How women talk about food

How women talk about food

Last summer, my niece told me she didn't want to wear her bikini because, in her words, "It makes me look fat." She was five years old. The first time I picked her up, after being away for a year, she asked me if she was too heavy. She still doesn't want to wear her bikini around me and my boyfriend, so far this summer.

And we're going to overlook the issue of bikinis for excessively small children for now.

Maybe she'll grow out of it as kids so often do. But I hate to think that I'm seeing the genesis of her teenage eating disorder and body image woes.

Of course I "know" in the academic sense that food and body image are huge issues for women. You can't help noticing the photoshopped ads everywhere, the soul-destroying headlines on fashion/beauty magazines, media representations of women, the Botox/plastic surgery gossip, diet fads and juice cleanses.

But it's not often that I'm confronted with these issues in reality lately. If asked, I guess I would have said something like, maybe after a certain undefinable point people realize it's all ridiculous and are comfortable with themselves. But I'm also in a situation where I'm not meeting new people regularly, and just hanging out with people I know and have known for years.

So I met this small group of random women recently for coffee. And, yeah, the conversation was kind of the usual stereotypical female stuff, but that's what happens when you all meet each other for the first time and want everyone to be included.

I'm a terribly socially awkward person. There are some things I don't like to respond to because then I'd feel insincere (I'm not a natural gusher), there are many things I just can't talk about because I'm not that kind of person (a potential future post topic), and then there are things that I just don't get.

Like how women talk about food.

Not all women and not restricted to women, sure. But the majority of people who do it are women, and there are reasons.

I don't think anyone escapes body image issues growing up; college and living abroad helped me eradicate those. I happen to have never struggled with food woes. I feel like this puts me at a disadvantage, because when these things come up in conversation and I want to be helpful, I'm not exactly. . .a credible voice with similar experiences to share who can speak from a sense of camaraderie. Ultimately, all I can say are the things they've heard before, without any evidence to back it up. It makes me try to hide instead, because I don't want to say something that will lead to someone asking me what I do to "stay in shape."

So although I get that this is a sensitive topic for women of all ages, it's not something I can talk about in a sensitive manner. Or feel like I should talk about to random people. Or really know what to say about it in general.

And I don't have anything constructive to add now. This is my space, and instead I'm going to rant.

What I don't understand:

Talking about diet pills they might want to try that will diminish their appetite (but. . .those are, like, all scams and probably a hell of a lot worse in the long run).

One woman confessing that she was under 100 lbs. in high school because of her ADHD medication and it was the best time of her life (seriously? I guess she was mostly joking. . .but a little not).

Someone ate nothing but salad for a week to lose weight. . .then regained it after (but try little changes. . .healthy/sustainable weight loss is a gradual thing).

Eating a whole brownie cake by herself and then feeling shame about it (dude, if you want to eat a cake, eat a cake. Or set doable dessert limits each day if you feel like you must).

Someone apologizing for getting something to eat with her coffee because she didn't eat lunch (. . .why? if you're hungry, you're hungry).

Drinking coffee for breakfast instead of eating because it's fewer calories (uh. . .how can you remember calorie counts and how do you not go crazy without breakfast? Because I do).

Drinking sugar free stuff instead of the regular because it's "better" (but. . .shouldn't anything "sugar free" be a huge red flag? Who knows what kind of junk is replacing sugar).

So imagine these conversations going on, and me huddling in my chair, trying to understand and not give people weird looks. I'm kind of the queen of weird looks.

But other than that self-inflicted awkwardness, it was a positive experience meeting new people. Really.

So tell me, everyone: How did you learn to talk about food in a healthy/positive way? And/or how did you find good information on how to be healthy?

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