Now, don’t get me wrong, I could talk about food all day, but there comes a point when even a foodie, like myself, knows when to put a pause in the food conversation. Like all the indulgent foods we enjoy, the key is moderation. Obviously, tell me about the incredible lunch you had or the new restaurant opening up on campus — I want to hear ALL about it, but there often comes a time when the food talk goes a little too far.
When all you can talk about is what you're eating, what you're not eating, what you SHOULD be eating, what your friend was eating, and what you need to do to combat all the eating you've been doing, there’s an issue.
Culture Around Consumption
It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized, as I was surrounded by so many other girls, that thoughts about food and bodies literally consume us. Being in the dining hall my freshman year, I remember the table talk always shifting toward what everyone decided to pick up from what station, what the next round should be, and a constant comparison of everyone plates. I was so frustrated that all we discussed while we were eating was, literally, what we were eating.
“I feel so gross from that,” “What should I get next?”, “What’re you eating?”, were phrases and questions I heard way too often. What I find even more interesting is that I never had these same conversations when my guy friends joined the dinner table and conversation.
Victims of Society's Expectations
I think this speaks volumes about the social constructions of health and beauty that tend to impact girls more than boys. The social pressures that girls feel the need to live up to can potentially shatter their self esteems. So, it makes sense — my girlfriends and I inherently felt pressure to remain thin and ‘beautiful’ amidst the fear of the god forsaken freshman fifteen. Society is constantly reminding us that all we're good for is our appearance.
College is a huge transitional time, and with it, naturally comes a lot of self-comparison. This can, honestly, be pretty detrimental. When you're surrounded by other people that are also micro analyzing what they're eating, it can be an engrossing topic and a consuming thought process. Fuel is only being added to the fire of body surveillance.
When Enough is Enough
I thought, maybe after the transition of freshman year was over and group meals in the dining hall came to a close, so would these self-deprecating dialogues — but, boy, was I wrong.
Living in my sorority house this year has only further exemplified these thought patterns and continues to frustrate me with the ideal standard of beauty girls are relentlessly trying to achieve. Yes, we can all talk about how stupidly good the butterscotch brownies were for dessert, and yes we can talk about how we wish there was a better protein option for lunch, but when all we can focus on is the food going into our bodies, we decrease the opportunity to think and to talk about anything else.Severe analyzation of food intake may be resulting from something like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), or more commonly, it may just be a reaction to societal messages and pressures about beauty and health.
Beating yourself up for minor deviations from the ‘healthy’ lifestyle is unfair. It’s only human to crave sugar instead of salad and to sleep instead of running 3 miles. Coming to terms with this fact is so important, especially for girls. Because, in addition to feeling bogged down by societal pressures, we put extreme amounts of pressure on ourselves to be ‘perfect.’So, I guess what I'm saying is, go ahead and talk about that insanely good new fro-yo flavor with your friends, but do your best to try not to compare your toppings to their toppings. Go easy on yourself, eat that dessert, and take that nap. Then, maybe after the nap, you can wake up and start a new non-food related conversation.