A friend recently told me that 90% of the women she knows have “food issues”. “Food issues.” It’s such an all-encompassing term. When someone says, “Oh, she has serious food issues,” it could mean:
- She was / is anorexic.
- She was / is bulimic.
- She won’t eat anything with sugar in it.
- She won’t eat anything with fat in it.
- She knows the pharmaceutical names for appetite suppressants.
- She measures her thighs and hips every week.
- She moans about her body.
- She says she’s not really that thin.
- She says she’s happy to be fat.
- She only orders salad.
- She only orders cheeseburgers.
- She knows how many calories are in 50g of cheddar.
- She’s tried more diets than Liz Taylor.
I know plenty of beautifully proportioned women who never truly enjoy a slice of chocolate cake. They berate themselves and plan torturous gym sessions to atone for every calorific bite. It’s like those “waiting for marriage” girls who lose their virginity on a drunken one-night stand. Oh the guilt! The shame! Did I really put that in my mouth last night?
And that’s where the problem lies — food is pleasure and puritanical nations have taught people that pleasure is sinful.
“Ja, well, it’s easy for you.” Huh?
Michael Pollan’s book In Defense Of Food brilliantly explores how this has led to obsessively weird ideas about eating (fish oil-enriched bread anyone?) His advice: “Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants.” And by food he means real food, not meal replacement shakes or frozen diet “country-style” lasagne.
Obviously I am not too big or too thin. I’m healthy. But if I had a fat-free yoghurt for every time a woman commented on how lucky I was, I could stock the dairy aisle at Woolworths.
And I am lucky, not because I have some magical Usain Bolt metabolism, but because my mother taught me “everything in moderation”. She also said “go play with the traffic”, which obviously lead to a love of the outdoors.
You are not an air-conditioner or a washing machine.
It’s also a question of listening to your body. Many women regard themselves externally, like engine units that need an instruction manual to refuel. Do not attempt to repair, move or reinstall this body on your own. Consult the latest health fad or diet book for detailed meal plans. Warning: Do not eat carbohydrates after 7pm.
They never just sit still and think, “What do I actually feel like?” For all the talk about “women’s intuition”, we seem very technically minded when it comes to the instinctive act of eating.
Sometimes I feel like having a slab of Lindt chocolate. Sometimes I feel like going for a long walk. Sometimes I feel like having roast chicken. But I never feel like eating a protein bar.
Be kind. Unwind.
After overcoming so much to get where we are today, why are we still so hard on ourselves and our bodies? It’s tragic that women can lead nations and corporations, but they still can’t have pasta Alfredo for dinner (or they eat everyone else’s pasta Alfredo for dinner).
It’s time to throw away the user manual approach to eating. Be sensible, not gluttonous. Enjoy your food, eat a little butter instead of lots of margarine. Most importantly, be kind to yourself — you deserve the pleasure.
*This post originally appeared on Mail & Guardian Thought Leader.
One thought on “No food please, I’m a woman!”
I couldn’t agree more. Bravo Amanda!
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