In the two months that I’ve been home, I’ve been surrounded by new faces. Not so much new friends but friends who I haven’t gone on strawberry lemonade donut and iced coffee dates with since high school.
I have spent a few days in the past two months with one friend in particular who I have noticed a certain quality in – one that I wish wasn’t so uncommon. Through four square dominating, rooftop drinking and lemon pizza (my new favorite topping!!) sharing, it has become apparent that in addition to her constant humor, selfless nature and contagious joy, she displays a healthy relationship with food.
I am fortunate to have a few other friends who I can also identify as normal eaters. The ones who don’t categorize their food into good and bad categories, don’t think talking about cutting dairy in hopes of a new body size is an engaging conversation and don’t shame themselves or others over food choices, body image and exercise regimens. But it is devastating to me that I should be elated when I discover that someone doesn’t partake in these discussions.
This blog post was sparked because although I notice disordered (sadly, turned normalized) comments countless times a day, I’ve been to multiple barbecues this month. Ya know, the kinds with hamburgers, cheesy potatoes, chips and dip, fruit, veggies and many dessert offerings. I always happily help myself to what I want in that moment and float to wherever an empty chair is.
Over and over and over again, I’ve heard comments about how people never eat mac and cheese so they “need to eat up now” while it’s being served, how they need to get away from the food table because they “don’t have self control”, how they worked out that morning so they “allowed themselves to have whatever they want” and how the carbohydrates on their plate will go straight to their xyz body part.
I will never understand why people would rather pick themselves apart rather than discuss their life happenings, goals bigger than the sky, excitement when Natasha Bedingfield comes on (see above pic hehee), nail polish…practically anything other than their fear of gluten and the like. I try to always be compassionate because I know there are deeper issues present. I am aware of the taxing cultural messages we are engrossed in and how the body functions when it is listened to and treated with respect…or not. In these ugly and all too familiar settings, I simply add in a single comment about eating both mindfully and joyfully and do my best to shift the conversation to something that will create smiles on the faces of those around me.
I know I’m sensitive to this information because of my internship turned volunteer work with an eating disorder treatment center and the dietitian bloggers and podcasters I read/listen to who focus on intuitive eating, health at every size and joyful movement (I list my faves here!). However, with this experience and consuming their content backed by research, I can’t simply erase it from my mind and frankly, it would be a disservice to the nonprofit that I communicate on behalf on to behave contrarily to their world-renowned work.
Being exposed to this fatphobia dialogue has only gotten more difficult because when my career goals changed last summer and I now inform people of my five-year plan that ends in me (hopefully) passing the RD exam, the shame heightens. “Ker, can I be your first client? I am in desperate need of a meal plan”, “You’re probably judging what I’m eating, aren’t you?”, “Woaah, do I see ______ on your plate. I didn’t think future dietitians ate fried food”.
I can give you 17 more examples but that’s not necessary. I’ve prepared myself to receive these for the rest of my life and have even heard that dietitians lie about their real profession because they are tired of these comments. Send your ideas my way but I’m thinking I’ll take on librarian status! I’m kidding buuut we’ll get there when we get there. Either way, I fully understand that I have zero credentials, my current nutrition education is limited and I won’t be a dietitian for a long long time, if that is even what’s in God’s plan for me.
Sure, it gives me hope for my future goal of nutrition counseling that I will never be without work. It is obvious to me that folks across generations have practically forgotten how to eat in accord to their personal needs because of all of the marketing they give in to and dieting behaviors they have added to their daily routine. But that is the only positive side to it and well, not positive in the slightest because I would rather be without work than live in a toxic world.
This is why it is so SO refreshing to spend good, sweet quality time with friends who never linger on such shenanigans. I typically don’t know the complete picture of their past and current relationship with food and exercise, their mental health status, their stress levels and endless other factors that may be influencing their remarks. But I do know that an apple pie popsicle made with local ingredients at a farmer’s market shared with good company tastes incredibly dreeeamier if I’m eating it with people who don’t make diet-y remarks about the sugar content of this treat. Who wants to join the popsicle party?!!
So I’m here. Left with a desire to make more friends who have a healthy relationship with food but crazy thankful for those close to me that do. I certainly have a place in this tug of war to do my best to be that confidant. One who never tears myself and my food choices apart and especially, not when others are around and can be impacted.
Because these comments about ourselves, family members, dear friends and complete strangers are not ok. We were given one divinely crafted body and the soul within it is communicated by our external ways. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in understanding how everything we do is literally extraordinary because it’s an extension of our soul. Altogether, if we shift our worldview to this standard, diet-culture will be long gone. Oh would I love to see it come to an end.