For those of you who don’t know me, there is something that you should know from the start. I have a BIG mouth.
It is pretty average in actual size, but don’t let that fool you. I have a constantly running, straight shooting, quick thinking, big talking, loud mouth. This is because I was born with this incredible appetite. An appetite for life, love, knowledge, beauty and YES…food.
The same hunger that I have for incredible experiences I also have for food. In my youth this was problematic for several reasons.
- Because I went to war with my body and battled with my weight for many years.
- Because socially it is not acceptable for women to feed themselves.
That may sound like a huge generalization but hear me out! I want you to open a new window browser and Google search “woman eating.” The photos that pop up fall into two categories.
Interesting, isn’t it? While this could be written off as a coincidence I would like to propose another theory. These two pictures actually represent two societal archetypes of a woman’s relationship with food: the laughing girl with a salad and the crazy-eyed glutton stuffing her face.
The archetype of the laughing girl with a salad has sparked a hilarious series of Internet backlash prompting people to ask, “Lady, what did your salad say that is SO funny?” Ellen DeGeneres even addressed this absurd trope on her show. “Who doesn’t go to a salad bar and burst out laughing? It would be more relatable if it were ‘Woman Laughing Alone With Wine.’ I would understand that.”
If the salad appears to be the girl’s best friend, then junk food must be this girl’s worst enemy. Because if you were a hamburger you would not want to meet her in a dark alley.
With this second photo we have clearly caught this poor girl in the middle of some earth-shattering crisis. She is depicted as a frantic and insatiable lunatic in the middle of a hardcore binge. She can be plus size, average build, noticeably unglamorous and rarely pretty. Maybe she has lost her man or maybe she never had one. Perhaps she is ending a career or just starting her period. In any case her face is either full of tears or wracked with guilt because she just can’t seem to stop cramming food into her shameful mouth.
So these are our options ladies! Do you want to be the laughing girl with a salad who is just about to take a bite of that HILARIOUSLY dry lettuce?
Do you want to be the crazy-eyed train wreck determined to fill the empty void inside of her with empty calories or DIE trying?
To be honest I don’t have any interest in being depicted as either one of these women. Both women are demonstrating behavior that is equally unhealthy. Not to mention that the depiction of “what drives a woman to eat” is as laughable as it is unsettling. “What drives a woman to eat?” As if it is as severe an allegation as asking what drives a woman to commit murder.
To me these are more than just comical depictions of women and the polarity of our eating habits. This perfectly illustrates the not-so-subtle pressures of being a woman who sometimes has to eat in public.
When asked about their eating habits women from completely different areas of my life all said the SAME things. They feel social pressure to abstain from eating, or only to eat socially acceptable foods when they are in the public eye. What I am wondering is, do you?
These two women perfectly illustrate what every girl dreads: The judgment that comes with eating in public. It is a common fear that we are under a microscope and that everyone will notice what and how often we put food into our mouths. I want you to imagine that you are at a cocktail party and that you haven’t eaten a thing all day. You are starving and there is a buffet line of the most delicious food across the room. Would you feel comfortable going over to the buffet and making yourself a plate of food?
The point that I am trying to capture is this: Are we somehow trapped between these two women when it comes to our eating habits? If you are feeling the social pressure that most women can attest to, do you allow yourself to fall into these stereotypes? Because I know that I have.
Every day that I’ve vehemently justified my desire for a LARGE chocolate muffin with the argument that I have had an awful day, I become the emotionally tortured girl stuffing her face. Every time I’ve eaten out with a group of coworkers and forced myself to order a small salad or nothing at all, my salad becomes as laughable as that iconic girl and her dry lettuce. When we fear the potential judgment of others even the most devout, body-loving babe can betray her values. What we do not realize is that by betraying those values in that small moment, we are upholding the stereotype and solidifying it for women of today and tomorrow.
I would like to think that somewhere in the background there is a nice looking girl with a sandwich and a cup of soup quietly feeding her body and apologizing to no one. This is the girl that I want to be; the woman who can eat because she is hungry and eat healthy because her body deserves balance and nutrition. A woman who has divorced herself from the never-ending pressures of what people think and who can finally make decisions from a place of health and wellness. It is important that we remember that we eat in order to live. We are often the victims of social pressure but never of food itself. Food is a necessity of life and when we play the victim we can end up thinking that food is the villain.
The secret to becoming this fabulous girl is realizing that most of that social pressure is in our minds. Most people are not actually paying attention, or really don’t care what you are eating. The judgment that we fear is almost always self-inflicted or stemming from one specific terrible incident. Mine happens to be a particularly damaging middle school lunch period where the entire table made nasty remarks about the smell of my healthy choice soup. I was trying to lose weight and this incident had me eating nothing but rice cakes and Diet Coke for lunch for the rest of the semester. The only people who get a say about what you put in your mouth are you, your grocer and your doctor.
I am dedicated to the idea of eliminating these two unhealthy women from our feminine vocabulary and that starts right here with you. When you fear the judgment of others, do you become the laughing girl with a salad? When you just can’t take the social pressures anymore, do you morph into the loony glutton who can’t control herself? To those who care to make comments about what or why we eat, well they risk a memorable encounter with me and my BIG mouth.