By Louisa Ackermann
One day, when I was working at my Saturday job in a cafe, a lady asked me if our tuna mayo baguettes had much mayonnaise in them.
“Yep,” I replied honestly, “quite a lot, actually.”
She seemed to dither for a bit, before replying “Oh, I’ll have it anyway!”, in a hushed, conspiratorial tone, “just this once.”
Lady, you don’t need to apologise to me, or seek my permission to eat a sandwich. You don’t need to feel guilty because you craved a tuna mayo and ate it, instead of getting the chicken caesar salad no-chicken-no-cheese-dressing-on-the-side. You just don’t. It’s weird and unnecessary, and you’re not even going to enjoy your delicious sandwich if your mind is caught up in how many grams of fat are in it.
Of course, I’ve been guilty of this way of thinking too, and occasionally I still am, though my feminist self is loathe to admit it. The diary I kept throughout adolescence is pretty much a hot bed of self-hatred and calorie counting and negative body image and guilt and insecurity (Spoiler Alert: it’s very boring).
Now, there is obviously nothing wrong with trying to make healthy choices. But this guilty conscience we seem to have adopted as a collective when we eat shit is not really working in our favour. Demeaning ourselves in regard to our food choices is dumb – we don’t need to apologise for being hungry. As bizarre of a concept as it is, we need to eat to function, to think, to breathe, to wake up again in the morning. And we need more than celery sticks and cabbage soup.
While there are male counterparts to this line of thought, it comes overwhelmingly from a female perspective; “Hey Bro, I couldn’t possibly eat that double cheeseburger, eating is cheating!” – It just doesn’t really happen. Boys are allowed to eat, and to feel hungry, and to not have to fucking apologise for eating or feeling hungry.
The societal model of beauty has a lot to answer for in this phenomenon. I’ve previously touched on the prevalence of adolescents in the modelling industry, perpetuating the notion that this pre-pubescent ideal would be attainable if only we weren’t so damn greedy. It wasn’t that long ago that magazines featured adverts geared towards gaining weight –
“If you are a normal healthy underweight person and are ashamed of your skinny, scrawny figure, NUMAL may help you add pounds and pounds of firm, attractive flesh to your figure”
Although, all this really tells me is that the skinny-shaming of yore was probably just as damaging as the chubby-shaming of today.
This one just depresses me.
Can we please please please just try to be as healthy as reasonably possible and see whatever our body looks like as a result of that as something to be satisfied with?
A good place to start is to probably try and remove as many of the negative influences from our mindset, like the Cosmopolitan magazine that tells you to ‘love your curves’ on one page, before offering ‘What Victoria Beckham REALLY eats’ on the next. There is significant evidence to show the detrimental effect of women’s magazines on self-esteem, because of ‘social comparison theory.’ A 2004 study also suggests that media images can be especially damaging to women with a history of eating disorders, who are particularly susceptible to lowered feelings of self worth when shown magazines with unrealistic body ideals.
This social comparison is present in many aspects of our lives; if you’re at a restaurant and everyone else is having a salad and you want a pizza, you really don’t have to do the whole ‘But I’m totally going to the gym tomorrow so it’s okay right?!’ thing. You don’t have to rationalise your choices as long as you are a reasonably healthy human being. Seriously, get the damn pizza and don’t give it a second thought. Eating is not a moral issue.