I’m proud of myself this week.
I stood up to someone who unintentionally food shamed the hell out of me.*
You know the people I’m talking about – they start a cleanse/paleo/vegan diet and all of a sudden your friend who is an accountant/HR manager/lawyer proclaims that they are the fountain of wisdom on all things ‘healthy’. Never mind that this person has not got a condition where they have to know way too much about food (*cough* diabetes), never mind that this new diet they are on will simply result in the weight being gained back because it’s not sustainable, the fact is that they’ve lost weight NOW and want everyone to know about it.
“Oh I couldn’t possibly have that cheese, so fatty, do you know what it does to you?”
I DON’T GIVE A FUCK IT’S DELICIOUS, HAND OVER THE BRIE OR SUFFER.
I have no time for someone commenting about the food I am eating, unless it is one of two questions.
- “Oh my god, that looks so good, could I have the recipe?” Of course!
- “Oh my god, that looks so good, could I have some?” No. Especially if I’m eating Rondelé, bitch this cheese is mine.
Seriously, even if it comes from a well intentioned place and you honestly think you are doing the person a favour, say the sentence inside your head, swallow it (just like your herbalife smoothie) and move on. You have no idea about the mindset of the person who you are talking to – a ‘harmless’ comment about the fat content of their yoghurt could send them into a tailspin (I definitely did not cry in my car after someone told me that my yoghurt was fatty, definitely not).
I am ALL for healthy eating, some of my closest friends are dietitians and you should see the spreads we put on (OK, what THEY put on, I eat it and wash up). But healthy eating does not mean denial, or staying away from anything substantial until you whittle yourself down into society’s version of ‘health’. NO. Healthy eating means that you mindfully consider what you are eating, you eat a balanced diet, and sometimes you go out with friends and have fish and chips. You can eat LCHF/vegan/gluten-free without pushing it onto others – I have plenty of diabetes friends who do just that! Nobody wants to be ‘that guy’ at the BBQ that can only talk about his zucchini noodles – like c’mon, there are SO many more interesting topics, have you heard of a series called The Bachelor?
If you have found a way of eating that works for you, that is awesome, and I am happy for you, because goodness knows we all need some stability in this crazy, food-obsessed world of ours. What I do ask you to do, is consider others before talking about your food. I don’t know what it is about these last five years, but food talk seems to have slipped into small talk and it’s making me supremely uncomfortable. Frankly, I’ve had enough.
Last week I scooted over to my workmate to ask her if she had anything to eat – it was 4.30pm after a long meeting, and I still had 2 hours of marking to do.
“Oh, I have a lollipop!”
As I turn around I hear “Oh but they’re so bad for you! No, don’t it eat Georgie”
She was well intentioned, meant no harm, but after a weekend of family commenting on my dietary choices (let me eat the goddamn sandwich, carbs are not the devil) I had had enough.
“I would appreciate it if you didn’t food shame me, [Name]. My food is my business, I’m an adult, and I’d rather you not comment on it unless it’s something like ‘Yum’!”
It doesn’t sound like much, but I was shaking. I am SICK of people thinking they have a right to tell me what I should eat, and work is my ‘safe place’. Do not invade this last bubble, please.
This person spent the next five minutes saying things like “I’d never heard of food shaming before you…I didn’t mean anything by it…I’m just trying to help’ which is completely understandable. I explained why it affects me, and why it would affect other people. I explained that so many people have issues with food, that it’s safer to only comment if you are asked or invited. I hope some of it got through – they may have left just thinking that I’m some precious, indulgent, easily-offended Gen Y, but at least I know that I won’t have any more comments on my lasagna or salad in the staff room.
Food is more than fuel. Fuel is culture, enjoyment, family, and memories. Food can bring back thoughts, experiences, and people. Every time I dip buttered toast into soup, I can hear my French host grandparents indulgently laughing at “l’australienne” who dipped baguette into her brouillon. “C’est comme ça en Australie? C’est bizarre!”
Our relationship with food is intensely personal – you wouldn’t walk up to my partner and say “Oh, that’s a terrible way to kiss!” – so why comment on something that’s equally as close? Unless you’re invited, keep away from my plate.
*Food shaming is linked to body shaming, which I will examine in another blog post further down the line, when I have a fresh story to relate it to (don’t worry, it won’t be long, the d*ckheads of Melbourne love a body shaming insult or two).