And there’s not even a written test!

We’ve all heard the noise about how this or that study showing fat is really not a big deal isn’t “a license to eat whatever you want.” And as most of us know, you don’t need a license to eat whatever you want (unless what you want is Jack Daniels and you’re 12, or whatever). You get to eat whatever you want simply by virtue of it being nobody else’s business.

That said, it’s not easy to give yourself permission to stop judging your food choices, to stop breaking food down into “good” and “bad” moral categories, to stop basing your self-worth on what you do and don’t put in your mouth. Permission to ease the hell up, as it were. And even if you’re far along in the process, maybe you have a friend who needs a little encouragement.

Thus I present the Tasty Food License. Post it on your blog, or put it in your wallet to flash to the food police! (I regret to say that I did not make a big version to hang on your wall.) Issue it to yourself or your friends. Then go check out The Rotund’s bread pudding recipe to test if it’s working!

(Incidentally, Well Rounded Type 2 totally beat me to this, but her license is state-specific; ours recognizes no boundaries. But there’s no reason why you can’t have a state license AND a general license AND whatever else you need to remind yourself that food is okay.)

Our site license is below the fold!

56 thoughts on “And there’s not even a written test!

  1. Ha! I love it! I freaking need it embossed on my brain!

    Depression rearing its ugly head yet again – not that it’s ever given me a serious break, but still – and I was at two grocery stores today, trying really really really hard to buy food that I wanted and wouldn’t have a demanding prep time. I was wildly unsuccessful, apart from the roasted pumpkin seeds.

    Normally when I’m depressed I can’t stop eating or sleeping. This time around, I seem to be an insomniac and uninterested in all food. I have issues with wheat and dairy, which makes just grabbing prepared sandwiches , etc., undesirable, but being so hungry but unable to eat (plus panicky and fuzzy-minded in general) means sometimes I make myself eat them anyway, since the alternative is really deep, painful hunger and headaches. Invariably, I wind up feeling physically worse, then mentally worse.

    It’s really hard to learn how to eat and feed myself when my brain and body (you know, like, my whole being) are working against the possibility of me ever feeling healthy.

    Ugh – I’m going to stop this now before I keep ranting. The way the depression is manifesting itself this time around makes me hate everything I used to love to eat and makes me feel adversarial towards all the food in the house.

  2. Oh, this comes along just in time for me, what with the excitement and enjoyment of food I’ve been into lately. And what with the bread pudding recipe I just posted. *laugh*

  3. lucizoe, I have a huge host of food allergies so I understand where you are coming from and totally sympathize. I can’t tell you how many times I just EAT because if I don’t eat something I’ll feel a million times worse than if I eat something to which I am allergic. I was seriously beating myself up over it as well until my allergist was like, “Hey, sometimes you just can’t avoid everything. You have to eat.”

    Because we DO have to eat.

    And, inevitably, I feel horrible later but I’ve been trying something I think it was fillyjonk advocated for the other day – when I reach that state of hunger I grab ANYTHING convenient and bland and in reach, even if it is something to which I am allergic and I eat something. Not a whole lot, but something. Then I can make food choices that are smarter for me that will help me feel better and lessen the impact on my system of the allergens I’ve just eaten.

    Obviously this doesn’t work if any of your allergies are deathly (i.e., I’m not going to EVER grab the shrimp tray no matter how hungry I am), but it helps me a lot. And it helps me from getting bogged down in guilt about eating foods that I know make me ill.

  4. Oh whoops, I actually meant to link to your bread pudding recipe! I’ll edit the post.

    lucizoe, no worries — if you couldn’t grouse about your adversarial relationship with food here, we’d be seriously remiss. I totally understand the feeling. I’ve been kinda uninterested in food lately, for various reasons (mostly medications, some just getting frustrated at the fact that most foods give me stomach aches). On Monday I came home, didn’t want dinner, and went out to painting class, which goes from 7:30 to 10. Man, I could not do a damn thing. Like, I couldn’t even think well enough to figure out what should go on the paper. I didn’t want food, but it was so awful when I didn’t get any… and then I came home and ate the world, I thought, but then on review I actually only ate an apple, some PB, a piece of bread, and a handful of chocolate chips — a lunch, but I thought I was binging. This is all to say: I understand and embrace your crazy. It is really hard, but on those days when it works, it’s so worth it — and those days get more frequent. I hope you fill out a license for yourself.

  5. Thank you, The Rotund and fillyjonk. It’s been a really rough couple of weeks and I really appreciate the understanding and encouragement. I love this blog!

  6. Y’all, I totally ate a donut today, just to celebrate.

    I totally came home tipsy last night and stopped at the convenience store on the corner for an especially nasty donut.

    It was SO GOOD.

  7. Yay! Y’all (ha!) managed to do what I couldn’t! I’m so gonna laminate mine and keep it in my wallet. :-)

  8. It’s interesting… I have been really struggling lately, with all of this. ALL of it. It’s partly why I’ve been quieter in here, and in my own blog. (partly.) But lately I’ve been wanting to (gaasp!) lose weight. (There’s this jacket, see…) And also I’ve been moved to eat a bit healthier and move more. Sort of separate things/desires, sort of not.
    Anyway, I have so nearly successfully exorcised the ‘good and bad’ food paradigm and vocabulary out of my body and mind, or so I’d thought…
    Turns out, it’s only for the ‘bad’ food, which I eat SO much of. I really have given myself pretty wonderful permission to eat whatever I prefer. Steamed vs. fried? Oh please.
    But now that I find myself slightly more frequently turning towards healthier food (like right now, I am eating one tasty falafel with all kinds of fab greens on it), I also find myself thinking ‘Go you for eating a Good lunch’. Not just healthy, but Good. As in Well-Behaved.
    And so I have to question just how ‘off the hook’ have I really let myself all these years? Am I secretly thinking of myself as Being Bad like, constantly?
    Fucking yikes.

  9. Lucizoe, just another one saying, “It’s okay. Sometimes we do what we have to do to get by, and if at the end of the day you have indeed gotten by? Then you’ve been successful, and anything else you’ve managed is pure gravy.” (Mmm. Gravy! ;) )

    I’ve had a helluva tussle with depression myself the past couple months, and the insomnia has been just godawful. I’m finally coming out of it now, but man… it was not pretty for a long time, and really – whatever I did to make sure me and my kids got through? Well, we’ve gotten through, so my efforts worked, and that’s all I can ask, y’know?

    Good luck, Lucizoe – I hope things get better for you soon.

  10. Lucizoe –

    I hear you. I’m just starting to come out of a major bout myself. I got new meds from the doc a couple of weeks ago and I think they are beginning to kick in. Hang in there. Have a {hug}!

  11. Lucizoe -

    Count another one here. My phase of “I’ll show ME!” right now is concentrated around chips, dip, hot dogs, salami . . . and a few cookies. This started last month when I went through 3 weeks of the runs. My meals were whole foods, legumes, 1 meal a week with meat and dairy. I was eating delicious food and feeling sated – when a friend came to town and turned my world upside down. I still don’t know the chicken-egg sequence of vegan menu, friend’s bi-polar behavior, the runs . . . But I was a miserable mess.

    By week three I was eating chips and dip and having beer – just fuckitall menu. What do you know I had regular bowel movements and was loving, loving, loving the tastes.

    It is more than 3 weeks of this already. I feel like I am watching a science experiment. Who knew?

  12. Lucizoe and everyone else struggling with depression –

    I have it too, and it’s getting worse because for some reason my muscles are getting weak and nobody knows why. I’m getting tons of medical tests and they all come back normal. This is so similar to the depression thing where everyone else blames it on not trying hard enough to be happy, and even I have the feeling like there’s no REASON for depressed mood. But there it is.

    With depression I just have sadness and hopelessness and fear and indifference and too much sleep and craving for chocolate because it’s the only thing that cuts through the depression and feels good. With this muscle thing I just get weaker for carrying things and standing up and walking short distances and shopping and I’ve gone from 45 minute workouts where I felt good afterward to fifteen minutes of pain with exhaustion and more pain later. It’s so similar emotionally that it’s triggering the depression. And some of the possibilities of what it might be aren’t so cheering either.

    See, Lucizoe, you’re not the only one who needed to talk about it!

  13. Fillyjonk, this is awesome. I am totally self-issuing myself a certificate NOW. I, like many others, found the Oct. 11th post about Kate’s rxn to Joy’s Impulsive Eating send-up to be revelatory. I have been trying to be healthier lately and make some kind of peace with food and activity. You know, do and eat what I want, when I want it, to feel good. Unfortunately the line between “eating healthier and being active” and obsessing my way right back onto the proverbial yo-yo is reeeaallly thin and I’ve already caught myself overthinking everything I do and don’t eat and pushing myself to take a couple more hills on my bike. That’s why I am sooo glad I found my way to this blog. It really helps pull me back from the evil yo-yo force.

  14. Speaking of eating “whatever I want”, right now that includes a nice piece of fish and some steamed veggies. Obviously I must be stopped from this practice for my own good.

    Thanks for the license, I might print it out and show it to any wait staff if they dare give me guff for not having a salad and a glass of water. It would fit right in with my Pope card.

  15. Love it! One small suggestion, though: you should put the address of this site on the license somewhere. That way, people who aren’t up on this whole fat acceptance thing know where to go to find out more.

  16. Sharn, I thought about that, but decided against it because I didn’t want it to look like a blog promotion thing. I’d love to see people reposting this, and I don’t want it to look like a ploy for hits. Anyone who reposts it is of course welcome to make it link back here, though, of course!

  17. Mmmm, someone mentioned roasted pumpkin seeds. I had totally forgotten about those.

    Has anyone else seen this really really annoying commercial on tv with an extremely long website url? It’s something like “eat whatever you want and still lose weight dot com.” And they repeat this mantra like a thousand times in their 60-second commercial slot. Diet commercials are always annoying, but I think the creative geniuses behind those Head On commercials must be responsible for this.

    I already eat what I want. Why do I need to shell out big bucks for a diet company to tell me it’s okay?

  18. Rachel, especially since the Kate Harding Lifetime Diet Plan is free!

    Although I have to say that that URL does remind me of a business I was going to start with a friend called We Do Things We Like And People Pay Us For It (wedothingswelikeandpeoplepayusforit.com). So I can’t really dislike it.

  19. I am much too literal, and so when I heard “license” I thought “driver’s.” I would be very willing to create a state specific one for another state (or maybe an international one) with a space to insert your own photo if I have any more insomnia in the next few days to drive this particular pursuit.
    I concur that the seal on the certificate is truly, deeply awesome.
    For the most part, I practice asking myself, “if you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be?” and I’m at the point where 8 out of 10 times it’s not something food-related. When it is, I completely surrender to it, within a very broad criteria for selection.

  20. I didn’t bust out the license; I ate an apple and PB (I said I wasn’t giving it up! COLD DEAD HANDS!) and then talked myself into believing I was hungry for some black beans and chips when I wasn’t. The license comes at an ironic time for me because food is really annoying right now.

    Then I had some cocoa which was awesome.

    It’s interesting how many tales of food strife this post is drawing out. I think it’s really psychologically difficult to handle something that directly challenges a deeply-felt neurosis.

  21. Just thought you guys might like to know that this post was featured just now on wordpress.com’s main page under the category of food :)

  22. Hot! Thanks for the heads up, Jae. Normally a big link means trollwatch, but WordPress changes up its featured blogs enough that we’re probably all right.

    Oh, and WRT2: I think either interpretation is totally valid, the driver’s license type or the, I don’t know, ophthalmologist’s license type. I just chose a certificate-looking kind of license because it’s easier to photoshop. :)

  23. Fillyjonk, my first thought upon seeing the post was “Oh, that’s awesome.” My second thought: “Trolls.” Hopefully they will stay far, far, away.

  24. Well, we thought we would have a bobdillion of them when we got metafiltered, and it never came to pass. Perhaps the blog has a strong niff of don’t-fuck-with-me.

  25. We did just have a brief but amusing sock puppet episode, which has unfortunately driven me to look up old Sifl and Olly episodes when I should be in bed.

  26. I guess I needed to see this right now. I feel like crying. I feel so disjointed in my view towards food. I fluctuate between strong guilt (when I eat bad) and angry resentment (when I deprive myself of what I want).

    Unlike most of you, I don’t follow any kind of “health” goals. Well, just in general. I don’t eat healthy foods. I hate green veggies and water and “legumes” and all of that stuff that’s supposed to be good for you. For dinner I had 3 waffles and then a can of beef stew on top of that. Well the waffles were delicious but why’d I have to go and have that stew after I’d already eaten?

    That’s my issue, the “license to eat”. I know what it means, and it’s good, it’s right. But I just can’t trust myself yet! I ate too much tonight. I don’t want to eat salads! Not yet anyway. I’m out of control. But am I really? I stopped counting calories but I wonder if I even hit 2000 today.

    Okay, so I just gave in and checked the labels and tallied up what I ate today (UGH never again) and no, I didn’t even hit 2000. So why do I feel like such a glutton? The pressure is so strong, and the worst part is I know that it’s coming from me. That’s why I want to cry. I’m crushing myself with judgements and a diet mentality that I still can’t shake.

    A license to eat. To eat donuts and chocolate and…beef stew even.

  27. Okay, I am about to be very embarrassed but I read “Sifl and Olly” but my brain was really thinking “Beany and Cecil.” One of my earliest memories is of Beany and Cecil (the puppets, not the cartoon). I loved Cecil so much. As I’m looking online at the dates that the show aired, I’m confused, because it appears to have ended (the puppet part) before I was born, but maybe I saw reruns. Hmmm. I’ll have to ask my sister about this, who would have been around 12 when I am remembering seeing this.

  28. Definitive.dot — when you say that you know it [the pressure] is coming from you, and this is true on one level, but on another level, I doubt you made a real decision to absorb that external pressure and judgment — those of us eating veggies and water and legumes have also been exposed to that external pressure and judgment, and I think part of the process is making peace with that, too. Over a very long period of time (give or take 20 years), I’ve been grappling with those pressures and judgments and don’t always come out on top. This is related to, but not exactly the same as, what I’m eating and how much I’m eating.
    For a long, long time the way I dealt with things was to eat waffles, donuts, cookies, cake, ice cream in whatever quantities I wanted AND I ate green veggies, salads, fruit, whole grains and beans in whatever quantities I wanted. In fact, I still do this. But over time, I have become aware that anything more than a small slice of cake will make me feel pretty ill. I still eat big slices of cake now and again and suffer a little, and I’m willing to live with that. But now, 20 years into this struggle, I happen to desire the things that get labeled “healthier” more often, mostly because I have made the connection that I really do feel better afterwards. And by “healthier,” I mean, for example, a smoked turkey sandwich on La Brea Bakery wheat bread with mayo, not undressed salad greens.
    Please treat yourself with maximum compassion and patience.

  29. Hi Kate et al,
    I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m loving it. Fascinating stuff. I’ve lost some weight myself and yes, I feel so much better for it, but taking up exercise has probably been the most important part of that.

    I’m wondering if you have run across Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis? She’s an Australian scientist who has researched metabolism, hunger responses, weight loss and so on. I found her quite inspiring and the message is a lot like your “eat what you want” thing. Her personal history is of dieting herself fat, then eating ad libitum and becoming healthy and slim… She’s perhaps a bit more focussed on weight loss than you might like, but worth a look.

    Best wishes
    Cath

  30. I love the certificate!

    But off topic, i found an article on the bbc news website that enraged me. Its not even about obesity, but for me it really shows the hysteria we have about health these days.

    OMG SHORT PEOPLE ARE UNHEALTHY TOO. IF ONLY THEY COULD BE TALLER, THEY WOULD BE HEALTHIER.

    take a look at this.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7050458.stm

    i mean really, all they need to do is, grow taller?

    um.

  31. Apricotmuffins, omfg, I need to post about that. I had to check that it wasn’t April Fool’s Day.

    Well, we thought we would have a bobdillion of them when we got metafiltered, and it never came to pass. Perhaps the blog has a strong niff of don’t-fuck-with-me.

    I’d certainly like to believe that, but we’ll be tested again tomorrow when an article about the BMI project hits Reuters. Batten down the hatches.

    Cath, I’m removing your link to Dr. Amanda, ’cause links to weight loss sites are not okay around here. People are free to Google her if they like what you have to say about her, though.

  32. apricotmuffins, that’s so hilarious that I almost suspect it of being an Onion-style parody perpetrated by a fat activist. I mean seriously, “if men could just add 7 cm to their height”? The fuck?

    definitive.dot, yeah, Kate talked in an earlier post about how, while compulsive and binge eating are real disorders, fat people are made to feel like we’re eating “compulsively” or “emotionally” when we eat normally. Like, yes, I eat compulsively — i am compelled to eat to stay alive. I eat emotionally — I eat to alleviate the emotional lability and general dumbness that come from not eating. That’s probably part of what you’re struggling with now — the fact that in a society where you’re really not supposed to eat at all, any food feels like a binge.

    I get the feeling that most people go through a phase of eating pretty grossly when they start giving themselves permission to eat. It’s almost certainly not a big deal. That said, I would try to pay close attention to how the foods you eat make you feel and behave. It’s possible that you’ve gotten caught in a cycle where you’re eating foods that aren’t really nourishing you, but that are making you feel sluggish and thus want more quick energy that you think you can get from these foods but you aren’t really getting it ad infinitum. This happens to me with sugar, which I can’t process very well — it makes me logy, and then I want more sugar. So I recommend experimenting. Take the license to mean not only that you can eat whatever you want right now, but that you’re free to experiment simply for the joy of gastronomy. Notice what you crave and how you feel. You might find that you wanted the beef stew, for instance, because you really needed protein but ate the waffles because they were tasty (which is a perfectly good motivation, as long as your primary nutritional needs are generally being met — yours may not be). Try out friends’ favorite vegetable recipes — you may not like them because you’ve only had them prepared boringly. It may just be that waffles and beef stew are what’s around, so they’re the first thing you think of, so you eat them without exploring whether they’re doing anything for you.

    Or it may be that you needed waffles and beef stew. You absolutely get to eat waffles and beef stew. But figuring out what you want to eat — not just what springs to mind, but what will really nourish you physically and mentally — sometimes involves some risk-taking.

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  34. fillyjonk, thanks a lot. That’s really good advice. I think I needed some structure, something to think about. As long as I dieted, I had plenty to think about. Counting calories/carbs/fat grams, counting minutes of exercise, weighing, measuring, etc. I had plenty of articles to read and programs to watch that would “encourage” me. I knew how to think about food (it must be controlled) and how to think about my body (fat, ugly, must be whipped into shape). And I had a lot of company.

    Now, I just threw all of that out. And I’m going through the “eating grossly” phase. And I’m really scared. I don’t know how to think about my body and food anymore. I mean, I know in the abstract, but day-to-day living and eating and thinking, that’s where I can get lost. I’ve never focused on how food made me feel, except emotionally (thinking I was an emotional overeater even though when I’m sad or angry, I never want to eat). I’ve never thought about my body’s reactions to food, except to note how bad I felt on diets (but of course, no pain, no gain).

    I ate vegetables when I dieted because I had to, but now I’m not eating even the ones I kind of liked. I might be rebelling a bit. I mean, I like baby carrots, but didn’t eat them when I dieted because they weren’t green and were carbs, and I haven’t been eating them now because “NO MORE VEGGIES”. It’s a little silly.

  35. Yeah, it’s a little silly I guess, but it’s also completely understandable. If vegetables are invested with negative feelings, of course you don’t want to eat them. But since they’re generally good for you (although watch out — it turns out you CAN have food sensitivity/allergy reactions to some vegetables), it’s worth trying to reinscribe them as something you eat because they make you feel strong, not because they make you feel virtuous. Just as it’s worth reinscribing cookies as something you eat because you want cookies, not because you lack self-control. It’s a process.

    Two things I think everyone should read when they’re in the “eating everything just to prove I can” phase of reclaiming their relationship with food: My Secret Body by Ann Lamott, and the entire archives of Good With Cheese. And stick around here and keep us updated!

  36. Definitive.dot, I was totally just going to recommend Good With Cheese! Fillyjonk, as usual, beat me to it!

    Seriously, from what I understand, what you’re going through is a really common phase when one starts to eat intuitively. I didn’t really do it all at once, but I had to eat myself sick on “bad” foods many, many, MANY times before I fully registered that no, I don’t actually want to do that, even if I’m allowed to. Now, if I eat to the point of being uncomfortably full, I am SUCH a whiny baby about it, because I’m just not used to it anymore, and it hurts!! But “food comas” were so routine for a while there, I didn’t even think of them as all that bothersome.

    Maybe look at it this way: you’re not losing control, but giving your body control, instead of oppressing it with outside rules. For a while, your body might respond to the new freedom like a kid going off to college and indulging in every previously forbidden thing she can think of. But eventually, just like that kid, you’ll get tired of it and find a balance.

  37. Kate, that college analogy is perfect.

    And the only reason I beat you to these things is that your ADD is being treated and mine isn’t.

  38. Thanks, Kate & my apologies. As a newbie around here I didn’t know your policy.

    The reason for checking out Dr A remains, though; don’t be too fooled by the “diet” bit. It’s really about *not* dieting, in a way that is very close to what you’re talking about here.

    Oh, and please have a look at my blog (link from my name, entry of Oct 18th) for another obese picture! (The tag & title says “weight loss” but I’m thinking of changing that.).

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