Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Some real talk about one of my favorite hobbies- FOOD!

I was making breakfast the other morning (my usual meal of egg and some avocado) and my brain wandered to prepping a meal for my roommate's grandparents ,who were expected to join us the following Monday.

As I have inherited the hostess gene, I often have people over to my home for a meal, and I often end yup making as much work for myself as possible. "Why overthink it?" some may be wondering.

You see, for me, finding a balance between what I eat and what other people enjoy eating is sometimes a simple matter of adjusting a recipe by just one or two ingredients. Other times, its like trying to cook on the Titanic while it's already half underwater.

Because, well... let's just cut to the chase.

I'm a big girl. How that came to be is a mystery to the various medical professionals I have in my corner, and is a story for another day, but it means that the way I eat confuses people, because I do not have the diet of a big girl.

I eat a modified keto diet (I had to stray from strict keto when the diet plan gave me a large kidney stone) and I'm very active, so my diet is rich in protein and productive fats.

All these things mean that the way I eat mostly makes sense to me, and only me.

Food Is Universal

“The looks I get if I ask for anything besides a salad when I go out to eat range from mild judgement to pure rage; as though what I eat is so much someone's business that they want to kill me for it.”

Why does this matter so much to me?

Because food is social. To it's core, the consumption, preparation, and cooking of food is cultural, and a social activity. This is why, in my experience, most diets fail. It's not because the plan is bad, or because people are weak minded. It's because the people that we love want to go out to eat with us, and healthy food dishes in restaurants don't make enough money to be kept on the menu for long, generally speaking. Unless you're in a big city where health food and conscious consumption are trendy, it's nearly impossible to safely go out to eat without having to be the girl that fills up the waitress's notepad with a million substitutions and requests.

The only place in my small town in the trees I can go out to eat is Chipotle, because I know I can choose what goes into my meal. Almost everywhere else is a compromise, sometimes because the restaurant itself is uncooperative; I've asked for a bun-free burger with a side salad and received a burger with a bun and fries on the side. The manager fixes the mistake eventually, every time, but it's hard not to view these incidents as a microaggression-fueled attacks on my personal choices for my body. I can't even get into the struggle of being a woman on keto who also doesn't eat pork or beef, but I will simply tell you it's not fun.

For these, and many other reasons, I'd love to detach shame from food. Did you know it's very possible, and very common, for "overweight" people to have healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, lungs, and arteries?

It's true! I'm one of them!

The problem is, our society puts the onus on overweight people, especially women, to make everyone feel comfortable with our presence. The looks I get if I ask for anything besides a salad when I go out to eat range from mild judgement to pure rage; as though what I eat is so much someone's business that they want to kill me for it. And this attitude is exposed in various ways all the time, even from people who love me. I'll offer the perfect example:

I'm no huge supporter of Amy Schumer, and I didn't even see the film, but the trailer for her movie I Feel Pretty was a dividing force in my life. A really good friend went off on a rant about how the film was fatphobic, how Amy Schumer isn't even overweight, and how the concept was insulting. Again, only ever having seen the trailer, I introduced a new concept, very gently, into my friend's life, that I'm sure many people have never heard before. I quietly but firmly told her, "You fit too well into western standards of beauty to comment on this issue," and that ended the conversation. It didn't matter that she didn't feel like the film was good representation; society hadn't placed her in a position where most days, it would take a head injury for her to love her body and feel accepted.

This type of frankness and openness about critical personal issues should be the norm, especially among female friends. It discusses "skinny privilege" which does exist, without good friends turning on each other over body types, which are based on genetics and can't be helped. I personally support every one of you sharing with your friends when they are crossing a line, when their support feels oppressive or patronizing, and when they need to be shown a new way to care for you.

How Does This Relate to Food?

Let's be honest- we all feel pressure when it comes to food. But when we detach shame from it, and remember that we are doing the best we can, the proverbial weight is lifted from our shoulders and it's easier to make better choices. Shame is not a good motivator, and it's okay to remind yourself, and the people in your life, of that.

My mom, for example, has turned her life inside out in pursuit of solving the mystery of my health and my weight. The loving place that her efforts come from is absolutely wonderful. I love having the help. What is hard for me to wrap my head around is when she comes over to my house, and sees the food that my roommates have for themselves and is horrified and disgusted by it. "They shouldn't be eating that," she says with a pinched look on her face.

“They shouldn't be eating that,” She says with a pinched look on her face.

I accept all this with open arms, because again, I welcome (and very much need) the help with my own rocky path forward; but I have to wonder when food became, in the eyes of many people,( not just my mother), a way to decide the content of one's character, and when fat became such an uncomfortable word that it's not a stretch to imagine that people would rather have a child that's a serial killer than have a fat child. We can all do better. We should do better.

Get Cookin!

This is by no means the last time I will discuss food and cooking in my blogs, as it is one of my points of greatest personal growth, and also one of my favorite hobbies, but for now, if you've ever experienced anything close to what I have just described, I am so sorry. The world is a very ugly place to be any kind of different. I encourage you all to enjoy today, and as soon as you can, pull your favorite cookbook off the shelf, fire up your stove, and get cooking. The first step to detach food from shame is to enjoy cooking; not just for others, but for yourself. If you cook something this week, post a few pics, and use my hashtag #Elizainthetrees and I'll see it. Maybe you'll give me some ideas to bring some joy to my kitchen too, and that's the most important thing to strive for; joy.


Eliza, In The Trees