Throughout my life, people have always felt the need to comment on my body and my food choices.
From random old men in diners (“You sure can eat!” or “I like a girl with an appetite”) to coworkers (“OMG, are you pregnant?????” or “Wow, salad again, are you on a diet?”), the world seems to think women’s bodies and what we choose to put into them are on display for its entertainment.
I’m not alone in this. Every woman I know has at least one, if not several dozen, stories about strangers making inappropriate comments about their body size, shape, or what they eat.
How about no? How about women’s bodies are none of your damned business? (Neither are men’s, for that matter.)
The other day, I was chatting with a lady about Trader Joe’s. I mentioned that I love their dark chocolate peanut butter cups. She said, “Oh, you skinny people can eat anything.”
I wanted to say, “Anyone can eat anything, unless they have a food allergy or dietary restriction, so????” but I was on the clock, so I said nothing. Of course, what she meant was, “Skinny people can eat anything and not get fat.”
Well, that is 100% not true. Case in point: I used to be skinny. Even borderline underweight. Then my doctor switched my meds and suddenly I couldn’t keep sugary carbs away from my face hole. I ate anything and everything. I did not remain skinny for long.
Because, with few exceptions, that is what happens when any human eats more calories than they burn.
If you want to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume. And even then, the way the math works isn’t always straightforward or simple. The diet industry knows how difficult it is to lose weight, and how much we’ve all bought into the idea that skinniness is next to godliness, and it preys on peoples’ emotions to get them to spend money on shit that isn’t going to work.
Now, this customer could have also meant, “Skinny people can eat anything without judgement,” which is much truer. While people make comments about the healthiness of my usual lunch salad, they do not generally judge me when I eat something less healthy, like a burger and fries. If I were fat, I would guarantee that most people would see me eat a salad and think, “Good for you trying to lose weight, fat person.” Or they’d see me eating that burger and think, “Well, that’s why you’re fat.” Both reactions are problematic and unhelpful.
The thinking behind judgements like this, and statements like what that woman said to me, is also flawed, and based on some pretty egregiously inaccurate myths and misconceptions. Such as:
- Being skinny = being healthy (Haha nope, you can be skinny and unhealthy, and you can be fat and healthy).
- Eating certain foods make you virtuous (Also, no—being a good human makes you virtuous).
- People who are fat have no willpower, and that’s why they’re fat (Nope nope nope—science tells us it’s mostly about genetics and environment, and let’s not forget the roles chronic illness and our broken food system play).
- Only skinny people have eating disorders (People of any size can have an eating disorder).
I don’t like it when people, especially strangers, comment on my body, whether they think they’re giving me a compliment or not. Because most of the time, they’re really not. That woman might think my days are filled with gleeful binging on dark chocolate peanut butter cups with zero consequences, but they are not. They’re filled with words, internal battles about stress eating, anxiety over whether or not I’m going to get everything done that I need to, migraines, and oh crap I let my tea get cold AGAIN. I probably spend too much time thinking about what I’m eating, and I’d probably be happier if I didn’t. But I have my own issues.
I actually can’t even eat those delicious dark chocolate peanut butter cups at all anymore, because they contain milk, and I’ve developed a severe sensitivity to dairy. So no more ice cream. No cake. No cookies. Nothing with dairy. This makes me very sad, because I love ice cream and cookies, and the non-dairy options aren’t as good, usually.
My point is, you never know what another person is dealing with. You don’t know why someone is skinny or fat. You don’t know if it was a choice, or caused by something outside their control. You don’t know if they’re healthy or not, and it’s none of your business, anyway. You aren’t the food police. You don’t get to decide if a person should or should not eat something. And are you really trying to tell me you never eat more than you know you should? People who live in glass houses, and all that.
You can compliment people on their appearance without bringing body shape or size into it. It’s easy. Try, “You look so good! I love that dress!” or “Damn girl, you’re killing it!”
Stop worshiping at the altar of thinness. Stop demonizing fat people. It helps no one and hurts everyone. Let people be people, and let them eat cake (or dark chocolate peanut butter cups), if they damn well want to.