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Lusty Lady

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Food bloggers are fat sloths, film at 11

The controversy over the Marie Claire "fatties" piece by blogger Maura Kelly regarding the new TV show Mike & Molly has garnered a lot of responses. I can't tackle them all, but I did want to look at this HyperboleMan comment at Jezebel that took the discussion to a whole new level, namely calling food bloggers and people who pay attention to food "fat:"

If you're going to take pictures of your food and tweet them, and you're going to check in on 4square where you're eating... and you start to get a gut. Don't act like being fat is a part of your personality that we can't offend. You being fat is actually because you choose to live a decadent lifestyle.

I'm many things, and one of them is a food blogger. A cupcake blogger, in fact, a food that I freely admit is not vital or even helpful at the level of food we need to eat to survive. Cupcakes are delicious treats and something that I've learned in the past almost six years something a lot of people are interested in.

Through my cupcake blogging, I won't say I've become a "foodie" in the traditional definition of that word, but I do, yes, Tweet and blog and post photos of my food on Flickr. I check in on Foursquare at restaurants and leave my share of Yelp reviews. I also have a complicated history with food.

I became a vegetarian around age 12, and vegan soon thereafter. This was back in the late eighties and early nineties, when people didn't even know how to pronounce "vegan," let alone what it meant. Some people did, but it was far from the everyday word it is these days. There weren't, to my recollection, vegan celebrities on the same level as, say, Ellen DeGeneres or Alicia Silverstone, save for River Phoenix (RIP).

I was extremely committed to what I saw as a major injustice in the world. I spent my free time, when I wasn't pursuing nerdly pursuits like chess tournaments, working with my local animal rights group. I attended protests, including doing civil disobedience at the annual pigeon shoot in Hegins, Pennsylvania. It didn't cross my mind that I would ever eat meat again; I was somewhat of a junk food vegan, loving the potato chips at my health food store, ordering brownies made with turbinado sugar and the like.

Then I moved to Berkeley, California for college and was immersed in an even more ardent animal rights culture than I had once been. The summer between high school and college I was 17, interning at an animal rights group in Maryland. I was also paying increasing attention to what was on the scale, and I hated what I saw. I wanted those numbers to go down, and I made them, pound by pound, by basically eating as little as I could. I was also flirting with the 31-year-old man I'd lose my virginity to a few months later. I remember once digging in to, I think, hummus, and he said, "I love a woman who know show to eat." But that didn't stop me from my quest to keep losing weight. I did, and then I moved on to learning how to make myself puke.

It was a power trip, in its way, but one whose high only lasted for those moments when I thought I was getting away with this magical act. Eat what you want, then get rid of it, with only a little bit of effort and gagging. I don't know how it is for anyone else, but for me, making myself puke never felt the way puking for other reasons feels. I don't do it very often these days (puke involuntarily, and, actually, puke at all), but when I am either sick or used to drink and needed to throw up, it was one of those unstoppable things. My body didn't care if I was near a toilet or sink or anything; when it had to happen, it did. Actually, now I remember, I started 2010 by puking all over my subway stop, just after stepping off the train. I had a crazy killer headache that wouldn't go away no matter how much I tried to shield my eyes from the light, and somehow made it there and then, though I knew it was totally gross and I probably looked like yet another drunk partygoer, I didn't care, I just wanted to stop feeling so damn queasy. I felt lightheaded after but also lighter, in a good way. I felt like I'd gotten rid of whatever was poisoning me.

I never felt like that when I was making myself throw up (which mostly happened during college, but here and there afterwards). It was a struggle, between myself and myself. It brought tears to my eyes, it felt gross, and it was never enough; there was never that pure satisfaction of puking and then being done with it. It hurt. Yet it felt like this mastery of something tricky I had solved, some puzzle that I was privileged enough to have unlocked.

I digress from the topic of food blogging because this all relates to my relationship with food now. I started eating chicken, little by little, and then that became my gateway carnivorousness, because I was craving it. After all the drama with my body and starving and bingeing and purging, I just could not let myself categorically deny myself any foods.

And now I am part of the food blogging community. I rarely don't take photos of my food, and while I don't officially blog beyond Cupcakes Take the Cake, I do read food blogs, food news, and I look at hundreds of cupcake photos each week as part of my blogging. It's not so much a ritual of honoring my food, though I try to do that at least part of the time, though I still have my weaknesses, my moments when I'm shoveling food into my mouth so fast I can't possibly taste it, when I stick my finger directly into the hummus because I can't spare those precious moments to find a utensil and, more importantly, don't want to. I like that animalistic urgency of letting myself be, for a few moments, out of control.

I'm not going to pretend I no longer have "food issues" or "body issues." I certainly do, but sortof like how I've come to see the eating of animals, I don't think it's an all or nothing issue. I try not to eat meat every day, or with every meal, and I try, for the most part, to eat fruits and vegetables, to not waste calories on alcohol, to not eat pizza at two in the morning. The biggest challenge to me as an eater, though, is to eat when I'm actually hungry, to use food to satisfy my body's actual needs, rather than my mind's or my heart's. Last night my stomach hurt and I thought eating would help, and while I was craving salt, probably because I was just about to get my period, I skipped the small bag of salt and pepper potato chips and the Little Lad's popcorn I love (and that my 24-hour deli guy knows I love) for the "healthier" popcorn, which tastes way less salty. Which might be why I shoved about 5/6 of the bag into my mouth trying to find the salt, waiting for it to take effect like some magic pill.

I don't write or talk much about my "eating issues," as I call them because the big words, the a word and the b word (anorexia and bulimia, if that was too subtle), feel, while semi-accurate, a little too dramatic. They were accurate descriptions of me at the time but that was over a decade ago, and I wouldn't say I'm a "recovering" anorexic or bulimic. I'm a 34-year-old white woman who's 5'3" and doesn't know how much she weighs, though it's probably somewhere around 150 (or was last time I weighed myself). I like food, and don't cool hardly ever.

I don't want this post at all to be read as "I'm different from the fat people HyperboleMan is disdaining." I'm not. I do want it to be different from his fatphobia, but mainly I want to point out that, yes, some food bloggers, and I know I'm not the only one, have food issues. To think that we'd all have "perfect" relationships with food is utterly unrealistic, because how many people in general do?

I'll leave you with this excellent post from Oh She Glows called "Food Blogs Changed My World." While I don't take the exact same approach as her, I think her story will be familiar to many people:

In the past, food and eating wasn’t what I called fun. It was associated with so many other emotions that my actual, physical experience with food was stolen from me. I never really had the satisfaction of preparing a new recipes with new foods and enjoying the results. I didn’t think of food in that type of way before.

For me food blogs have opened my eyes to an exciting world where food and health is fun again.

Bottom line, though, why is there so much judgment, about both other people's size and other people's approach to food? So much hatred is disguised in the form of "concern" over health, yet that mock concern is truly obscured by the hatred that is dripping over, under and all around it. It's also remarkably not helpful, if the goal really is to help spread a message of "health," to ignore mental health and to assume that people who are fat (or, let's face it, "fat," because that word is so subjective and gets thrown around a lot, including by me, to describe ourselves) have never heard of fruits and vegetables. Go read the original Jezebel post I linked to - while nobody needs to justify their weight to anyone but themselves (or perhaps their doctor if it's been brought up as a concern), plenty of people there have, pointing out many reasons beyond diet why they've reached the size they have.

I also think this anti-Foursquare, anti-social media, anti-food photo sentiment is part of a disturbing trend of "I don't like what you're doing on the internet, therefore you shouldn't do it" mindset. If there is anywhere that should be totally opt-in, it's the internet, where literally anyone can start a blog, Twitter account, etc. Unless it's something you have to read for school or a job, you do not have to look at it, shocking as that may be to some.

Okay, rant over.

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At October 30, 2010, Blogger Remittance Girl said...

Brilliant post, Rachel. You have deconstructed the rhetoric and dug down to the nasty, bitter, anti-humanistic core of this kind of stuff.

Really, brilliant. You should rant a lot more.

At October 31, 2010, Anonymous Pamela Madsen said...

When we speak out food issues in a rant or a blog or in front of anyone - we speak for millions. Your story is in so many ways my story - and the story of countless others. It is hard to write about "disordered eating" and yet I don't know a woman who has not experienced it at one time in her life or another. I have - and I still struggle. Picking on fat people is the last allowable prejudice in this country. I am bigger than you are - but most of the time I feel quite beautiful. It is a hard won and delicate place that I have managed to get to. Thank you for writing. It brought a tear of recognition. And I love cupcakes too. A lot.
Your shameless admirer,
Pamela Madsen


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