January 26, 2008

Sin and Atonement

Filed under: food — embonpoint @ 5:05 am

Fat is not disgusting. Rape is disgusting.
–Dianne Sylvan, The Body Sacred

One thing I’ve been trying to do, with limited success, is to stop talking about food in terms of good and evil.

Naomi Wolf talks about this some in The Beauty Myth, how in the past if a woman said “I was bad last night,” people would think she cheated on her husband, but nowadays she probably means she cheated on her diet. And while I have no desire to go back to a more sexually puritanical world, I don’t think we’ve done anyone any favors by transferring our puritanical streak to food instead.

Need to remember: Chocolate cake is not sinful; it’s just rich. Ice cream is not decadent. Celery is not virtuous. The cake isn’t robbing people at gunpoint or engaging in insider trading. The celery doesn’t spend its weekends volunteering at the soup kitchen. It’s all…just food.

On a related note, there was a comment somewhere in the fatosphere the other day about how we’ve been conditioned to see exercise as a punishment for food. I don’t remember who said it or where; it was one of those things where I followed a link to a link to a link, and then by the time I started having thinky thoughts about the comment, I’d forgotten where I’d seen it. So, by all means, if you said this, let me know and I’ll credit you. 🙂

My grandmother, who was fat until just before her death, used to have all sorts of diet paraphernalia around her house. She went on every diet in existence. And one of the books she had lying around was called Walking Off Weight. I still remember being about 12 and reading this exercise the author wanted the readers to do. The gist was that you took a bag of M&Ms to a football field. You ate one M&M (or is that one M?) and then you were supposed to walk the whole length of the football field, and then that M was worked off. Then you were supposed to decide whether you wanted another piece of candy, considering that you’d have to walk the football field again to work that one off.

And that got me thinking about a comment I made at work the other day. The women in my office, you see, are very concerned with their weight. I’m the fattest woman there by about fifty pounds, and also one of the only non-dieters. For the last couple of weeks we’ve had a dish of Jelly Belly beans in a high-traffic area, which happens to be right by my desk, and everyone has been eating them. And everyone has been loudly castigating themselves for eating them, too.

One of these ladies made a comment the other day about how “bad” she was to have eaten a jelly bean, and I confess, what fell out of my mouth was not the most fat-acceptancey thing I could have said.

See, the office is at the top of a flight of stairs. So I said, “You know, you probably burn the equivalent of a jelly bean every time you climb up here.”

It’s only in retrospect, thinking about my grandmother’s book and about the concept of exercise as punishment for food, that I realize the nasty, shadowy little place in my head that comment came from. Because while my basic point was that it was silly to obsess over one jelly bean, and my basic intent was to reassure her, what I actually said was entirely different.

Yeah, I’ve got a ways to go.

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