The prevailing opinion about fat people and food is clear: we’re not supposed to eat so damn much.
No matter what people might say about “healthy eating” and “lifestyle changes” and “better choices” the foundation of all diets is calorie restriction. Sometimes when fat people have consistently “failed” at a number of diet interventions, their doctors (who ought to know better) will ratchet their caloric allowance down to an 800 calorie a day liquid “medical” diet.
Jeez, that paragraph took a lot of quotes. That’s because it’s full of a lot of shit.
Even if we’re not explicitly dieting, though, there’s a lot getting in the way of fat people eating.
When I ran across this image on Pinterest, several commenters had jumped in with their feelings about eating in public.
katesome, a very vocal body positive person said: “The fat lady eating thing I can’t get out of my head and rarely eat in public and watch what I eat in restaurants…Yeah, I sometimes have real ambiguity about it, sometimes I think ‘I don’t want to be the fat lady eating’, but then I think, ‘fuck you! I don’t want to be the fat lady on a diet either!’…ugh.”
Barb Benesch-Granberg said: “I don’t really have a problem if I’m with someone. But if I’m by myself, and I’m eating somewhere that’s not a sit-down-ish kind of place (i.e. if it’s fast food), I totally use the drive-thru and drive off somewhere to eat in my car.”
Rachel Federman said: “I have trouble even going in to a restaurant.”
Chelsea Dae said: “I was recently at a family reunion and I got a couple nibbles of turkey, but just had to look at everything else out of my insecurity.”
I’ve already written here about my love for fast food. Sometimes when I order a fast food meal I want more than the predefined meal – I want two sandwiches, for example. I used to be incredibly self-conscious about this. I would go through the drive-thru and order two ENTIRE meals, in the hopes that the workers would think I was ordering for two people.
Eventually I got really indignant about this: I’m allowed to eat whatever I want! Being fat should not sentence me to hunger after my meals! Fuck anyone who thinks otherwise! These days I think nothing of ordering whatever I want and however much I want.
But not every fat person has that ability. How many fat people are hungry when they leave the meals where people can see – their families, their coworkers, strangers in public? I get pissed when I think about all these hungry fat people running around!
That “common wisdom” that fat people are already eating too much is a lie, of course. The latest research I’ve seen to address this point has this to say:
“Contrary to our expectations, differences among BMI classes in the intake of energy and macronutrient composition were modest. Obese individuals reported consuming less energy each day, and a somewhat smaller percentage of energy from carbohydrate, compared with underweight/normal weight individuals. These results suggest that obese individuals did not, as one would expect from our current understanding of maintenance energy requirement, consume more energy than their underweight/normal weight peers, nor did they consume diets that were dramatically different in macronutrient content.”
So it’s not like fat people have all this food to spare. We need the food we need, just like everyone else.
In a post on This is Thin Privilege, the writer says: “[M]y parents [are] constantly poking at my stomach, telling me that I “don’t need more food” when I mentioned being hungry (usually after having missed a meal), and calling me ‘chubs’, ‘fatty’ and ‘porky’ whenever I ate in their presence…[M]y father in fact once told me that he thought I should go on an ‘anorexic diet’ to lose weight…”
Another poster on TiTP can’t eat anything anything until 7 hours into the day because they can’t eat at home in the morning and are bullied anytime anyone at school sees them pick up food. They have learned to “immediately refuse any food that is offered to [me] because it’s either some kind of prank or somebody will see and make fun of [me] for eating.”
Here’s rule number one when talking to and about fat people (or anyone, really!) and their food:
What other people eat is none of your goddamn business. Strangers in restaurants are definitely none of your business. No surreptitious phone pics. No mooing sounds. No looking at their plates funny. None. But no one else’s food is your business, either. Even if you’re in a relationship together. Even if you’re related. Even if you’re “worried about their health”, because their health is also none of your goddamn business. No snide comments about “are you going to eat all that?”, “haven’t you had enough, honey?” and other condescending bullshit. Keep your eyes on your own plate!
On a post about dieting making you fatter, a commenter replied with some seriously controlling comments about her fat brother-in-law. In a nutshell, she was responsible for the cooking in the family and was trying to enforce a 2000-calorie-a-day diet on everyone in the family, including her brother-in-law who was described as “significantly over 300 pounds” and she didn’t like that he always ate all the leftovers and also would eat while hiding in his room.
There are so many things wrong with this, but let’s just talk about one: the fucked up myth that everyone needs 2000 calories a day. Even people who believe strongly in a calories-in-calories-out (CICO) theory still somehow get stuck on that 2000 number (or some other similarly small number). If you go by pure CICO, a 300 pound man with a moderate activity level might need 5500 calories to make his life go. A 2000 calorie diet would be extremely severe! A starvation diet! Someone who weighed more, had a faster metabolism, and/or exercised more might need even more calories!
If someone who needs 5500 calories a day could only eat 2000 calories a day where people could see, that would leave a lot of eating left to do – possibly driving them to hidden, secretive eating and almost certainly bringing about shame and doubt about themselves.
Fat people who are restricted by shame, restricted by social expectations, restricted by “portion sizes”, restricted by expected meal combinations, restricted by diets, restricted by nasty comments and dirty looks, restricted, restricted, restricted… are being subjected to a lot of fucked up eating.
Sometimes when I eat in front of people, I get that urge to be embarrassed. I’m ordering more than a stereotypical meal, or I’m eating something really messy, or my meal is entirely cheesesticks and a dessert, and I have the same voice as katesome from the Pinterest thread worrying about being “the fat lady eating”. Eating like a fat person. But I fight that. I reject that. I say fuck you to that and to anyone who agrees that I should think that way. Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t eat that,” here’s what I say to myself instead:
Fat people deserve to eat.
Fat people deserve to eat until they’re full. Fat people deserve to eat whatever the fuck they want to until they’re full. Fat people deserve to eat as much as they like. Whenever they like. Whatever they like.
Fat people deserve to eat.
Just like everyone else.[Tweet “Fat people deserve to eat. Just like everyone else!”]
Let’s be clear here: eating is like breathing. It’s required for life. It’s required a lot. Regularly.
Anything that interferes in someone eating what, when, and how much they need to is threatening their life. I’m not kidding.
I refer you back to The Fat Nutritionist’s Lesson One, which is simply permission to eat. Give yourself that permission, and give it to other people, too.
(This post originally appeared at GLORIFY.)