“Every time I see you, you’re eating! You’re such a fatty.” “Oh, eating again, are we?” “Wow, do you ever stop eating?”
Only a straight-up asshole would dare say that, but since I have a pretty trim figure, people apparently think these kinds of comments are acceptable.
The commenters, usually people who are just getting to know me, are astonished to see a lean girl scarfing down four slices of pizza or ceaselessly reaching for chips and dip at a party. They probably assume that I always eat like that and that I’m blessed with a lightning-fast metabolism. And they feel the need to call me out on it.
They don’t know how much regret I’ll feel within 10 minutes of my binge. They don’t know how hard I try to be disciplined in my diet. They don’t know how humiliated I feel when they call attention to the fact that I suffer lapses in self-control around food. I know I’m not fat, but jokes about how much I eat still hurt.
Part of my shame comes from the fact that I used to be heavier and a lot more insecure. Discovering my love of vegetables and exercise has allowed me to transform my body into something I am proud of, and I work to maintain it. I am finally satisfied with myself and don’t want to ever devolve into that unhappy girl who ate carelessly and was revolted by how she looked in the mirror.
There have been periods of time when I’ve been overly-conscious of food, counting calories and whatnot, but my M.O. is just to balance unhealthy choices with healthy ones. So, binges are followed by smaller meals and a harder workout.
However, binging isn’t healthy. My metabolism can handle it now, but, as I get older, bouts of excessive overeating are going to get harder and harder to undo with salads and trips to the gym. That being said, I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to snacking and such. I’m not an emotional eater. The problem is special events like potlucks, where I’m presented with tons of free, delicious food that I don’t typically have in my house: I tend to really let myself go.
For some people, overeating is a serious problem that can develop into a disorder. After reading this article about binge-eating disorder, I was scared when I recognized how many of those thoughts I’d had. Even though I have never gone to the extreme of eating an entire pie in one sitting, the example described in the article, I definitely empathized with the feeling of “there’s so little left, I might as well finish it.”
So, when a fellow party-goer pokes fun at me as I finish someone else’s food or reach for a third cookie, I just want to throw my plate on the ground – or in their face. The commenters think they’re “just being funny” with some “friendly teasing.” They might even think they’re flattering me when they follow up with something like, “I wish I could eat like that” or “How do you even fit that all?”
But what they’re really doing is shaming me.
After all, these kinds of comments don’t achieve anything. At best, they are rude and insulting. At worst, they can trigger a disorder: bulimia to purge everything you just ate, anorexia to completely eliminate the temptation of food, etc. Psychology Today says that compulsive overeaters, AKA binge eaters, will even isolate themselves to binge in private due to their shame.
I worked, and have gotten better, at resisting free food over this past year. So the fact that people still make remarks when I indulge a little – not seriously binging the way I once might have just one year ago – makes me feel like a failure. On top of the slew of reasons why people need to stop focusing on bodies, they need to learn that calling someone fat or skinny isn’t the only food-related shaming. Implying “you have no self-control,” regardless of the joke or backhanded-compliment it’s shrouded in, is just as insulting.
If you are genuinely concerned that someone you know might have a binging problem, sit them down and have an honest conversation. On the other hand, if you are teasing because you’re jealous of how much your friend can eat or because you just think it’s funny to compare them to a pig, just stop.