You Won’t Go to Hell Because It Tastes Good

This morning, I was up and out early because I had to take the car into the shop, and I decided to get breakfast at a restaurant before beginning the long bus and train journey home. Breakfast was what I always eat on the rare occasion when I’m out of the house before everyone’s serving lunch: scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, and orange juice.

As I was eating this breakfast, I was thinking about a conversation I’ve had with two different female friends, at two different restaurants, over two of the same breakfasts. It goes like this:

Friend: God, I never order orange juice when I’m already eating a breakfast like this. Do you know how many calories are in a glass of orange juice?

Me: Yeah, I do. But A) if I were counting calories, I wouldn’t be eating eggs and sausage, and B) because I’m eating sausage and eggs, I want to get some fruit in, too. You know, with all the vitamins and shit? And since the only other fruit you can get in a place like this is a lemon wedge or a bowl of anemic melon chunks in nasty syrup, orange juice it is.

Friend: I just can’t do it. If I’m going to consume that many calories, I want them to come from food.

Me: [shrug] I like orange juice.

And thinking about that got me thinking about another conversation with another friend, when I was in college, before my hardcore dieting days. I’d been thinking I needed to eat more vegetables in general, but the dining hall options were never very appealing. One night, I sat down with a plate of dry, pale carrots and some ranch dressing for dipping. Like, a tablespoon and a half of ranch dressing, mind you, not a freakin’ bucket of it.

Friend: Do you know how much fat is in that dressing?

Me: Yeah, I do.

Friend: Then why are you putting it on your carrots?

Me: Because they taste like ass without it.

Friend: But what’s the point of eating carrots if you’re just going to cancel them out with a bunch of fat?

Me: Um… to eat carrots? And since I have no interest in eating dining hall carrots straight, I figure it’s better to eat them with something that makes them palatable than not eat them at all?

Friend: [looks at me as if she now understands precisely why I’m a disgusting, fat cow who will obviously have a heart attack before I’m 30]

This is what happens in a dieting culture. Orange juice is considered solely in terms of calories and sugar, not vitamins. (Or flavonoids. Am I seriously the only one who’s not surprised to learn that o.j. is good for you?) Carrot sticks are what you eat to get thin, not vegetables that have exactly the same nutritional value even if you dip them in ranch dressing or consume them alongside a plate of Buffalo wings. Apples are frightening to the anti-carb crowd. Fat and calories cancel out the “goodness” of fruits and vegetables — because that concept of goodness ultimately refers to your morals, not the food’s nutritional content.

This is bullshit, people. Once again, the conflation of “fattening” with “unhealthy” has completely warped our concept of reasonable eating. I know it took me forever after I stopped dieting to realize that yes, I could eat a salad with full-fat dressing, cheese, croutons, and even — gasp! — bacon, and I would still be getting a nice big dose of greens, peppers, broccoli, carrots, whatever. And, miracle of miracles, I would not secretly feel deprived — like choosing to eat salad was a moral victory but a practical disappointment — and subsequently crave a burger and fries more strongly than ever.

You know what that meant? It meant I started eating a lot more salad. Which meant I started eating a lot more greens, peppers, broccoli, carrots, whatever, than I had previously. After all that dieting, a spinach salad with egg, bacon, croutons, and dressing ON the salad, instead of ferried over to it in tiny droplets on the end of my fork, feels nearly as “indulgent” as a piece of chocolate cake — but you know what it’s got that chocolate cake doesn’t? A BIG FUCKING PILE OF SPINACH. The same principle applies to cooked vegetables served with a pat of butter or a sprinkling of parmesan: if you add a small amount of fat, I’m a hell of a lot more likely to want to eat it. And since the alternative (post-dieting) was not choking down steamed veggies for the good of my soul but eating hardly any vegetables at all, I have to say I like this way better.

And you might like it better, too, but it might not have occurred to you yet that it’s okay. So I’m here to tell you it is. I am not, of course, a health care professional or nutritionist, but from one ex-dieter to another, I hereby give you permission to drink fruit juice and eat your veggies with fat. You will not cancel out their nutritional value. (Well, you’ll lose fiber drinking juice instead of eating fruit, but since you’ll still eat fruit at other times and get fiber from other sources, it’s still okay.) You will not go to hell. You will not even get any fatter, if you’re already at your set point. You’ll just be eating and drinking stuff that tastes good and contains lots of nutrients your body needs.

What a fucking concept.

80 thoughts on “You Won’t Go to Hell Because It Tastes Good

  1. It’s unbelievable that people still need to be told stuff like this. People think it’s better to eat nothing than to have a salad with “fattening” dressing? Or cheese sauce on broccoli? Or that they might as well go ahead and have a whole package of Oreos if they’re going to eat anything that “indulgent,” because Oreos have just as many calories? That is an idea so shit-lubed, there aren’t enough power hoses in the world to get it clean.

    Newsflash: You need to eat fat in order to absorb all the vitamins in fruits and vegetables. Otherwise they are nutritionally WORTHLESS. I could kick myself for all those years I ate salad with fat-free dressing because I thought I was being a Good Girl. Thank you, Kate.

  2. I love brocolli SO MUCH but wouldn’t eat it for years because my family insisted on serving it steamned and yet still dry or totally overcooked and plain.

    Add a little salt and a pat of butter? I will eat nothing but brocolli for days.

    (Okay, not really because that would be unhealthy for me – I dodn’t want to imagine what that would do to my digestive system.)

  3. And.. this argument is to dieting what bibliophilistines intends to be for books. if you take all the fun out of eating, why the hell do it at all?

    let’s move to france.

  4. Meowser, I spent a couple years ordering a garden salad with just vinegar, in order to be able to go to a restaurant with friends and eat something. Fat-free dressing still has fat and calories! THAT WASN’T ON THE PLAN!

    And since I don’t eat raw tomatoes, and “garden” is seriously pushing it 9 times out of 10, that pretty much meant I was eating lettuce and vinegar. Mmmmm.

  5. And our breakfast order (and reasons for making it) is identical.

    But… but… you’re not fat! How is that POSSIBLE?

    And I’ll totally move to France with you, unless they’d make me quarantine the dogs.

  6. I guess I’m weird this way because I massively prefer veggies straight without dressing and especially without cheese. Well, unless its some red-leaf lettuce in a sandwich. That’s okay. I love broccoli, but only if its steamed just right. I think the big problem with broccoli is that its often cooked wrong. I never eat it at restaurants because I can’t stand how they prepare. Always undercooked. I make it at home and I test until its just how I like it and I can’t get enough of it. I’m annoyed with myself for not having made broccoli in a while, not because its good for me but because I like it and I haven’t made it purely because it takes some effort and I haven’t been making dinners that really go well with a side-dish. Likewise, I love baby carrots. Carrot sticks, not so much. Too flimsy. Baby Carrots, though, have heft and snap. I’d never dip them in dressing.

    But. That’s. Just. Me.

    And therein lies the problem in our culture where we’ve stigmatized food so fiercely that everything has to fit into neat little understandings of “good” and “bad”. I don’t really get why people like dressing. I don’t need to get it. Its not me who is eating it. I eat what I eat because I like it. I only wish others the same opportunities.

  7. BStu, I know what you mean, because I totally don’t get the mayonnaise thing. Makes me gag every time. Even if it’s called “aoli.” But basically, when I say “eat fat with veggies and fruit,” I mean any fat consumed within a couple of hours of veg consumption. That includes fat from meat, tofu, nuts, milk, cheese, avocado, whatever, that you might consume anywhere around the same time frame. The fat doesn’t have to be on the veggies at all or even eaten at the same meal. Sorry if that was unclear.

  8. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!

    I have a smoothie frequently to add the vitimins and fruits in my diet. I usually get the fruit only one because I don’t need dairy filler in my fruit goodness.

    So I get told how many calories the fruit juice has, and how I should get the chemical filled low calorie ones instead.

    Bah.

  9. some studies suggest that the nutrients in veggies are actually best assimilated with a bit of fat, especially animal fats — ever wonder where the idea of putting butter on carrots or cooking green beans with bacon drippings came from? our ancestors weren’t stupid. (I read that in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook…)

    I envy anyone who can drink a glass of orange juice, I love it but it pushes my blood sugar up too high. I drink diet orange pop to get some of that flavor — not because I am “dieting” per say but I control my blood sugar with diet. That means I have to make specific food choices to support that aim. I can eat fat until the cows come home, and it won’t put my bg up even one point, and sometimes I count on those calories.

    But any kind of carb might — so when someone say at a restaurant substitutes my virtually carbohydrate free sour cream with a “fat free” version of sour cream, seeing that I am “fat” and need less calories in my food, it doesn’t help me. Because the fat free version has sugars in it to help the taste, (because fat free sour cream is awful!) which send my bg sky high.

    So I eat eggs and bacon, but no toast, no juice and sometimes no coffee. I hope people don’t pre-judge me when they see what I order.

  10. I was out with friends the other night when they all decided to go for ice cream. I wasn’t really in the mood for ice cream, nor did the parlor have any flavors i particularly like, so i sat with them while they ate theirs. Of course i got the “are you on a diet” and “are you counting calories?” questions. No of course i am not. It’s funny how this mentality works. Since i’m an adult and can eat whatever i want, whenever i want it (providing stores are open), I have given myself permission to eat what i want when i want it. Which means there are times that i will eat ice cream and lots of it. But if i’m not in the mood, i can forgo it, knowing that there WILL be a next time, the world will not end, and i don’t have to agonize about the guilt the fear the pleasure the morality that’s all supposedly wrapped up in ice cream. It’s just food. Like broccoli and orange juice. but maybe without the flavinoids.

  11. someone beat me to it, but i was going to comment that fat actually helps you absorb the vitamins in veggies. my grandma never let me eat salad unless it head a healthy dollop of (full-fat) dressing – she said if you’re gonna eat it, you should be able to absorb all the good stuff in it! fat + veggies is a winning combination!

  12. I could kiss you for writing this today, Kate — my parents-in-law are visiting, and they’re in a “come to Jesus” phase with their current diet.

    As a result, I can feel their eyes drilling into me and scanning my plate every time we sit down to a meal.

    Something that nearly every person who eats with me says is: “Hmmm. You didn’t eat very much.”

    And that’s generally true. I don’t eat as much as most people — not because I’m dieting (I DO NOT DIET), but because I’m full. They sit there and eat three times what I eat — they’re skinny, and I’m fat, and they can’t figure it out.

    My actual food consumption is so much less than most people’s in my household that we actually considered making an adjustment to our grocery-bill sharing at one point (we solved this by simply buying some of the “fancy” teas and foods that I like, and no one else does).

    I fucking hate the food police. Especially the ones that I evicted from my own head, but who occasionally try to stage a coup.

  13. @tulip: Orange and apple juice are too sweet for my taste, so I dilute them with sparkling mineral water (like Perrier). Maybe that would be an alternative for you?

  14. LOL, Kate, about the vinegar on the salad thing — I did that too! Remember Lord and Lady Douchebag on the late-70s Saturday Night Live? (I think Al Franken had a hand in that sketch.) Lady Douchebag (Jane Curtin) had vinegar and water dressing on her salad. Made me bust a gut…but if only I’d known then just how hilarious that actually was, on multiple levels.

  15. Madge,

    I had this problem today. I ate a large (for me) breakfast, and I ate later than usual, so when lunch rolled around, I wasn’t hungry. I don’t eat when I’m not hungry, no big deal. Except that today I was in a “lunch meeting,” and there I sat with no lunch.

    Which prompted many concerned questions, and one uncomfortable conversation with one of my colleagues (a psychologist). She didn’t say anything about eating disorders directly, but the piercing, concerned stare just about drove me batty. I wasn’t sure how to get across that fat person+not eating does not necessarily equal “eating disorder”.

    NOT eating is OK, too, dammit!

  16. My parents are such disgusting dieters that I do not think any type of real juice has entered that house in years. I swear to you, they drink cristal light as though it is some kind of nectar of the gods. (For to consume sugar will instantly make them fat.)

    Oh my god and the dressing on the end of the fork thing? What the hell, like the 10 calories I’m going to miss here are going to make up for the 10 chocolate chip cookies I’m going to eat later because I’m still so damned hungry since all I had was a salad with a little tiny eeensy peice of chicken on it.

    America’s eating habits are so messed up, and it has everything to do with weight obsession.

  17. This is a great post!

    Several years ago when I first swore off dieting, as an experiment I made a list of everything I ate and noted what, if any, guilt I felt when I ate it. I found that EVERYTHING I consumed except water made me feel guilty — the fruits because of the carbs, a salad because it had lettuce instead of spinach, and so on and so on. Ridiculous!

    That was years ago, and still, just a few months ago I realized I was still automatically not putting butter in my vegetables because I didn’t want to “cancel out” the goodness, even though I prefer the taste of veggies with a little butter. It’s funny. I had legalized every other food, but when the fat touched the veggies — GASP! — sacrilege! The diet mentality is hard to get rid of entirely sometimes.

  18. PortlyDyke, I am right there with you on the smaller portions thing. I just don’t like to eat huge amounts and I’m most often happiest with, say, one slice of pizza.

    My family, while still castigating me for being fat, are constantly trying to put more on my plate. Unless *I* put more on my plate because I am extra hungry and then, hey, you know, I’m just fat because I eat too much. *headdesk*

  19. shinobi, my female cousins actually scrape all the bread out of the inside of the bagel, and then eat just the rind with a few molecules of cream cheese. (I was introduced to this before Atkins, though… presumably now they just don’t eat a bagel.) People are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to make eating morally acceptable.

  20. Yay! Excellent post!

    The Food Police make me insane.

    As if, somehow, your broccoli knows you’ve put butter on it and will withhold its nutrients from you as punishment. WTF? Do these people even listen to themselves??

    The Juice Police are especially insidious when it comes to kids. “You’re giving them juice?? It’s nothing but empty calories! You may as well give them soda!” Well, no, it’s not like giving them soda. It’s like giving them juice.

    Seriously, in some circles, giving your kid juice is seen as akin to abuse. It’s idiotic. The very idea that there are kids out there who think juice is “bad” for you just makes me want to shake people until their teeth rattle.

  21. Dur, I forgot:

    Anti-Mommy Wars NOTE: My kids are 3, so imo they’re too young for soda, though they’re allowed to try it if we’re drinking it. When they get older, they will be allowed soda sometimes, and it won’t be a big deal. Though I am hoping to keep them from getting super-addicted to soda like their dad is, in part because we all drink regular soda (I can taste aspartame from a mile away, and it tastes like ass to me).

    Anyway, just saying: please no one construe my comment as a slam on parents who allow their kids soda. Not at all the case.

  22. THANK YOU!!!

    I hate restrictions. I hate diets because I don’t get to eat what I want how I want. I eat the nasty ass carrot sticks plain even though they taste like dirt and I eat piles of just spinach or spinach with just a hint of some light light light dressing – I mean, I may as well add water to the fucking thing, right? Same difference. I still have a long, long, long way to go before I defeat my food demons but one of the biggest helps has been a best friend who tells me, constantly, to eat what I want when I want it because it’s what my body needs at the time. It’s hard to remember – I do still carry around a lot of guilt from, you know, even being hungry – but I’m beginning to notice that I enjoy food more when I let myself. Woot!

  23. @Karin, great thought about juice+sparkling water — I used to love that too (oj+perrier = like orangina!) but I do something called “low spike” eating, which means if my meter says a food makes my blood sugar spike, then it’s a no go for me. Pretty much all forms of real fruit, and i mean all, cause a spike. Its a real loss. I love fruit, so I eat fruit flavored things. not the same, though.

  24. Seriously, when did juice become bad for you? I honestly missed that memo.

    Actually, but girlfriend’s mom tends to put out the memos. As in, does statistical research that results in scary headlines insisting that milk makes you fat and kids should drink diet soda. (not making that one up, either) Maybe she found out that juice makes kids fat, too. Honesty, what are they supposed to drink? That awful flavored/fortified water that’s being pushed down everyone’s throats lately?

  25. Its weird that you have written about this, because it seriously just recently occured to me that I do not eat vegetables because they are gross without dressing, and I do not eat dressing because I have been conditioned to not eat it unless its fat-free.

    And I hate fat-free dressing, so there go my vegetables.

    But now I have permission to eat ranch with my carrots. Thank you !!

  26. BStu, here’s the memo.

    It’s much healthier to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice. For example, a 12-ounce glass of orange juice, which is the juice of two to three oranges, has about 180 calories . But eating one orange is only 80 or 90 calories and it does more to fill you up.

    For children who are overweight, the basic recommendation is no juice.

    Do you love how “healthy” is defined there solely by the fact that you’re consuming fewer calories and feeling fuller so you won’t eat other stuff?

  27. For children who are overweight, the basic recommendation is no juice.

    Which will, of course, lead to them wanting juice 24/7 by the time they reach adulthood. It’s a great marketing scheme for the juice industry, no?

  28. My experience mirrors many.

    I have 4 adopted children.

    My 8 year old daughter is double the volume of many of the kids in her classes at school (height and weight).

    My 5 year old son is in the 25th percentile for height & weight- meaning he’s small and thin.

    We feed them the same foods- but she’s the veggie meister. If you ask her, broccoli and spinach are her favorite foods. My son wakes up in the morning wondering when he can get something sweet, like a donut.

    Genetics are everything- and if you are here already, there is not a thing to do.

    As for the juice, if its so damn bad for kids, why does the govt give out so much of it to kids on WIC? We have 2 kids who qualify and we get more juice than 4 can reasonably drink ! Oh right- I forgot about double standards…

  29. I never knew that you absorb more vitamins from veggies if you have some fat with them. Is this common knowledge? How much fat? Does it make a difference which kind (for example, olive oil vs. butter vs. butter buds). Thanks.

    Wow.

  30. Diet is all so RELATIVE. A healthy food is not healthy for YOU if it makes you sick! People with celiac sprue must not eat wheat…no matter how many people tell them that bread is a HEALTHY food. Diabetics and women with PCOS need to manage their carbs…period.

    I tire of people who look at a banana and say, ooooh, potassium. There is so much more in a banana than potassium–like an awful lot of carbs and no fiber or protein. There are lots of ways to get potassium in your diet (including supplements). An avocado has exactly as much potassium as a banana (500 mg). But just watch somebody wince if you suggest eating an avocado rather than a banana….but that’s not HEALTHY! It has so much fat!!!! ::roll eyes::

    I’ve learned so much about food that all I really know for sure is that I will never play food cop on other people.

  31. Mmmmm….fats are nummy. Although, there are a number of veggies that I like just as they are, too. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, corn on the cob, beets…But can someone explain to me why we add sugar and marshmallows to sweet potatoes/yams at the holidays. These veggies are the sweetest you are going to find already.

  32. Thanks for this post, Kate, it’s great! I remember when I was doing my “low carb” diet, which I only did for about two weeks. I stopped eating fruit and most veggies, with the twisted thought that they were a “waste” of carbs which could otherwise be used on protein “bars”, which I ate as compulsively as candy bars and low carb ice cream. Thankfully, it only took about two weeks for me to realize how completely stupid this was and that I was much healthier when I was eating fruits and veggies, regardless of my total daily calories.

  33. I love orange juice, and used to think it was strange how I’d be craving it after a workout. A couple years back, I found out I’m ragingly hypoglycemic. Which should’ve been found out back in my high school days, but one rant at a time…My current eating habits center around getting a healthy variety of food, and keeping my blood sugar and caffeine levels at a happy constant.

  34. Kate, for some reason this post really hit home for me today. I have mostly escaped from food guilt but the idea of these things “canceling” each other as if they’re some kind of bizarro algebraic equation has been hardest for me to kick.

    Also now I want some bacon and OJ.

  35. Yes, yes, yes!!! to Meowser, Tulip, Alex, et al. My boyfriend was quick to point the nutrient absorption thing out awhile back. This completely outs the flawed logic.

    Kate, as always, thanks for posting this. Keep hittin em home!

  36. OK, I’m going to have to cop to being the mommy denying her child juice. That’s not to say that my son never drinks juice, but we don’t ever keep it in the house, and he is not offered it at school at my behest. He does, however, get as much whole fruit as he wants, and if we’re out for breakfast or something he can have juice if he doesn’t want milk or water.

    I don’t see this as an unreasonable restriction for him, given his family history of obesity and diabetes. I am under no illusion that NOT giving him juice is going to make him stay magically thin, but I don’t think that keeping him from it is going to make him crave it, either–so long as I don’t turn it into forbidden fruit (juice).

    The way I see it, I have a pretty small window of having a great deal of control about what my son eats. If I can help him try a variety of foods and avoid turning it in to some kind of good/bad thing (we call some foods “growing foods”) and, most importantly, help him maintain his trust in his own body by honoring his hunger, then I guess I will have succeeded to a point. But it is a balancing act, that’s for sure.

  37. Hooray for this post! Boo for the food police! I too had that weird thinking that reckons fat somehow cancels out the nutrition in vegetables.

    I never even liked broccoli until I had some that was steamed just right – and covered in melted mozzarella and napoli sauce that was also covering the (breaded, fried, OMG!!!!) chicken schnitzel. Mmm, chicken parmigiana. Now I love broccoli and eat it lots, even without the parmigiana.

    (It also works on many children! Kids who don’t like certain veges can often be convinced of their merits by the addition of gravy, butter, or fried batter.)

    I don’t eat veges because it’s “good” to eat veges, I eat them because a varied diet, with something from ALL the food groups makes me feel like a big fat well-oiled machine.

    Everyone should go watch Nigella Lawson DVDs right now. There’s a woman with her food priorities on straight. It’s ok to eat stuff with lard in it! It’s ok to eat food standing in front of the open refrigerator at midnight! It’s ok to have a second helping! It’s ok to eat a zesty summer salad and then eat grilled pineapple dipped in chocolate sauce! It really, really is, and everyone, fat or slim, has the right to truly enjoy food.

  38. (It also works on many children! Kids who don’t like certain veges can often be convinced of their merits by the addition of gravy, butter, or fried batter.)

    Totally. Fried zucchini at a restaurant taught me that I didn’t actually despise zucchini (which I’d assumed I would, without ever trying it). And I thought I hated spinach until I ate it in deep dish pizza. In both cases, once I’d gotten beyond the “Ew, green stuff” hurdle, I was totally open to trying them prepared other ways.

  39. “So I eat eggs and bacon, but no toast, no juice and sometimes no coffee. I hope people don’t pre-judge me when they see what I order.”
    @Tulip – they might, but the good news is that you don’t have to care.

    Food Police have lots of statutes on their books, citations for not eating what “everyone else” at the table is eating in addition to flagellating yourself if what you do decide to order is actually enjoyable; more flagellation required if you order a lot of it (especially if you’re a girl).

    I’m sort of in your same boat – I’m hypoglycemic and also love fruit (I have learned that I can get away with low-sugar berries and melon if I eat protein – fish! beef! – first, JFYI if you haven’t tried it). To make myself feel better (and also because my body needs nutritents, who knew?) I tend to order LOTS of protein & veggies when out with friends, generally swathed in stuff like oil & shallots following judicious flirting with the chef when amenable. Sometimes I get gawking and gasping (from “friends” – from real friends actively dealing with their food issues, not so much) not just about the fact that I dared to eat a full plate, but that there’s no starch on it.

    I think it may be tied to a bit of atavistic memory (and possibly reinforced by our nation’s Calvinist past, although that’s another rant altogether). I read somewhere that in CaveDays, if the men didn’t bring enough meat back from the hunt, they knocked the womens’ teeth out so they couldn’t partake.

    Make of that what you will.

    I think a lot about that when someone’s gasping over what I’m eating. OMG, if I eat a full plate – with nutrients, OMGGGG!!! – I could actually be strong enough to vote and write and think and stuff.

  40. Nicole, it sounds as if you have the right balance. Offering juice as an occasional treat is a lot different from forbidding it entirely.

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  42. Nicole – I apologize, I forgot to make my “anti-Mommy Wars” note work in the other direction as well.

    First off, you know your kid best, and you know your family histories and what to watch out for. I’m just some fucking stranger over the internet – it’d be insane for me to suggest I know better than you what’s best for your kid.

    Secondly, as Celeste pointed out – what’s healthy for one person is not necessarily healthy for another. So, keeping in mind your kid’s specific needs, keeping an eye on his juice intake is just you doing your job as his mom.

    But I think there’s a big difference between going, “My kid’s genetics put him at an increased risk for diabetes, so I’m going to try to help him avoid doing anything to exacerbate that,” and going, “ZOMG calories!!!!” and that’s what I was speaking to. It’s the declaration of juice and soda as equivalent, based solely on how many calories are in each, with no regard for the rest of the data on the Nutritional Information label, y’know?

  43. It’s a scary freaking world we’ve (and of course I use that as a very general “we”) created, where the obsession with calories – and the misguided notion that calories = fatness = bad – has all but COMPLETELY overrun common sense about nutrition.

  44. Meowser and Thorn, thanks for responding to me. I am so terrified of being TOO restrictive because I know where that leads, but I also feel a tremendous pressure to be a “good” mother so that I can defend him (and me!) when/if he does become a fat child. How crazy is it that I’m already imagining conversations at doctor’s offices about how we almost never have fast food, don’t drink juice or soda, blah blah blah.

    Sound familiar? Gah. I don’t want to fight this war again!

  45. My take on this is probably best expressed by my opinion of a “healthy eating” recipe that I tried once from a recipe book. Reproduced in full, for your reading convenience:

    FC Healthy Eating Family Favourites:

    * (p30) Tuna Casserole – Okay, the first substitution I made with this was that I put in salmon instead of tuna (tuna tends to be too dry and cardboardy for my taste). However, this recipe is one of a group of “healthy” versions of older favourites which seems to have forgotten the point of the original – in this case, Tuna Mornay. They’ve taken out all the possible fat, all possible salt, and the final result is a rather thin and tasteless substitute for the real thing. In this case, the cheese sauce has been substituted with milk and cornflour combined, with the cheese being reduced to 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan on the crumb topping. Look, the point of tuna mornay is that it’s creamy, cheesy, and tastes good that way – it’s not a dish you’re supposed to have on a daily basis, so it’s okay if it’s a bit high in fat. I think I’ll stick to the original version, rather than this pale copy.

    Honestly, food is part of a healthy diet. Eating isn’t meant to be a penance for whichever sins you committed during the day.

  46. THANK YOU. I’m sending a link to this to every current and past crazy dieter I know, and I’m really, really, REALLY tempted to print a bunch of copies and sneak them into diet cookbooks the next time I go to a bookstore.

  47. OK, how can you dismiss doctors who ask for lifestyle changes when you havent even attempted to make them? I don’t think its that you CANT lose weight, you just dont want to try. God, seriously I think you should right a post addresing what seems a bunch of lies this whole fat movement is because all of you can lose weight but you wont try. And I think you should mention how much and what kind of exercise you get. Because on the forum I frequent full of runners, many of them were at one point morbidly obese, started running, and lost 70-100 pounds and became more healthy than they ever have in their entire lives. So how can you say fat people cant lose weight?

  48. well, im officialy turned off from trying to accept fat people. Thats okay, ill pass. You folks really dont try, and will avoid the questions about your lifestyles (i know you hate that word) at all costs.

    You should really change your methods if you want to be accepted by normal people. And, btw, the way you compare yourself to those of color is very offensive. I am a woman of color and i know-fat is hardly the same as being dark skinned. The thing is, you can change, you just dont want to

  49. Sure nj, we can change. Did you know you can too, with those whitening creams? The point is, why SHOULD we have to change? Because you don’t like looking at people bigger than you? How is that ANY different from not liking to look at people darker than you?

    You may say that losing weight is easier than changing your skin color, and you’re right, but the point is they both have genetic roots that can only be streched so far.

    As for anything you might want to say about our health, it’s just as presumptuous for you to assume that fat=unhealthy as it would be for racists to assume that darker skin or accent=stupid.

  50. well, im officialy turned off from trying to accept fat people. Thats okay, ill pass.

    Wow, and you seemed so sincerely interested in trying before.

  51. “both have genetic roots that can only be streched so far.”

    unfortunately, as much as you like to go on about how every fat person is fat because of genetics, its simply not true. Its because of diet and exercise most of the time (with a few exceptions). And unless you can prove you have the genetic marker that causes you to be fat, I think you should stop using that argument, because no one believes it anymore

  52. Again, you miss the point. Why should we change? Why is it any of your business?

  53. It’s great that a nag stopped by to play food police on a post about how annoying the food police are! Perhaps this is Irony Blog Theater?

    I get a lot of Food Police because I’m fat and vegan. And then a lot of scrutiny trying to figure how I am so fat and vegan at the same time.

  54. Thank you for this post! I didn’t even realize that I was still hanging on to the whole “veggies are only good for you if they are eaten sans fat or salt.” I still don’t give my daughter juice. She’s 15 months old, and loves eating fruit. I’d rather she get her vitamins along with the fiber that only whole fruit can offer. I would certainly NEVER monitor her calories. She’s actually only 10th precentile in weight, but eats A LOT more than almost any other baby we know, which totaly contradicts any calories in/weight on BS. We have friends with a daughter who is 3 1/2 months younger, she weighs 4 more pounds (a big difference if you’re only 30″ tall), and eats a fraction of what my daughter eats.

  55. I joined a gym and they really tried to push the mean substitution powders on me. I said I am going to be eating healthy, yummy foods. Yeah your powders have less calories but are they healthy?

    njnjnj said, ” And unless you can prove you have the genetic marker that causes you to be fat, I think you should stop using that argument, because no one believes it anymore”

    Why should we have to prove we have a genetic marker for being fat? The point is to stop judging people for being fat. Being overweight does not automatically mean you are unhealthy. Yeah you can eat 1000 calories of oreos a day and you will still lose weight because of the calorie restriction; but if you eat 1500 calories of fruit and veggies and *gasp* fruit juice, you may not lose weight fast, but you will be healthier. I try to only put healthy things in my body and that includes the lotions and shampoo I put on my head.

    I am not at a healthy weight for me though. I eat healthily, but I do not have enough physical activity in my life. So although I need to change my level of activity, I will not do it to lose weight; I will do it to become healthier. So if I don’t lose a lot of weight, that won’t bother me because I will know that I am a healthy person.

  56. Okay, so here is why I am stupid.

    I read this whole post and started thinking “oh shit, I eat too much fruit, I should be better about carbs” *panicpanic*. (It was the mention of PCOS that did it, I think.)

    I point these habits of mind out sometimes just to say that quitting restriction is even harder than quitting food.

  57. I joined a gym and they really tried to push the mean substitution powders on me. I said I am going to be eating healthy, yummy foods. Yeah your powders have less calories but are they healthy?

    Why should we have to prove we have a genetic marker for being fat? The point is to stop judging people for being fat. Being overweight does not automatically mean you are unhealthy. Yeah you can eat 1000 calories of oreos a day and you will still lose weight because of the calorie restriction; but if you eat 1500 calories of fruit and veggies and *gasp* fruit juice, you may not lose weight fast, but you will be healthier. I try to only put healthy things in my body.

    I am not at a healthy weight for me though. I eat healthily, but I do not have enough physical activity in my life. So although I need to change my level of activity, I will not do it to lose weight; I will do it to become healthier. So if I don’t lose a lot of weight, that won’t bother me because I will know that I am a healthy person.

  58. So although I need to change my level of activity, I will not do it to lose weight; I will do it to become healthier. So if I don’t lose a lot of weight, that won’t bother me because I will know that I am a healthy person.

    Right on, Shannon. Not coincidentally, that’s the approach that’s been shown to have by far the greatest long-term health benefits.

  59. You should really change your methods if you want to be accepted by normal people.

    Wow. I’m so flabbergasted, I can’t even snark appropriately.

  60. @ QLH: Yeah, that one got me too. I’d like to read njnjnj’s definition of ‘normal’. Just out of morbid curiousity. Is ‘normal’ based on BMI, or body fat percentages? Or better yet, on those stupidly arbitrary clothing tags? Everyone who’s ever had a piece of clothing labelled y that was smaller than another clothing item labelled two sizes bigger than y raise your hand.

  61. You should really change your methods if you want to be accepted by normal people.

    Ummm….fat people *are* normal people. Did I miss the part where skinny people were in the majority?

  62. I blogged about this in April :)

    http://rioiriri.blogspot.com/2007/05/you-can-have-my-calories-when-you-pry.html

    I’ve had a troll come up and whine to me about fat = unhealthy AGAIN. It’s someone who had their stomach amputated (bariatric surgery) and apparently needs to convince herself it was the right thing to do by attacking size acceptance blogs. The comment’s here:

    http://rioiriri.blogspot.com/2007/07/uneasiness-of-equality.html

    And I’ve decided to just put up a button to your “Don’t you know…” post and direct trolls to that. Tiresome!

  63. The fat police are crazy, aren’t they? I am not fat, but I’ve had my own encounters. I’m a small person–5’2, 110 lbs.– it runs in my family. I don’t eat a lot, not because I’m on a diet but because I just don’t eat as much as some people. If I do try to eat more, I get a stomach ache or something.

    It’s not a big deal to me, but for some people it must be. I have been at ladies’ meetings, such as a bible study, or church group, etc. with a dessert or snack table full of goodies. There I am, with a plate with half a piece of rich dessert sitting with a small group of women, and the conversation would start something like this:

    Person 1: {addressing me} Is that all you’re eating?
    Person 2: You’re not on a diet, are you?
    Person 3: Are you sick?
    Person 2: You don’t need to be on a diet, you’re so skinny!
    Person 1: Oh, people like you make me sick! Now, me– {with an enormous pile of snacks and large pieces of dessert on her plate} I gain weight just LOOKING at food!
    {general laughter}
    Person 2: Yeah, you’re too skinny. I can’t eat ANYTHING! {also with big pile of food on plate.}

    Note: none of those women were actually fat. And even if they were, how did it hurt them that I only ate half a piece of dessert? What was wrong with them?! I think somehow they were fighting internal wars with the food police, and it came out all screwy.

    I have friends who weigh a lot more than I do, whom I don’t think of as fat. Technically, yes, they are “fat.” But they’re just who they are, and that’s how they’re built, and who really even thinks of it? I mean, I’m not going around labeling my friends with things like “blond,” “short,” “tall,” “square-jawed.”
    I believe some people would probably benefit from losing some weight. But when are we going to accept the fact that some people are just “built like tanks,” as my husband says (as in, big, heavy, and nothing gets in your way). There are all kinds of body weights and shapes, and I think it makes the world interesting.

    Just a thought, too, about broccoli and butter. I never consciously thought about it, but what crazy logic to say that fat “cancels out” the nutrition. The nutrition is still all there! You just added some fat to it!

    And whoever said if you’re going to give kids juice you might as well give them soda–! (bang head, pull out hair…. )

  64. People are idiots about food and about dieting.

    I’ve been vegan for over a year and it has been the greatest thing ever because I EAT WHATEVER I WANT, it’s all healthy and delicious, I cook like a champ, I eat tons of fruits and veggies and tons of NUTS (omg FAT!) olive and flax oil, you name it. The bulk of my diet comes from whole foods and veggies, and so I never worry about “carbs” bullshit or OJ calories (it helps you absorb the iron from whatever you eat it with! MMMMMM.) I’m not eating only balance bars and Lean Cuisines and processed stuff. I don’t count anything except I watch my sodium intake.

    So basically, by eating healthily and pleasurably, I love food, I think of food as my friend, and something exciting and fun.
    Pasta loaded with garlicky pesto I invented? Sure. Baked potato with Earth Balance? Hell yeah. I made a veganized Alfredo and a vegan scalloped potatoes that are identical to the dairy-full ones. Fat free? Nope! Yummy? Yes! Cruelty-hormone-cardiovascular compromising? Nope!

    In eating this way I broke tons of weird bad habits I had as an eater: thinking of eating something fattening as being “BAD” or whatever bullshit. Some chick at work saw me eating avocado on an everything bagel and went off on how fattening avocado is. Give me a break, it is totally good for you and, dare I say, Nature’s own mayonnaise. And now i am craving a black bean burrito with guac. All totally fucking good for you.

    And funnily enough, just as I’ve stopped eating animals because I find them to be subjects to be left alone, not objects to be consumed, I started treating my own body/self as more of a subject, to decide what I want to eat, to enjoy what I want to eat, to take creative pleasure and agency in how I feed myself and my partner, and stopped thinking of my body as an object at the mercy of “good” and “bad” foods, and think about how delicious and yummy the food is that I do eat.

    And salt contains iodide, a necessary nutrient.

    Ramblingly,

    Lillet

  65. Ooooh what an awesome post!

    Ok, right now, I am not eating certain things, but the diet I’m on (Fat Smash Diet) adds it back in after a few weeks. I’ve gotten a better appreciation for healthier foods, smaller portions, and gotten rid of some unhealthy cravings.

    BUT if it doesn’t taste good, I *don’t* eat it. Why bother?

    And food police, and people who “mean well”….GAH.

    So glad I found your blog!

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  69. Hey,
    I’ve never posted here before, but this post linked from one of the recent ones and I decided to jump in. I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, after I linked here from a post MamaV did on Kate Harding. First I want to say, I love this blog. I think you are all great writers and you’re hilarious. I love the ideas, I love thinking about accepting your body the way it is, and I love that you guys are real, smart people who talk about important things, and remark when things are STUPID! Example: Meme Roth.

    Anyway, I guess I should mention that much as I love the idea of fat acceptance, I am nowhere near there for myself. I should probably also mention that I’m not fat. And that I have an eating disorder (I’m EDNOS, if you know what that means – I won’t bore you.) BUT I have been thinking lately about trying to recover. You know, giving up The Thin Fantasy, as you wrote in one of your other posts. I’ve been this way for years, and it just hurts. I starve mostly, but I also binge and occasionally purge, and I’ve flirted with overexercising. I’m such a wonderful jack of all trades when it comes to punishing myself…

    Anyway. I am in France right now, on a solo trip for six weeks. I have been basically starving myself while I’m here. My disorder hasn’t been this active in a long time. And I have been thinking when I get home, I might seriously want to think about getting a little closer to the kind of mentality that this post/blog supports. I totally avoid juice because of the calories. I avoid a lot of things, until I don’t and eat too much. I want to be able to eat normally. I want to choose the foods I want, eat dessert if I want it or skip it because I know I can have it tomorrow. I want that. I think you guys are great. I can’t wait to read more.

    Love from,
    .C.

    Oh, and if anybody wants to be email/posting buddies on this blog, let me know. I like internet friends that think about the same issues I do.

  70. AMEN! I used to feel bad about not wanting to eat the “healthy” vegetables that come (no-substitute) with some entrees, like the parmesan crusted tilapia at Red Lobster (which is good to so-so, depending on whos the cook), because they tasted like dry, yet watery, nothingness. But now I know to just ask without hesitation or shame for some gosh dang butter! My grandmother might purse her lips, but whatev. I LOVE THIS BLOG!

  71. Hallelujah to all of this. When I was a kid there were a lot of vegetables that I couldn’t stand to eat. I was so finicky. I found out later that I do actually like spinach and cooked carrots and whatnot, but that the stuff in cans took on the flavor of the metal so well that my little kid taste buds were apalled. And nowadays I’ve had the pleasure of encountering so much of the canned stuff and vegetables that were rotted, that I must be forgiven if I douse broccoli in cheese sauce, or if I refuse to touch the salads and spinach in restaurants because the buffet I once worked at so often had greens of dubious quality.

    I enjoy eating the bland healthy foods often. For instance, I really enjoy wild rice and barley with some kefir or low fat yogurt (As in the stuff that is plain and has the fat removed, as opposed to the flavored crap with chemicals that is no better for us and doesn’t have enough calories lopped off to make it worth eating anyway.). I could live off of just rice if it were absolutely necessary. As a kid, and generally nowadays, I couldn’t stand a lot of things that had too much sugar in them, unless they were sour. I went for the fruit instead. I currently love to annoy a friend of mine who insists she can’t cook by talking about bread from scratch and “health-nut food.”

    Recently I went on a super bland diet in order to get down to what my BMI supposedly is supposed to be. I got to the right weight and, amazingly enough, everyone wondered what was wrong with me, and I felt so bony it was hard to sit down. This was only after losing a few pounds. So I ate more and threw in a bit of fat and other things that weren’t supposed to be in good diets. Now I’m at a comfortable weight, and fairly often I have to figure out ways to pack the calories in so that I’m not starving myself.

    Of course we should all endeavor to eat healthily, but healthy is not what healthy diets are labelled as. For instance, in meditterenean diets, they eat a lot of olive oil. A lot. There are so many delicious greek things fried in olive oil. Mmm…olive oil. The diet looks unhealthy to those of us who think that we shouldn’t be eating this because it’s fattening. But! People on that diet are a whole lot healthier, usually, than on something we might usually come across. For one thing, because olive oil is supposed to be good for you. You’re supposed to eat it. Probably not straight out of the bottle, but seriously…it is good and healthy.

    And then people say that nuts are full of fat, and fruit is full of sugar. Mustard (The yellow american kind) has no fat or sugar, or anything else bad, and no calories or funky chemicals. What a miracle food! But it has no nutrients either, and it will do horrible things to the digestive system. We can’t just look at calories. We have to look at everything in the food and decide how to get everything we need for the day into our food without overeating. A few more calories is a lesser issue than having a few too nutrients.

    Oh, and another note – I used to follow an easy diet. I would eat very healthy and strictly limited food for awhile. Then one day a week, I’d eat whatever I wanted. It worked great for weight maintenance. Now I take the level of testosterone typical for an adult male, and I have to eat more in order to keep from losing too much weight, so I end up eating a lot more junk. (I try to fill up on potatoes and things like that, as opposed to processed foods.) In my case, weight loss isn’t so much a product of dieting as it is a product of metabolism and how the body functions.

    My last thoughts: Exercise, eat reasonably and live well – These will not make you skinny, because humans aren’t supposed to be as skinny as what we see on TV now. But they will probably lead you to be healthy. And, surprise, surprise, a lot of people people who are harassed at for being overweight do these things already!

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