Damned if you do, damned if you don’t (Eating in public)

Ugh, I hate how much subtext being fat (or is that “living in a fat-phobic world”?) has attached to eating in public. I feel like I’m caught in a dichotomy where no version of eating in public leaves me free to just enjoy the food and/or company I’m in (let alone not eating at all).

I feel like if I eat something decadent in public, there’s an undercurrent of disapproval. Perhaps it’s in my imagination alone, and people are kinder than I give them credit for, and in fact no-one is thinking “oh my word, look at her, no wonder she’s so fat if she eats stuff like that”. And then again, perhaps where there’s smoke (or paranoia), there’s fire (or bigotry). Even if no-one in a given situation thinks that, I still blame society for making me so self-conscious that I still think it.

On the other hand, I also hate eating “healthy” food in public. By that, I mean things that are generally associated with attempted weight loss. Salads. “No dessert for me, thank you”. By ordering that stuff, for whatever reason (weight loss, feeling like it, health etc), I feel like there’s a subtext – an equal but opposite force, if you will, to the one mentioned above. A collective “well, if she’s going to have the indecency to eat in public, at least she’s eating suitably contrite food”. Because I hate for people to even THINK that I feel the need to appease their outrage at my body in public. Or that I feel the need to change who I am. Or that I feel the need to deny the pleasure of food and eating because of how I look. I feel like eating a salad in public is an agreement with the general assessment that I should be striving to lose weight.

If you’ve never experienced this sort of situation, or the messages that lead to this type of thinking, just count yourself lucky rather than discount these mentalities – because I can promise you that the pervasive messages about health, beauty and conformity we are surrounded by, all add up to this sort of mind set. Of course I don’t speak for every fat person out there, or every one with some sort of body or self esteem issue, but I guarantee you it’s not uncommon. I don’t just have a chip on my shoulder (mmm, chips!).

And so eating in public remains a loaded topic for me, although luckily not enough so that it stops me from going out for food with friends. It does however cast a shadow over every menu choice, every order, every bite – and that’s sad. Everyone should be able to enjoy one of the most prolific social experiences in our culture without having to worry what the next table over (or, in fact, people at your own table) are thinking as you shove a chocolate eclair appreciatively down your gob.

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  • Rachele

    I see the scornful looks but I still eat whatever I want. It does make me hesitate sometimes. I know what you mean about the shadow! But it also makes me happy to order multiple courses and have a good time in spite of the haters.

  • MoonicaMusing

    Hell yeah :)

  • BetsyBluesy

    I have a big problem with this. I have an extremely sensitive stomach and most restaurant food destroys me. Because I want to go out with my friends and family, I tend to order stuff like the yogurt and fruit cup, the broth based soup, maybe a sandwich with no cheese or mayo. But I am also quite fat, so my (very damn sad) inability to eat many foods at restaurants is taken as some kind of Holy Virtue. It’s gross. I hate it. I rarely have the ability to articulate my disdain for these ideas; it mostly seems too hard in social settings, since I get pretty agitated if I go into it.

  • Eva

    i hate it when i go out to eat with my friends and if they don’t eat all there food, i feel like i can’t finish the rest of my food. because i feel like people are thinking look at that fat girl making her friend wait. I know it sounds ridiculous.


    Sometimes not eating in public place is not a choice for me as I get gastric pain when not eaten on time. So don’t care what others think. It’s a necessity for me.

  • Jorgelina Vega

    I sometimes feel bad when ordering something rich in calories and then for a drink a Diet Coke. In my head I hear people saying stuff like “Yeah, cut calories drinking a diet drink! That’s how you’re going to lose weight, isn’t it?” when the truth is I order Diet Coke because I like it, not because I’m going on a diet, or trying to pretend I’m watching what I eat. Pfff!

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