Shut Up And Eat!

Eating Is Emotional… And Here’s What We Need To Do About It.


By Laura Harvey

I am tired of hearing about food. There, I said it.

I am tired of the value judgments disguised as self-loathing disguised as sharp-witted banter.

When did eating get so interesting? Last time I checked, a thousand things mattered before what I put in my mouth, where it came from, how much of it there is, and what it cost.

I have been asked if I was legitimately contemplating eating fruit after 4pm, as though that were somehow the same level of unfathomable as joining a doom’s day cult.

I have been told, point blank, that Diet Coke will kill me, only to be asked if I was feeling suicidal.

I have eaten the exact same meal as someone, felt adequately but not overly full, and had to listen to their grandstanding about how they will never eat again for as long as they live, only to question if I somehow had the world’s largest stomach.

My brain should not have to be bombarded by these thoughts. We as women are the dreamers and the doers, the lovers and the mothers—a thousand things before eaters. It’s just food!

So why do we sit around making commentary on what an absurd amount of fries we just ate or how that girl’s green smoothie is such a pathetic attempt to seem healthy?

It’s simple: eating is emotional.

Eating has become charged. And most of the judgments we make are, in the end, about ourselves. What we eat has become tied less to nourishment and more to physical appearance and, therefore, by some twisted logic, what our value is. When we fat talk or, worse, fat shame someone, we are speaking from our own inner doubt. We are speaking in fear.

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This voice that nags at us in our brains and sometimes comes out our mouths took root when we were children and someone said we had thunder thighs or chicken legs or flappy arms. We were too thin, too fat, too muscular, too short, too bony, too curvy—notice how both ends of the spectrum are wrong? The attacks on beauty we come up with are truly ridiculous but also deeply painful and shaming. Our culture is so obsessed with the visual. How we look is more sensitive a topic than ever.

I wish I could just eat a damned sandwich and not have someone tell me that mayonnaise is the devil or that I should really get more protein or that the bread I put it on was only 98% whole grain.

Seriously, I’m over it.

Everyone, of course, is entitled to their own philosophy of eating. Everyone’s body is different and has different needs. As someone in recovery, I do not and cannot follow restrictive diets of any kind. But if you’re a marathon runner, by all means, count your macronutrients and track your body’s fuel. If you’re a new mother or a health nut or a yoga instructor or an animal-rights activist, you have the right and the privilege to select what you eat.

But please do not tell me what is right or wrong for me. I will try and do the same for you. Because, at the end of the day, the power of words is immense. And food is emotional. And what we say stays with people.

I can still remember the first time I was shamed in the fifth grade because I put a whole packet of butter on my roll at lunch. I got called “the butter queen,” and somehow I felt less. Butter, like sugar and chocolate, is considered by some to be a deadly sin. And I could tell that I was meant to feel ashamed.

When I was in my eating disorder, I was judgmental and aggressive because I wanted people to know that I was a good person because I didn’t eat that junk. A friend of mine recently commented on how it was funny that I drank diet coke now because I used to tell her it was a foul, toxic substance. And I felt terrible because I had shamed other women the way that I had been shamed.

So now I am trying to change.

And I challenge women everywhere to love one another and not to police each other. The new catch phrase for eating should be Amy Poehler’s line from her book Yes Please!, “Good for you, not for me.” Let’s just leave it at that.