I know I’ve written about this before, but I can recall having the world’s most massive epiphany during a visit to the grocery store with my sorority sister one day. She was helping me do my grocery shopping, since I was a little lost in regards to how to eat healthy. I mean, of course I was buying the “Healthy Decision” meals or whatever… and of course she was smacking stuff out of my hand like I was picking up arsenic or something. And of course, I was threatening to throw bags of rice at her and take her down right in the middle of the beans and canned veggie aisle.
How dare you embarrass me in front of the black beans?
That’s beside the point.
She was coming from a place of love and support… trying to educate me about how to make better choices in what I brought home for my little one and I. I love her for that… though I still feel like I should throw a bag of brown rice at her just for general purposes.
Fast forward. I’m at an event with a few strangers, and word gets around that I’ve lost “a gang of weight” thus far. People are watching me – some are throwing shade (in other words, they’re trying to block my shine, they’re “hating on me”), some are wondering if I’ve had surgery, some are wondering “how I did it,” but all are watching what I eat. Everyone.
I request a drink. What it was doesn’t matter… just know that it wasn’t water. The minute I take it into my hand, the first thing I hear is, “That can’t be good for your diet, can it?”
Did you hear the record skip? I sure did.
Let’s talk about guilt and shame here, for a minute – specifically “food guilt” and “food shame.” I am not a fan of either. Why? Because, quite frankly, they’re ideologies that come from a dieter’s lifestyle. Not the lifestyle of a human being, which makes allowances for error/slip-ups/occasional indulgences. (Note: this is also why I don’t believe in “moderation.” It’s dieter’s mentality. I’m not a dieter. I don’t “moderate” my intake of food. I use common sense.)
Guilt, defined by Merriam-Webster: “a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy”
Shame, defined by Merriam-Webster: “(1) a : a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety b : the susceptibility to such emotion <have you no shame?>; (2) a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute <the shame of being arrested>”
I brought up these two different situations for a reason. Did I feel a little shame in the situation with my sorority sister? Of course! No one likes to be wrong. No one likes to feel like they have a “shortcoming,” and no one like to feel like their knowledge of anything is subordinate to someone else… but the fact remains that she is someone who I love like a best friend, whose opinions I respect, and whose guidance I trust. I know she’s coming from a place of love and support, and that shines through in how she talks to me about food. It’s because of her support that I’m where I am today. So even though I did feel a little shame, I let it go because she was educating me. (And even though I get a little teary-eyed in writing that, I still plan to throw the rice at her.)
Someone else who does not know me from a can of paint, however, trying to check me – in, almost, a mocking sense – about “what’s good for my diet?” Monumental fail. Not only because I am not a dieter, but because it’s an attempt to embarrass me by putting me in my place. It’s not even about what’s being said… but what’s being left off.
“That can’t be good for your diet, can it? Y’know, ’cause you’re still kinda fat.”
When I dine out with my friends, sure, I think about what I order. Sure, I think about what they order. But my friends know me. I’m not opening my mouth. Why? Because it’s not my place. It is not my place to “remind” someone – uninvited, unrequested, unsolicited – of whatever goal they have in mind, as if they’d forgotten because they’re too busy being hypnotized by food. Like I’ve mentioned the “come to fitness moment” that people have.. I say that it’s inappropriate to try to bring that out of people without their permission because you’re essentially guilting people. You’re trying to make them feel bad for doing what they do.
You know, there’s an element of “Oh, you can’t control yourself and you deserve to be shamed” here that’s especially annoying, too… because, you know, “will power is the only thing that separates the fat from the skinny” (even though we all know that’s not the case.) It relates back to that Puritanical way of thinking that Americans cling to – that “bad things happen to bad people.” And since society has deemed “fat” as a “bad thing,” clearly you must be a bad person in need of saving since, well, you are “fat.” Damn all that.
To me, shame is inevitable. If you’re in a position of learning, you will feel like that same learning – that position of being the student instead of the teacher in regards to something “that should be common sense” – is highlighting a shortcoming.. and you may feel ashamed of that. I know I did. Shame brought on by someone guilting you – and trust me, you know it’s malicious because you can’t identify the person as someone coming from a place of love – is unacceptable.
Guilt, however, is unnecessary… be it imposed on you by others, or by yourself. Do I occasionally screw up? Yes. The day I bought my little one some goldfish crackers and caught myself eating them faster than I could give them to her? I didn’t sit around moping about what I had done. I accepted the fact that I couldn’t control myself around them, took the positive from the situation (which is that I learned a lesson), and moved on. I didn’t dwell, I didn’t guilt myself with phrases like “You’re never going to lose weight, you’re never going to be pretty, you’re never going to matter” or whatever other crap women tell themselves. I pulled the lesson from the situation and moved on. Anything beyond that, to me, is a level of stress that I know I, personally, will not be able to handle… so I don’t.
I think too many people go through the “weight game” thinking that guilting themselves will cause them to make the appropriate decisions instead of taking their strengths and weaknesses into account, using the situation as a way to learn about new strengths and weaknesses, learning a lesson from the situation, and moving on. If you’re an emotional eater, wouldn’t guilting yourself about what you’ve eaten only continue the cycle of… emotional eating? Somewhere along the line, you have to take a stand. You have to just… make a conscious decision to stop accepting the guilt. You have to decide to stop letting the shame be something that affects your self-esteem.
How did I handle the person asking me whether or not something was “good for my diet?” I simply told her, “Diet? I’m not on a diet,” as I took a sip. When that was met with “You didn’t lose all that weight on a diet? Stop lying,” I responded with “Nope. I eat what I want,” took another sip and walked off. I figure since people are gonna talk regardless, might as well give ’em something to talk about.