do better in the future. There’s a lot of culture to unlearn and that takes time.
If you or someone you know are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out. NEDA has resources. Contact the Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 for support, resources and treatment options for yourself or a loved one.