Take Back Healthy Eating


I hate being complimented on my weight loss, real or perceived. I hate it as much as, if not more than, being criticized for weight gain.

The obvious reason is that I hate the intended insult. They think I look great NOW, after I lost some weight, but before, they couldn’t stand what a fat pig I was. Point that out, and people will deny it vociferously. Whether they like it or not, that’s the message being sent.

Something else I hate just as much is when people comment on stereotypically healthy habits. Whenever a fat person goes out for a jog, chooses a salad over some other, less morally upright option, people feel the need to comment on it. Usually, these comments involve some element of healthism or fat prejudice.

“Being good today?” (Healthism)

“Finally started that diet?” (Anti-fat douchebaggery)

Sorry, prejudice isn’t a strong enough word for that kind of comment.

The sad part is that most of these women are not what any rational person would consider fat. They are average, but they feel a pressing need to lose weight. Other people, instead of being a voice of reason, are joining in.

The idea that people choose healthy habits because they like them, not because they feel the need for them, is something utterly foreign to some people. I choose that salad because I wanted it. I like lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, feta cheese, and vinegrette together in one bowl. They were meant for each other, dude.

That, and the fact that fat people, like all people, need those nutrients. So that will entail eating a vegetable or two along thr way. Just sayin’.

I don’t have much experience with the vegetarian or vegan communities, so maybe my idea of what it’s like isn’t correct. On the internet,* however, I see instance after instance of fat bigotry. People that “used to be fat” often credit veganism for their newfound slimness and blame the non-vegan junk diet that she perceives most people as eating. Fat people who are bonafide veg/vegan might get told that they must be doing something wrong! They aren’t real veggies or that they have some sort of eating disorder. When someone takes up the veg lifestyle, I have often, personally, heard people comment that that person is trying to get healthy. Now, getting healthy can mean any number of different things, but as the conversation goes on, you know they are talking about weight loss.

When I hear comments about being good about food, it makes me want to feed my salad to some deer (we have a lot of those where I am) and go to McDonald’s. Except I don’t WANT to go to McDonald’s right now. I want something else.

So this is a message to the world: I don’t do healthy to please you. I don’t do it to preserve your tax dollars (or mine, since I do, in fact, work and pay taxes). I don’t do it to be thin. I do it because I want to. When I pick up that poor white-tailed deer’s dinner, I am not looking for comments from the peanut gallery. Okay?

I just want to eat this.

What about you. What do you like in the healthy food department? Do people comment on it when you choose those options? How do you respond?

*This is mostly on YouTube, so it might not be a representative sample.

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14 comments

  1. Patsy Nevins · January 17, 2012

    I eat a variety of foods because I like them & feel better when I eat them. We do all need variety, nutrients, fiber, etc. As i said in my last comment, I don’t think of food as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’; it’s all good, unless it is spoiled, contaminated, I am allergic to it, or I really don’t like it. I watch very little Food Network anymore because virtually everybody is now yapping on about ‘eating healthy’, ‘eating light’, or, as Rachael Ray yaps on ad nauseam, “figure friendly” or “waistband friendly.’ “Healthy” is almost always used to mean lighter, intended to encourage weight loss. Even Paula Deen’s son Bobby has his own show now, which I refuse to watch, cooking “healthier’ versions of his mother’s food. It all makes me want to go grab a 5-pound tub of lard & eat it all, except for the fact that I hate lard & never use it (though my fat mother & grandmother both did, & lived to be 85 & 90, respectively.)

    I eat a lot of fiber, whole grains, oatmeal, &, yes, fruits & veggies, with emphasis in my house on potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, corn, peppers, apples, bananas, oranges, orange juice, sometimes some V-8 juice. I eat whole grain bread, usually double fiber bread. In the beans family, I love beans…baked beans & beans in chili. Sometimes I do crave a salad, preferring romaine to iceberg lettuce; I love Caesar salad, so does my little granddaughter. I eat yogurt & cheese a lot. I love canned salmon or salmon in a pouch & cans of kippered herring. I eat oatmeal, or Kashi’s Heart to Heart Oat cereal, or an Odwalla banana nut bar. I love shellfish…lobster, shrimp, clams & mussels in particular…& eat it as much as my budget allows. My favorite meat staple is ground beef, for which I offer no apology, & it shows up in my diet 100 different. I like soups very much, especially in the cold. I drink 4 to 6 large mugs of tea every day. I do all these things for ME, because this is what I want to eat. I also like Burger King or McDonald’s or Wendy’s from time to time, or even a bucket o’ chicken from the colonel. The convenience store across the street is making wonderful sub sandwiches designed to replace those of the Coffeepot, which ruled Bangor for 80 years, & they also make some of the best pizza I have ever eaten, so those items also feature in my diet. I love chocolate (good for your heart…in more ways than one…& rich in antioxidants) & try to keep it in the house at all times & eat a little bit every day.

    I absolutely abhor healthism & the belief that a certain way of living is guaranteed to bring us perfect health & longevity & especially that, if anyone does have health issues or dies before hitting 100, that person ‘brought it on himself’ by the way he ate, did or did not exercise, etc. As someone who has been active my whole life & walked most everywhere for over 53 years now, I especially abhor the attitude of those who see a fat person engaging in some form of activity & assume that he/she is just NOW starting to exercise. No, thanks, dumbass, I don’t really need your encouragement to walk, I have walked over 60,000 miles in my life. I learned a lot from a lady who was one of the founding mothers of The Fat Underground & who was around NAAFA in the early years. Healthism has always been with us, always been a thorn in the sides of fat activists, & sometimes other fat people are more healthist than a lot of thin people.

  2. Patsy Nevins · January 17, 2012

    Oh, & I forgot to add, bacon is meat candy. 🙂 I am a very rebellious 62-year-old kid & I refuse to be told what to do or what to eat! They will be coming after me any day now.

  3. Mulberry · January 17, 2012

    Bad: Being criticized for weight gain
    Worse: Being complimented for weight loss
    Worst: Being complimented for weight loss AND the complimenter taking credit for being the one to drive you to do it

  4. Jenny Islander · January 17, 2012

    I used to eat miso soup, rice, and vegetables for lunch every day because I was being “good” by not spending “too many” Weight Watchers points. I went off it when I was nursing a baby who couldn’t tolerate my eating soy. Now I eat it quite often because it’s tasty. In fact I’m having some right now: a soup made with hot water, miso, and slivered sweet onions (not traditional but very good!); rice with katsuo furikake, which I never tried before but like very much; and a couple of satsumas because the broccoli went bad.

    I like a lot of “Healthy Request” canned soups for sick days and extra-busy days. The good ones have big chunks of veggies and meat and a surprising amount of flavor.

    I just read online that a fifth taste receptor has been identified in humans. It detects fat. The researcher article goes on to speculate that people who eat lots of fat wear out their fat taste receptors, so they go on eating lots of fat because they don’t realize how much fat they’re eating, and in order for people to be “good” somebody should invent a medicine that makes the fat taste receptor super-sensitive.

    Or, I dunno, maybe fat tastes good and some people think it tastes super good so they eat a lot of it.

    • Jenny Islander · January 17, 2012

      *sixth taste receptor

      • Jenny Islander · January 17, 2012

        *researcher quoted in the

        Yeesh, I cannot brain today. Maybe I need to increase my fat intake.

  5. sleepydumpling · January 21, 2012

    Oh God yes! It drives me absolutely feral with anger when people comment on my eating or activity. I don’t do it for them. I do it for me. Or sometimes I do it because a friend has cooked a lovely meal or organised an event. But I don’t do it for anyone’s approval or brownie points.

    Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go make myself a Caprese salad, because angels cry with how delicious it is!

  6. Jenny · January 21, 2012

    Agreed – I love a salad, stir fried veggies, a slice of juicy melon and it boils my blood when people say “ohh that’s very healthy”

    I tend to think of just about all food as healthy based on the fact eating it stops people from dying.

  7. Kel · January 21, 2012

    As a vegan I get really embarrassed when I hear other people pushing veganism because it’s “surely the best/quickest way to lose weight!” Even as I ate homecooked meals with tons of vegetables every day, I *gasp* didn’t magically lose weight. In fact, I stayed about the same weight I was when I was an omnivore. I felt largely the same. I really hate vegans that try to sell veganism that way, and even more, I hate vegans who regularly employ fat-shaming or fat-bashing as one of their ineffective conversion tools. PCRM/PETA, I’m looking at you.
    There’s a myriad of reasons I went vegan, and hoping to lose weight was not one of them. Yes, it’s about ethical stuff – yes, it’s also about healthy stuff – healthy in the context of getting nutrients, not healthy in the (unhealthy) context of extreme dieting.
    It’s funny, because friends or acquaintances will praise me for having the conviction and dedication to go vegan, but then comment in a bewildered way on how many rich foods my boyfriend and I still eat. Yeah, we have loaded vegan pizzas, creamy cashew fettucini alfredo, vegan cookies and cupcakes, pancakes, casseroles, all of it. Food is awesome and I enjoy great food as a vegan as much as I did before.
    That said, my favorite ‘healthy’ meals would have to be tofu scrambles, veggie rice and bean bowls (you can add anything! avo, yams..) and grain salads.
    Personally, I think I’m doing the vegan thing just right. 🙂

    • ShyestOfFlies · August 29

      I know this comment is like 4 years old right now, but what you noticed back then has now evolved into a new form of anti-vegan propaganda- that veganism itself is or causes eating disorders. I disagree that eating this way causes eating disorders any more than religious fasting for example does. I think eating disorders involve a biological component for some people and a social/cultural element for many others.

      I for one am tired of hearing from people who are not nutritionists (not that many of them even know better)- that a food is “good” or “bad.” Whether a person has a clinically significant eating disorder or not, this is a type of disordered eating. Food is food, some more nutritional than others, some do have side effects or worse (I’m looking at you poisonous fugu fish).

      But the labeling of food as bad/good, particularly during the process of eating, the pointing out to people, the making people feel bad about eating is really not appropriate. Shame is a large part of why people have body image issues and some combat that with disordered eating, in my opinion (it was for me, as was stress).

      Final point- notice how no food ever seems to be “nuetral” I wonder why.

  8. Another Fat Princess · January 21, 2012

    I absolutely hate this too!!!
    If I’m eating a salad, people are like “ooh, are you on a diet?” implying they think I only eat junk. WTF!!!!
    I cook my meals from scratch EVERY DAY (my kids have severe food intolerances) and people seem to find this astonishing. I actually cook??? Non-sense I must eat crap all day right???
    So frustrating ><

  9. Nixon · January 21, 2012

    This is an awesome post. I’m vegan, not ‘deathfatz’ but a bit fat, and people are surprised that I’m not thin, malnourished, miserable or even dead. I’m vegan for a host of environmental and social reasons, and I’m tired of people acting like I’m irrational because I continue to be vegan even though it’s not making me look like Kate bloody Moss. My dream is for Nigella to go vegan so I can enjoy her decadent, “shut the fuck up about what I’m eating”, food.

  10. Jackie Yoshi · May 1, 2012

    I find it infantilizing when people feel they have a right to comment on a fat person doing something “good”, the way someone congratulates a small child for doing a good behavior. It almost makes me want to say something back at them sarcastically like, “Yes I’m being a good girl, but apparently your mommy never taught you not to be nosey!” If they want to treat me like a child, I can throw that right back at them!

    Do these people really believe they’re being encouraging, by demonstrating even if you do things the “right” way, people still will feel they can come up and talk to you as if you’re behavior is their business? Oh, and of course we can’t be ungrateful, otherwise they’ll think we’re just one of those mean fatties. “Why are fat people always so MEAN!” Maybe, it’s because people keep getting into their business with no permission from them? Maybe it’s that you were rude for treating them like a child who behaved well, and your condescending behavior warranted the same thoughtlessness in kind?

    Maybe the answer is to simply smile at them, as if they’re the one who is child like, unaware of how to behave themselves properly. Make them feel ashamed for once. Just look at them, like “Aww, they don’t know any better now do they?” and then nod your head as if it’s such a shame. Treat them the way they would treat us, see how they like their own medicine.

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