Jenna

Note to Women: Please Think About Something Other Than Dieting to Talk About!

why is it when you get a room of 3 or more women the discussion almost invariably turns to food, dieting, body shaming? It drives me insane. If I were a man and I saw this vapid, shallow conversation women often participate in I would conclude that one half of my species does not have a lot to offer in the brains department.

In fact, now that Ive opted out of diet talk and body shaming language there are times when I feel like an outcast of my gender. I no longer commiserate with or enter in conversations about good food vs bad, restricting, joining fucking weight watchers; I no longer nod in approval at these hopeless attempts nor do I praise for “successes”. In most groups of women I feel that my withholding from joining this womanly team building experiences and pipe up my own body and food issues means that I am somehow less of a woman;  less feminine  that I don’t join in what is now sadly, quintessentially a female diversion, we don’t talk about the weather anymore, we talk about what we shouldn’t be eating…. how. fucking. sad.

I wonder what these women think about me, when I am silent. I am no longer a good girl, no longer partaking in self loathing and hate no longer making food and eating a main component of my conversation (unless its couched in positive terms). When I opt out of conversations and sit or stand there silently while the women all chime in, I wonder how they perceive me; is it the knee jerk reaction of viewing me as a hopeless fatty? lazy? a loser? A woman who has “given up and let herself go?”
Sometimes I get enraged I want to just shake these women and tell them, “Do you know how shallow and ridiculous you sound? Do you think men sit around talking about this stupid shit? Cant you find something more interesting to talk about (oh I don’t know, global warming, stock options)I don’t know ANYTHING else to bond with your fellow women other than the size and shape of your bodies?”
Its so infuriating to know what I know now but feel completely impotent with questions about what to do what to say or how to share how harmful this is and how incredibly harmful it is to them…. and to me. Talk like this (and in this instance it was in a classroom that is filled with only women a graduate level course for chrissakes so I am in effect an unwilling witness to this weekly conversation) how can I tell them in what ways this talk triggers me in such bad ways. It is like I am in a permanent post traumatic stress syndrome running from a life of somehow failing to be what the world wants women to be, what this culture “values”.

And after the talk I started to think thoughts which were rolling downhill fast. I am “getting up there” in age and in fact am at this point where the talk from others about “when am I going to settle down and get married” have pretty much stopped. It is something I am working through and a strange place to find myself suddenly the last person I know who is reasonably not crazy or antisocial yet never married. It makes me wonder at times what is wrong with ME……so anyway after these conversations above and we begin the lecture I notice on every woman’s hand… all the ones near my age I see big wedding bands, engagement bands, children talk and I wonder (caught myself actually) is it because I am fat that I don’t have someone and they do? Am I an unloveable person, a rejection, a blight upon society? In the past these thoughts would have fired at will but today I caught this line of thinking in time to stop it. So I guess in this way, there is a small victory.
I wish these women really really knew -how these words hurt them and others around them. Every sentence is a knife cutting one more line on this poor body already full of scars. Most of the time I come off very competent and sure in my speech and actions laughing off the pain, which person who grew up fat hasn’t an array of defenses of self preservation? On the exterior we laugh it off with a quip and continue on our way but the interior winces at another sprung leak and finds a way to keep the boat from capsizing. Some days…. sigh…some days its just like that.

post script:

And after I wrote this feeling very very… bereft. I went to www.postsecret and this was one of the “secrets” , it gave me joy, and restored me.

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  • Tina

    I feel that my withholding from joining this womanly team building experiences and pipe up my own body and food issues means that I am somehow less of a woman; less feminine that I don’t join in what is now sadly, quintessentially a female diversion, we don’t talk about the weather anymore, we talk about what we shouldn’t be eating…. how. fucking. sad.

    Amen!

  • Jade

    I always hear about this on fat acceptance blog but I wonder how cultural it is because my experience is totally different. My female friends and I never speak about dieting and some of us are old, young, thin, fat, medium built … The last time I had a friend talk to me about dieting was a couple of years ago. I wonder if it is different where I live in France ? I don’t live in Paris though and I wonder if there would be more pressure there. I must admit that the first time I read a post saying women only talk about dieting I thought it was sexist because it wasn’t my experience at all (“oh those vain silly women talking about make up and diet !”) but I must admit that it must be prevalent in some places. It would be interesting to make a study and see what triggers that. I already have some clues (the culture, the social class etc ) but it would be interesting how much people talk about dieting according to the place they live, their race, their social class etc … Do you have any study about this ?

    I hope my english is not too bad.

  • Guest

    I know it’s cliche, but when you don’t fit in sometimes it helps to remember your Einstein: “What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right.” Dude, this is the guy who invented the concept of relativity; I’ll take his advice over “society’s” any day!!! I know how you feel, though. I’m in physics, and a lot of time with my lab, its both the men and the women talking about their percentage body fat and how healthy and good for the environment their diets are. Depressing!!!

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    Jade your English is just wonderful and thank you so much for posting this.

    I read an article which speaks about how the French perception of food is very different to the American perception of food.:

    A few years ago, Paul Rozin, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, and Claude Fischler, a French sociologist, began collaborating on a series of cross-cultural surveys of food attitudes. They found that of the four populations surveyed (the U.S., France, Flemish Belgium and Japan), Americans associated food with health the most and pleasure the least. Asked what comes to mind upon hearing the phrase “chocolate cake,” Americans were more apt to say “guilt,” while the French said “celebration”; “heavy cream” elicited “unhealthy” from Americans, “whipped” from the French. The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed.

    There is even more interesting bits about this study here:
    http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/our-national-eating-disorder/

    So perhaps the movement towards more intuitive eating (what the French seem to do naturally?) is a step in the right direction for Americans.

  • Shieldmaiden1196

    I just started a new job and in the first week I got this speech:
    “This is the wrong place to work if you are going to be all stingy and paranoid about food– we like pie. We sometimes cook steak. Christmas is off the chain.”

    I wanted to weep from gratitude.

  • Anonymous

    I am officially No Fun To Be Around, in large groups of ladies. When the fat-diet-food-weight-etc talk starts, and I’m part of the included group? I cheerfully chime in about how I’m off that stupid train forever, and how delicious my lunch is, and how I love my big belly, and so forth. Either they’ll leave me alone in the future, or I’ve given them something else to think about.

    I’m lucky to be in a position where I can give the conversational tone a big EFF U, though. And I know this. My workplace is casual, my friends understand where I’m coming from, and there are no social penalties for me being loud and honest in any of my hobbies. Given an environment full of genuinely fat-hostile folk, I might learn to just roll my eyes and shut up. My personal satisfaction/smugness may someday not be worth the social consequences. I’m hoping the day doesn’t come too soon.

  • Anonymous

    I am officially No Fun To Be Around, in large groups of ladies. When the fat-diet-food-weight-etc talk starts, and I’m part of the included group? I cheerfully chime in about how I’m off that stupid train forever, and how delicious my lunch is, and how I love my big belly, and so forth. Either they’ll leave me alone in the future, or I’ve given them something else to think about.

    I’m lucky to be in a position where I can give the conversational tone a big EFF U, though. And I know this. My workplace is casual, my friends understand where I’m coming from, and there are no social penalties for me being loud and honest in any of my hobbies. Given an environment full of genuinely fat-hostile folk, I might learn to just roll my eyes and shut up. My personal satisfaction/smugness may someday not be worth the social consequences. I’m hoping the day doesn’t come too soon.

  • Jade

    Thanks for the reply ! Yes I guess we have a different approach to food. I wonder if we will be able to keep this tradition. I remember a french nutritionist , Gérard Apfeldorfer , saying recently that we were starting to lose our conception of food as pleasure. He advocates intuitive eating and he was against the 5 fruits and vegetables a day rule message put in ads. He said it was counter intuitive and the french ate more fruits and vegetable than other countries anyway without being told to on every TV ads break. I hope the culture resist the marketing onslaught. I read an article on Newsweek saying the french don’t go to the gym, they walk and cycle a lot and gym owners were saying that the governement will advocate gym going as part of health so I guess we will be subject to more and more pressure from the media. Hmm I hope french stuborness make us keep our traditions ! They work well for us after all. I’m glad fat acceptance exists to give an other option to people because it’s sad when you associate chocolate cake with guilt instead of celebration !

  • Beclove22

    What I dislike is people associating their conversations about diet and exercise with body shape, it’s so tedious! I am a vegetarian and love to exercise but any discussion of these turns into weight loss strategy right away. I also hate it when my girlfriends sit there and hate on their own bodies and go on about how they wish they could exercise to be thinner and blah blah blah.

    1. How to expect to look after your body if you hate it so much
    2. A balanced diet and exercise will not necessarily make you thin, so don’t see it as the solution to your so-called problem because the only solution lays in accepting who you are and how you are built
    3. Stop fucking whinging about it and come for a walk with me and lets talk about something more positive

    On the other hand I enjoy a good positive discussion about an awesome meal some one cooked or that they ran 10km that day, I can relate to it, but I can’t relate to ‘I wish I could exercise, and all I ate today is a piece of lettuce and I wish I was 20kg lighter’

    shut up!

  • http://twitter.com/Fatheffalump Fat Heffalump

    *waves* fellow single woman over a “certain age” here.

    I used to go silent in that conversation. I don’t anymore. I tend to find myself either using humour to break the conversation’s back. Just yesterday women in my office were talking about some brownies that had been brought in at morning tea and saying that they were “Worth thousands of calories.” There was general clucking and tsking over how many calories there were, so I picked up a piece and tasted it, closed my eyes and sighed “Oh and every one of them is delicious.”

    If the situation is not suitable for humour, I usually just quietly say “You know, it’s just food, it’s not going to send you to hell.”

    I know some people see me, the fattest woman in the room, and think “Yeah, you can see why you’re fat.” when I do this, but every now and then I get through to one or two. And it’s so very well worth it.

  • Melanieloveszombies

    BRAVO! Seriously, I’m stick of this same shit. I have to beautiful fat friends who are on alternate diets – One on The Cambridge Diet, one on Weight Watchers …and it’s like half of their personality got shaved off. That’s why they weigh less now!

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    jennaloveszombies too :)

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    ooo I like that! You know what I also get sometimes? In office when offered a slice of fudge or cake I sometimes say, “No thanks, I don’t want any.” the reply; “Oh Jenna I KNOW so many calories.” or “Way to go girl on that diet!”

    Um… no… I just didn’t feel like a piece of fudge or cake. Now that I can have it anytime I want it… I dont actually want it all that much. MMm… yummy crispy apple now thats what I want instead. It’s kind of like Zen Buddhism the practice of “non-doing” actually gets you closer to your goal. I am listening to my body and she is telling me what she wants and she doesnt feel like cake today. Give up the fight… and win anyway :)

  • Blahblah

    This is kind of horribly misogynistic. But perhaps you’re right, and men only talk about super dooper important things like current affairs and finance all day long. Maybe us silly women should start talking about more important things so the men won’t think we’re stupid and then they won’t have our babies.

    I’m not saying that the ridiculous fixation on body image it’s gross, because it is. But this was a really bad way of expressing that.

  • Blahblah

    fixation on body image *ISN’T

  • http://www.axisoffat.com/ Jenna

    “This is kind of horribly misogynistic” I know… to bad the above is true. Not my friends usually, but the ongoing contemplative conversations of most women about dieting about bodies, it is pervasive, it seems that it is a topic more talked about that the weather, than in fact, anything else. Calling women out on this by using the perspective of the other is hardly “women hating”.

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