Just Eat It: A Response

Just give yourself permission to eat it.

How easy is that? It’s really easy. I want that treat, and I’m going to eat it. I don’t have to ask anyone. I don’t have to justify it. I’m going to give myself a treat today because I want a treat.

Except it’s not easy. It’s not easy, because that’s not the way my mind, and other overweight people’s minds, work.

I happened to see this on my Facebook sidebar this morning – a friend of mine liked this article called Eating: A Manifesto. And I clicked, because it sounded interesting. Would it be about an eating disorder? Would it be about healthy food vs. unhealthy food? And it was kind of about those things. But it was more than that. This person who wrote the article was encouraging people to give themselves permission to eat what they wanted without having to worry about judgement. And specifically, she was talking about women giving themselves permission.

Okay, so far, so good. Except it went from empowering, to me, to an angry, yelling screed about how stupid we were for feeling uncomfortable about food. Yeah. No.

Make no mistake, I agree with the gist of the article. I agree that we need to stop needing permission to eat. But it’s not women who ask permission that need to stop. It’s society that needs to stop requiring permission and justification for food.

I have had food issues most of my life. The only time I can remember honestly not caring about what I ate was when I was a skinny, underweight 10-year-old. And now that I’m 30 and overweight, I find myself second-guessing myself every day.

“That brownie . . . well, I ate a salad today and was careful about drinking water, so, I can have it.”

“Would it really be so bad if I had a piece of pizza tonight? I should be working on my salt intake . . .”

“I just really want that ice cream. Really. But I know I’ll pay for it later, ugh.”

Women of all shapes and sizes have to give themselves permission to eat. And that’s the gist of the article – that we shouldn’t have to. But it is different for fat women. Because when I eat, I’m not just enjoying something privately, or giving myself a treat that I can enjoy because I’m thin and people aren’t going to really even look at me twice for eating it. Everyone around me is zeroed in on me and judging. Am I a “good fattie” and exercising regularly and have perfect blood pressure and blood sugar, just enjoying a treat? Am I a “bad fattie” and am unhealthy and diabetic, indulging in my addiction for food? And for either reason, people are wondering how I got fat. Was I always fat? Am I going to go home and veg in front of the TV and ignore my unhealthy self until I die of a heart attack? Will I go and exercise? Did I used to be fatter?

It was this quotation that really offended me in the article, more than anything else: “I mean, if you feel guilty about just eating a brownie that you want, what else in your life do you want that you’re not expressing?

You know what I want that I can’t express, because I am ridiculed for wanting people to be reasonable towards their fellow human being? I want a society that doesn’t judge me for eating what I want, when I want, because of my weight. I want to be able to indulge in a treat without feeling like I need to ask permission, and I’m sorry, an angry article in which you yell at women to “just get over it” isn’t going to help me. I want to feel beautiful and not “wrong” and “unnatural”. I want to read articles from feminists that don’t blame women for how they feel about emotionally-charged things like food.

And now that I have expressed it, I’m going to go back to eating my half-moon cheesy bread with garlic dip. It’s unhealthy. I don’t have a justification for eating it. And I’m not going to ask permission.

But the next time you see that woman in your store who asks permission to buy a brownie? Maybe you’ll look at her from my point of view and not from annoyance. Because if she’s anything like me, she second-guesses every bite she puts into her mouth on a regular basis. If she’s anything like me, she’s been shamed for what she’s eaten in the past. If she’s anything like me, she’s been scrutinized for her choices. And women like me are WORKING on learning to stop asking permission from ourselves and from society for what we want to eat. We know it’s wrong. We know it’s not helping. But that permission comes with a lot of strings attached. Sometimes it’s about fitting in. Sometimes it’s about just wanting to be another one of the girls without feeling like we’re on the outside.

And if a woman needs to ask permission for that brownie to feel better, who are you to tell her she’s sad for doing so, even if it’s society’s fault she has to? Why not try to support her instead of getting pissed off that she’s wibbling about food?

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