It happens every year about this time. I am at a cookout or a new foodie hot spot with friends, looking especially cute in a girly summer dress, with hair, makeup and nails done just right. I’m feeling great, even a bit flirty, like nothing can get me down. And then boom! That voice or that look that says those six ugly words, “Do you need to eat that?” changes everything.
Honestly, my gut reaction is to twist my full plum-red lips into an explicative that ends with you. Yes, the devil on my shoulder wants to read that joker like RuPaul high on speed and a double shot of espresso. But somehow that lets the culprit off too easy. The summertime food police (our families, friends, the stranger eyeing your plate from across the restaurant) are on full alert. And throwing some shade won’t help the situation.
As I have gone through my own journey around food and body issues, this form of shaming has particularly triggered me. It’s been a major issue, especially in the last few years. Can you imagine telling the world that, as a full-figured, black, woman in her 40s, you have decided to become a professional bellydancer? For a while it seemed that everything I put in my mouth became a marker of my dedication to my art. I could be dancing and doing yoga several times a week and eating fresh veggies from my own garden, but being spotted sipping a Fentons milkshake, brands me as a poser, someone not serious about her health, and therefore couldn’t be taken seriously as a dancer.
At this point I could counter with volumes of stories and data that show how food policing and body shaming are actually counter-productive, encouraging self-destructive eating disorders. And for sure, the Health at Every Size® movement offers a great alternative to the yo-yo hell of dieting and attempting to seize the unattainable images of mainstream perfection out there. But again, to be rigorously honest, that’s a socio-political argument (one which I too make on occasion) that for me, doesn’t feed the soul (pun intended).
What has really helped me through this maze of judgment and misinformation is clarity around my own journey. Through becoming comfortable and even fully enjoying the skin that I’m in, I was able to chart my own path to health. That’s what we, at Your Body Raks call body justice. Clearing away the external debates, being fully present and aware of what’s going on with me, physically, emotionally and spiritually, allows me to define what kind of life (in this body) that I want to live. Most importantly, self-definition has allowed me to discover what makes me happy right now, not three dress sizes from now.
So for me, the best response to the food police is to give them a knowing wink, bite into that juicy burger, and live a full and happy life.
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