And she wrote some pretty good novels, too

Greetings, Shapelings! As the resident grad student here at SP, I don’t have the time to post as often as Kate or Fillyjonk because I am too busy trying to read all of 20th-century literature in English in one go. (It’s taking a bit longer than I had hoped). At the moment, I’m reading Virginia Woolf’s outstanding anti-war treatise, Three Guineas, and I ran across something in a footnote that I thought y’all might enjoy, especially given some recent conversations we’ve had about portion sizes. Shapeling Spacedcowgirl wittily described what she calls “fake lady lunches“:

I don’t usually look at someone’s plate and comment on the portion size but I can’t resist saying something when my friend (for example) says something like “I had a [diet] yogurt and a banana for lunch, tee hee!” Even a “whole” Lean Cuisine is too little food for me so I don’t see how anyone can survive on a yogurt and a banana. I call it a “fake lady lunch.” (This is related to my view of unpleasant sales-pressure “parties” like scrapbooking, jewelry, Mary Kay, etc., and things like mother-daughter banquets–most of which are conducted while the men hang out at home and do actual fun stuff and/or whatever they please–as “fake lady fun.”)

Virginia Woolf actually has something to say on fake lady lunches (as she does on so many other topics), but what’s most interesting to me is how different the idea of what constitutes an appropriate lunch is. In a footnote to a discussion of problems facing working women in Three Guineas, Woolf gives evidence that professional women cannot afford to eat properly:

“It is a common thing to see the business girl contenting herself with a bun or a sandwich for her midday meal; and though there are theories that this is from choice… the truth is that they often cannot afford to eat properly.” (Careers and Openings for Women, by Ray Strachey, p. 74.) Compare also Miss E. Turner: “…many offices had been wondering why they were unable to get through their work as smoothly as formerly. It had been found that junior typists were fagged out in the afternoons because they could afford only an apple and a sandwich for lunch. Employers should meet the increased cost of living by increased salaries.” (The Times, March 28th, 1938).*

Woolf brings this up mostly to illustrate the injustices perpetrated against women, who are paid less for their work than men, and thus seem less competent because they’re, you know, ready to pass out by mid-afternoon because they can’t afford lunch. But what struck me most, having been a “business girl” in the 21st century, is that lunch itself: a sandwich and an apple. For Woolf, this fact stands on its own: that this is not enough food is meant to be self-evident. For many women I’ve known, in grad school or in the corporate world, that would be a fairly large lunch, if not an extravagant one. How many women do you know who just eat a microwaveable Lean Cuisine meal, or a diet yogurt, and nothing else for lunch? I used to share an office with a woman who ate a Lean Cuisine meal every single day for lunch. And every single day, she would look at my meal, whatever it was, and comment on how good it smelled or how awesome it looked. Why? Because I was eating something that was desirable to eat, and not just something I thought I should eat. And every day I felt so sad that my colleague and friend was depriving herself at each meal just because she thought there was a proper or a virtuous amount to eat. Meanwhile, the men we worked with were constantly running across the street for burgers and fries, constantly snacking to keep their energy up or because they just plain wanted to.

Women have gained a lot of power since 1938. We are, for the most part, no longer as dependent on our status as daughters as Woolf’s audience was. But there is still a pay gap. There is still widespread and insidious sexism. And even those of us who can afford more have been convinced not to eat more than a sandwich and an apple at lunchtime, even though our grandmothers were fainting away on that when they were our age. Not getting enough to eat is an injustice, whether it is because of poverty or because of the extraordinary disciplinary machine of fatphobia and sexism. Virginia Woolf knew this when she wrote Three Guineas, and she knew this when she wrote A Room of One’s Own in 1929:

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Dine well tonight, Shapelings. And have a delicious lunch tomorrow.

*Woolf, Three Guineas, p. 179, n. 20. Harcourt, 1966.

79 thoughts on “And she wrote some pretty good novels, too

  1. wow… my lunch at college is always a sandwich, something else ( some days fruit, some days a chocolate MUFFIN) and a cup of earl grey.

    …i have never ever thought of it as ‘too little’. even when it gets to 5, 6 pm and im feeling huuungry.

  2. apricotmuffins, I hear you — different people need different amounts of food at different times of day. Personally, I often eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch, but then I have a snack around 3 or 3:30, and another snack around 6, and then dinner at 7 or 8. (Also, I always eat breakfast.) That’s my routine, and others will obviously vary.

    What struck me most about this (and I think your comment illustrates this, too) is that what we now think of as a “healthy” amount to eat was seen as self-evidently unhealthy 60 years ago. (In fact, I’m going to add a line to the post about this right now — thanks for helping me clarify my thinking!) I mean, there’s no calorie counting here; I get the impression that the reader is meant to read that footnote and think “My god! Those poor working girls.” Whereas now, our expectations about how much women should eat are so fucked that it’s hard for us to even comprehend the footnote.

  3. I used to work with a woman who used to tell me and the other employees, quite loudly and quite often, that the Lean Cuisine that she brought to work each day for lunch was Way Too Much Food. It may have been, of course, but she would go on and on and on about the massive portion size of each microwaveable tray. That got old very quickly, especially since she was obsessed by what everyone else was having for lunch, as well. “Isn’t that too much food for you?” she would ask everyone, more or less everyday. It was my first exposure to this sort of food obsession, and I felt alternately sorry for and irritated at her. Then she got fired for stealing file folders. Maybe the chemicals and preservatives in her daily frozen lunch caused her to go nuts.

  4. I am totally in love with the term “fake lady lunch.” That’s exaclty what it is, and I am SO SICK of them. I work in an office with six women and two men (up this year from seven women and one man in previous years). Every time someone leaves or we win an award we have to have a group luncheon — had another one today, as a matter of fact — and all up and down the table it’s “oh I WISH I could eat more than this miniscule portion of fruit and raw veggies, but I’m just SO DELICATE that I’m going to feel STUFFED FOR DAYS because of this baby carrot! eeee! OMG cheesecake, but I won’t have any because I’m being GOOOOOD this week!”

    Actually, last year I got to witness the ultimate Fake Lady Lunch: an awards banquet on Valentine’s Day. It was like a double exercise in one-upsmanship. Not only did every woman at the table have to make it very clear that the (moderate to normal) lunch provided was more than she could eat, but EVERY ONE explained that she couldn’t eat much because of the incredibly elaborate plans her boyfriend/fiance/husband had made for them that night. It was amazing; it was practically a master class (so to speak) in the verbal riturals with which (middle-class American) female status levels are established.

    And since none of these women (and it’s only ever the women) are even half of my 300+ pounds, anything I say about how I don’t find a handful of carrots and celery adequate at all is met with this sort of frozenly polite pity. You can just hear them thinking, “doesn’t she know that’s why she’s FAT? How can she say that?” and then I just want to beat my head against the wall. By this point I’ve given up saying anything; I just eat whatever I want and enjoy it as much as possible. In their faces, if I’m feeling bitchy.

    Argh, that sounded very judgmental of me. I’ve just heard so many comments like this, though, usually from people who are staring in horrified dismay (“It’s so much!”) at a lunch identical to the one I’m finishing in its entirety, that it’s become an emotional trigger for me. If Coworker A can’t even possibly THINK about managing to eat the same sandwich I just consumed, what does that make me? An alien hog creature with a vacuum cleaner for a digestive system? To hell with that.

  5. Ah, make that “rituals,” not “riturals.” :P

    And sorry for the hugely long comment — I guess the Fake Lady Lunch hits my rant button. I even forgot to mention how fascinating I felt Sweetmachine’s actual point was: that seventy-odd years ago it could seem self-evident that a sandwich is not a sufficient lunch. (Reminds me, too, of how great the good food = good conversation portion of A Room of One’s Own is, even though I oversimplify grossly.)

    And of course a sandwich and a piece of fruit is pretty much what I have for lunch most days, so it’s like a lightbulb just went off in my head: no wonder I’m so frequently hungry again by 4:00! And baffled, too; I’m all “but I ate lunch, why am I hungry, dammit this eating thing never works!” Fancy that, maybe I’m hungry because I didn’t eat ENOUGH, or I need to eat AGAIN.

    I don’t know how many years it will ever take me to actually believe that.

  6. Hee. Okay, I’ll admit, back in my office-worker days I often had a Healthy Choice meal for lunch. Oh wait, that was like, my lunch entree because I always had something else as well – a bowl of soup, a scone, a cup of (full-fat ZOMG!!) yogurt, some fruit, whatever.

    Of course, I didn’t do it because of some calorie-counting BS. I did it because I don’t like sandwiches. And I’d gotten tired of eating soup any time I didn’t have leftovers to heat up. And Healthy Choice, shockingly enough, had some of the best-tasting frozen meal-thingers out there.

    Oh, and usually? For lunch, I had a “dinner” – y’know, the ones that come with a dessert and everything.

  7. I don’t know that a sandwich nowadays is all that tiny. Most of the places by me stuff them with fillings – which means they’re just about enough.

    Heqit, I need to eat again around 4 or 5 as well, but I’ve found that in order to avoid that I need to eat a large enough lunch that I’m kind of tired and even less willing to do work than usual. So I snack.

    But I am strange in that I comment on how people’s portions are tiny and how they can’t possibly live on that.

    My pet peeve is when people comment on how disciplined or virtuous I’m being when I have a salad for lunch or an apple as a snack. I like salads and apples, usually to the point of eating too much acid and roughage. For god’s sake, it’s not a moral issue, just like the fact that I eat twice as much food as the average five two girl doesn’t mean any more than I get damn hungry.

  8. You know, like Woolfe’s office girls, I can’t afford to eat anything while I’m working. People around me going on about diets and how any amount of food is just too much! make me furious. Last week one of my co-workers went on and on about what foods were bad for her, and I swear if I didn’t need to do the job to keep my food stamps I’d have stood up on my chair and screamed at her. “You only live on this earth once, just eat the damn steak!”

    People who are dieting publicly, who have to go on and on about how little they’re eating make me go postal. I’m having trouble getting enough calories to live on, they can afford to eat well and they don’t! And they spend a fortune on not eating well while they complain that people on food stamps, people who just want to eat regular, are lazy and gluttonous.

    Eat the damn food and be grateful that you can afford to, there are starving people in your country (and your office!) who don’t have it so good.

  9. Virginia Woolf and fake lady lunches! What an incredible subject!

    I’m so happy to be working at home again, if only because I never again have to witness (or smell) anyone’s FLL (and lemme tell you, the smell of formerly frozen green peppers nuking can about make me toss mah biscuits), and best of all, no DIET TALK. Yeah, sometimes I’d bring a Healthy Choice in with me because I found it on sale dirt-cheap, like $1.50 or something. I’m sure that’s why a lot of others brought them in, too. But oh, the virtuous “And it’s only 180 calories” crap, that I could have lived without, thanks. A hundred and eighty calories? You’re supposed to go five more hours on that?

    But yeah, the idea that a sandwich an an apple was once thought of as a meager repast, and now we’ve got this bizarre divide between women too poor to afford even that, and women who are quite affluent but too proud to actually eat anything containing c-a-r-b-s, is making my synapses majorly misfire.

  10. Fantastic post.

    Realizing that a lot of my problems with food were related to not eating enough was probably the single biggest breakthrough for me wrt fat acceptance. A small fruit smoothie and a piece of toast was *supposed* to be enough, dammit! What was wrong with me that I was hungry an hour later!?

    It’s so incredibly fucked up that it never ever occurred to me that I might just need to eat more. That’s how divorced from my body I was, that’s how divorced from their bodies so many women are that we can be hungry and automatically assume it’s a personal failing and not, you know, biology.

    OT: I just picked up the new issue of BUST and saw that this blog got a mention!! WOOHOO. Under a little article on fat acceptance sites. And Beth Ditto’s on the cover. So it might just be the greatest issue of all time.

  11. just a quick thought, the original definition of gluttony also included eating too little when you had enough. People get so moral about ‘eating too much’ that they forget that it was also considered immoral to starve yourself when you could be keeping yourself healthy with ENOUGH FOOD.

    and also, i forgot to mention that my college canteen does some nummy nummy baguette style sandwiches, often with lots of salad, and plenty of filling. Along with a little extra, theyre pretty much just right for a decent lunch. the comment about it depending on how big the sandwiches were has a point.

  12. This post made me cry a bit. The injustice of it all. My mother, for example, an awesome feminist who grew up in a war-ridden and poor country, left her home and family as a young adult to find peace and prosperity in Europe, and now she, who always loved her buttered basmati rice so much, is living off a sandwich and an apple a day, not just for lunch. And losing her hair from lack of nuttition. In one of the richest countries in the world.

    All these strong women, all the fights they’ve fought and won for us, and now they’re starving in front of full plates.

  13. It kinda depends a lot on the sandwiches. You could have lite bread with no spread and some lean meat and lettuce, or it could be the full on enormous ciabatta or baguette with butter a nice filling and lashings of mayo.

    I’m trying to stop eating pre-packaged sandwiches for breakfast and lunch because if I do that all the time I’m gaining weight. Even though it’s so much more convenient that actually making some to bring in. (We don’t have a kitchen at work, not even a kettle or a microwave).

    But I admit if I have just a sandwich and nothing else I’m never full enough.

  14. Oh god, and two thin slices of toast and a glass of water is *not* enough for breakfast. It’s 10:30 here and I’m starving.

    I think I have to raid the coffee room for some cake.

  15. attrice, I have the same problem.

    Just this past Sunday, I had a funny turn. My best friend’s daughter stopped over for a chat, and we went into the kitchen (where we could actually hear each other). All of a sudden I got some strange pain that radiated from my upper abdomen all the way up to my chest. It didn’t last very long (thank god), but it was scary. Hubby came in, and the first thing he asked me was: have you had anything to eat today? Not what have you had to eat today, or how much have you had to eat today, but have you eaten at all today? If I were an outsider (with the fat prejudices we know most people have), looking at this tall skinny man asking the short fat woman if she’d eaten at all, I’d probably think it was a feckin’ joke. But my hubby knows me and knows that most of the time, I don’t eat. And whenever anything goes wrong with me (feeling faint, being over-tired, etc.), the first thing he says is “have you eaten?” As much as I’m trying to accept myself for who and what I am, getting out of the “I can’t eat because I’m already too fat” mindset is tricky. I’m working on it, but it’s hard.

    I think a lot of my personal experience has to do with the fact that I’ve been out of the workforce for nearly 5 years now. When I DID work, I never really heard the “oh, that’s too much food for me” bullshit. As a matter of fact, when I DID work, my bosses would organize a department-wide lunch once a month (the fact that we were within walking distance of several different restaurants having a lot to do with that, methinks). We would all go out and have some lunch, and we’d enjoy ourselves. The department was made up of mostly women, of all ages and shapes and sizes, and we just went, had some good food and good conversations, and enjoyed ourselves.

    If anything, there was a time when *I* was the one getting the concerned looks and the “are you sure that’s enough for you?” comments. When money was tight, I had a habit of going to McD’s with my then-best-friend and getting just one item off of the dollar menu. I couldn’t have bought enough food to last a week for $5, so it actually worked out cheaper for me. I’d bring it back to my desk and eat it, and more than once, I’d hear “is that all you’re having for lunch?” Yes, me, the fat woman, is having one simple little sandwich for lunch. Surprising, ain’t it?

    But like I said, that was 5 years ago, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that even though it doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago, society has become even more obsessed about looks and food and how one relates to the other in those 5 years.

    Either that, or I’ve been incredibly lucky in that I’ve not had to deal with bullshit like this in every single aspect of my life.

  16. This isn’t about the entry …
    Are you familiar w/ this blog?

    http://obesityheadlines.wordpress.com/about-this-blog/

    If so, what’s the point overall?

    Thanks.

    About the entry … since starting to apply the Hirschmann/Munter approach ages ago, I’ve heard a lot of comments about how much I eat. At one client, tried ordering from their hot-meal service, but even though they were serving mostly machine mechanics, it wasn’t real food.

  17. I occasionally feel a little self-conscious at the huge sacks of lunch I bring to work, but I go to the gym right after work and can’t get all buff if I’m passing out from hunger.

    I sometimes bring Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice frozen dinners to lunch, because they have some awesome salmon or bean & rice meals. But, I also pack a piece of fruit, a serving of veggies (a salad or a large carrot), and at least one snack (crackers/yogurt/granola bar) as well. And I keep my munchie drawer stocked with dried fruit & nuts, chocolate, crackers, cups of noodles, etc.

    When my co-workers are hungry when their half a bagel or cup of soup from lunch has worn off, I’m feeling satisfied.

  18. Virginia Woolf is my favorite writer ever in the whole world ever.

    That is all.

    Oh wait, no: I hate Lean Cuisine and all its frozen sistren. Okay that’s really all.

  19. I too <3 Virginia Woolf.

    The Fake Lady Lunch is a snack, if that. I eat about five of them in the average workday, because my body thinks “three square meals a day” is a complete joke. At my last job, my coworkers were all “omg you eat nothing at all! I hate you!” until they realized that I was eating *constantly.* Ha ha.

  20. The best lunch is a LOT of variety. A sandwich is yum but also I want baked lays, green beans, fruit and a big piece of baklava, water and milk. Ah, perfect. And if I get a chance to eat it slowly…even better!

    Oh…and I don’t want to eat it in the lunch room at work. Hate that!

  21. Godless Heathen and Em, thanks for sharing your perspectives — it’s really important to remember now (as it was in 1938) that working does not mean making enough to live on. It’s heartbreaking that women like you (GH) and your mother (Em) are in that position. One of the ways that Three Guineas is so prescient and still important, I think, is that it eloquently dissects the morality of personal (or gendered) failure (i.e., you/women just aren’t working hard enough) to show how that “failure” is actually built into the system — the oppression of women is what creates the “male” public sphere. That theoretical framework is, if anything, even more relevant today.

    nuckingfutz, a few years ago I remember trying to convince a (not fat) friend of mine to snack between lunch and dinner, and the dynamic was something like what you describe with you and your husband. My friend did eat lunch, but then she was firmly convinced that that meant she couldn’t eat till dinner, even though she was becoming so hungry and so low-blood-sugar-y by late afternoon that she would basically turn into a total bitch for a few hours. ;-) When she finally, one day, decided to have some sad little snack in the afternoon, she called me to let me know, with great excitement, that she didn’t feel depressed that day like she usually did. It was a revelation for her.

    It’s amazing how stubborn we’re willing to be when it comes to ignoring our bodies’ signals about food.

  22. OTM, word. Woolf is astonishingly great. It’s almost enough to make me want to jump ship and concentrate on fiction instead of poetry in school.

  23. “All these strong women, all the fights they’ve fought and won for us, and now they’re starving in front of full plates.”

    Em, thank you for this comment. This post made me cry as well and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but you did it for me.

  24. It’s amazing how stubborn we’re willing to be when it comes to ignoring our bodies’ signals about food.

    Word. Great post, Sweet Machine.

    And attrice, thanks for the heads-up on Bust! Awesome!

  25. OMG. I had the most infuriating coworker in the WORLD. She would eat a salad — not even a good salad, but the kind that’s a pile of spinach, some shredded carrots, a small amount of almonds, and some fat-free dressing (all in all, under 100 calories) — for lunch every. single. day. When we had people bring in bagels, she would nibble on about a quarter of a multigrain bagel and insist it was going to make her fat. (All the while the 130 and 190+-lb coworkers around her were eating entire cinnamon crunch bagels slathered with cream cheese.)

    She thought orange juice — not Sunny D, but the stuff that’s just squished oranges — had too much sugar. She didn’t water it down, like I could see doing if you just didn’t like how strong it is — she bought LIGHT orange juice. She wasn’t in the LEAST diabetic. (I wish I could make a PSA about the difference between refined and naturally-occurring sugar, because it seems that NO ONE KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE.)

    I mean, she did eat a pretty substantial breakfast most mornings — oatmeal, some poached egg whites, and perhaps a strip or two of bacon. No sugar or anything in the oatmeal (ew), and I don’t think it possibly occurred to her that the egg whites were going to kill her cholesterol. Last time I checked, egg yolks contained all the nutrients, including ones that make it easier for your body to process things like fat and cholesterol. (Sorry, no citations: my mother’s a nurse and she spouts things like that randomly.)

    I still have no idea how she made it through the afternoon. The other thing is, she wanted to lose six lbs so she could weigh the same 100 lbs that she did when she got married — thirty-five years previous.

    Disordered eating, definitely. Body dysmorphia? Probably.

    Someone shoot me if I grow up to be her (well, the 136-lb version of her).

  26. She thought orange juice — not Sunny D, but the stuff that’s just squished oranges — had too much sugar.

    ARGH. I blogged about that very phenomenon a while back, though I’m too lazy to look for it now. But it’s pretty common, in my experience. I think finding out how many calories are in a glass of orange juice when you start dieting can be a memorable “holy shit” moment for a lot of people. It does seem like a lot, for just a glass of liquid. But as you say, there’s a difference between natural fruit sugar and refined sugar, and there are also loads of nutrients in a glass of orange juice that you won’t find in a Diet Coke. (Ya think?) I’m a huge fan of orange juice, and I get so frustrated when I eat breakfast with women who admit they love it, but don’t want to “waste” any of their allotted calories on a drink.

    To me, it’s such a perfect example of how “good” and “bad” foods have come to be defined by calories (or fat, or carbs, depending on who you’re talking to), not by what sort of fuel they provide.

  27. I eat microwave lunches a lot at work because they’re cheap and convenient, and I tend to buy whatever brand is on sale at the moment at the nearest store. Which means sometimes I have a whole week of Budget Gourmet, then the next week it’s Marie Callender’s.

    And sometimes it would be Lean Cuisine. I’ve stopped buying those, even when they’re on sale, because I’m still famished when i finish one. I used to think I had no concept of proper portion sizes and all that rot. Then I read the box. A lot of them only have 180 calories, and the most “indulgent” of them have, I think, 240. And this is supposed to be one of three meals, of course. Extrapolate that number, and clearly someone somewhere thinks we should be subsisting on 540 to 720 calories per day. When I looked at it that way, my jaw dropped. I don’t think even the most obsessive diets are that draconian. No wonder I was still hungry.

    Wait, i lied. I still get the salmon in lemon sauce with angel hair one, because it’s so damn good, but I eat something else with it.

  28. Wow — what an amazing post.

    For me it isn’t co-workers — it’s in-laws. That side of the family is extremely wealthy, yet there are all of these wonderful and intelligent women who are starving themselves to be “hollywood skinny”. Family gatherings (which always revolve around large amounts of incredible food) are a sad yet fascinating study of disordered eating. Low carbs, no carbs, food combining, give me organic or give me death, elaborate excuses for having to leave the table early, “medically supervised” starvation programs etc.. Shock, surprise and concern if someone is not eating. Shock, surprise and concern if someone is eating “a lot” or has gained weight. It’s like some kind of fucked up Opera Anorexia.

    Sorry if I went off-topic a bit — I know food ‘n family is a whole other ball of threads, but the wealth/abundance/denial conundrum hits very close to home. I had wondered if I wasn’t being hypocritical by judging what others were (mostly weren’t) eating especially if I didn’t want them judging me, but now I’m realizing that it’s the behavior that makes me crazy.

  29. It does make me very uncomfortable to be around groups of women for whom the starvation thing is the norm. Fortunately, though I live in a place where it is fairly normal, it’s fairly uncommon among the women I know. I’m probably the worst among the lot, what with my health food junkiness which spilled well into disordered and I am trying ever so hard to control (I do love the way health food tastes, I just hate the feeling guilty every time I eat because it’s never “healthy” enough).

    I get that some people need less food and some need more. A coworker of mine eats tiny, tiny portions. Mini tupperwares of pasta. An apple. One container of yogurt. But she also eats every hour or two. Different things work for different people.

    But when I see people eating very, very little I do tend to wonder why they feel they don’t deserve to nourish themselves and satiate their physical needs. It’s really very sad, if you think about it, when people feel like they don’t deserve to eat enough to not be constantly hungry.

    I’m probably lucky in that my hunger urges get so strong I couldn’t possibly starve myself. The sad thing is, there was awhile there when I felt like this was a personal failing.

  30. Sometimes when my best friend comes over for a girls night we have things like guacamole and baked tortillas, raspberry sorbet, hot cocoa with marshmellows, or hummus with crackers and veggies. Some nights though she calls me and tells me that she’s being “good,” and she snacks on a baggie half-filled with dry Fiber One cereal.

    Those night break my heart because she is a wonderful, beautiful, girl and she should eat whatever would make her happy. I like my high-fiber cereals too, and wouldn’t begrudge her, but there’s a big difference between eating something because you desire it and eating it because you think it’s all you should have. These days I fear that many women (and probably people in general) feel there’s nothing they deserve, and so they try to live with as little of everything as they can.

  31. This is a great post (and I am not just saying that because my term made it in). ;) Women’s attitudes toward their appetites and their bodies’ needs are so fucked up.

    Em, that is so sad about your mom. You are right, these women fought so hard for many of the things we now take for granted, but are still trapped in a kind of fear-of-fat straitjacket. It is terrible. And Godless Heathen, I wish something would make these people realize how unreasonable and insensitive their attitudes are. For the “starving in a rich country” reason and also because I doubt any of them are going to be lying on their deathbed going “Thank goodness I passed up that bagel in November 2007.” A little perspective on how fortunate they are to have access to good, nourishing food would be great.

    I often suspect it is a very recent development that people think they should be eating 1000-1500 calories a day when they are NOT dieting. I mean, we probably need less than our forefathers due to the lack of manual labor… but this is getting way out of hand. It is good to see some confirmation in the Woolf quote.

    Like many here, I buy Lean Cuisines myself from time to time when I am too lazy or busy to come up with something better to pack in my lunch, but I always supplement with some fruit, a veggie, and a yogurt or something like SarahMich does. You can’t tell me that 3 of those a day would be anywhere near enough food for the vast majority of people… yet so many women think they are. I know women who don’t really eat breakfast and then have Lean Cuisines for lunch and dinner (I mean, there are snacks and coffees and stuff in there, but I think the “plan” is to eat just the Lean Cuisines and the other stuff comes in when they get so hungry they just have to have something else). It makes me uncomfortable just imagining it.

  32. And now that I read the rest of the conversation that inspired this, I feel like a big jerk for judging other people’s smaller portions. I agree that what people eat is their own business for their own reasons. Some mentally and/or physically healthy, others not so much. But we’re all entitled to imperfection. Hell, nothing’s more stressful than trying to be perfect.

    I just really really hate this idea that a proper portion size is the size of your hand. For some people, yes, for others, no, and so many women feel obligated to squeeze themselves into that mold. It kind of makes me seethe, like the idea that dieting can and should be the norm does. And then it makes me hungry.

  33. Gah, DH and I were *just* talking about this last night. We joined a new gym, and of course they’re in the middle of some hideous Biggest Loser-style competition, which means that we get to be regaled with sick competitions about who can eat the least and exercise the most in order to WIN AT LOSING. One (seemingly normal-weight) woman in the middle of a hard workout was bragging that she had eaten only lettuce that day so that their team could TAKE THE LEAD!!!

    The day before, I had to listen to the crowd of women ooh-ing and aah-ing because one of the team members had lost 4 pounds in a week. Never mind that she looked like she could ill afford to lose a single pound.

    I was telling my husband that some days it feels like pushing a rock up a hill day in and day out to be a woman who is actively trying not to hate her own body. I also feel like it totally cuts me off from the vast majority of other women.

    Can we get some kind of Shapeletariat secret handshake or something so that we can identify like-minded people?!?

  34. I’m probably lucky in that my hunger urges get so strong I couldn’t possibly starve myself. The sad thing is, there was awhile there when I felt like this was a personal failing.

    Entangled, me too!

    When I was dieting and money was good, I’d buy Lean Cuisines or WW meals or whatever, thinking I was being “such a good dieter.” Then I’d find myself hungry before my shift even ended (I normally ate lunch at 12 and got off work at 3, to give you an idea of the timeline), and I’d find myself off to the vending machine to find something to eat because I just couldn’t stand it any more. THEN I’d sit there hating myself because I just wasn’t strong enough to resist the hunger. I seriously thought there was something wrong with me.

    And I know that you and I aren’t the only ones that have felt that way. I suspect at LEAST half (and more like 90%) of the women who DO eat Fake Lady Lunches are going through the same thing, because they’ve been brainwashed to think that they should be able to survive on 500 calories a day.

    How fucked is THAT?

  35. Argh, those Biggest Loser competitions and their mindset are one of the worst things for people’s health to pop up in the last 10 years. Even if it weren’t sick to have a contest to see who can lose the most weight anyway, people always end up starving and purging to “win” like the lettuce-leaf lady (behind-the-scenes tell-alls from TBL are pretty eye-opening). And the competitions are sanctimoniously held up as promoting “health” when they promote the exact opposite! It’s bad enough the show is on TV, but it is completely inappropriate to hold a copycat TBL at a gym.

  36. LOVE THE POST! Thank you for that.

    I agree Nicole – maybe we could identify ourselves with secret hand signals in a crowd, sort of like baseball signals!

  37. I have a friend who at 5’3″ weighs maybe 96 lbs. She was just the other day bitching that she weighs 8 lbs more than she did when she was pregnant (10-11 years ago). The horror!

    She eats like a bird (no surprise there) and then is stunned to find that she has no energy 2 hours later. After other friends have convinced her that she should eat more often, she is now “snacking” between meals. But when the meal itself is 1/4 of a turkey sandwich, it is hardly helping. I want to shake her and get her to eat a real meal. I don’t think she has felt full in a decade, if ever.

    It’s so sad.

  38. I have to say, having read the last few comments here, that I’m glad that when I *was* dieting hard I was doing it with Slimming World where at least I could eat portions as big as I liked of fruit and veg and quite a range of other stuff and never have to feel bad for eating something when I was hungry!

  39. Nuckingfutz, you’re probably right. It’s such an insidious mentality. 1000 calories is sooo many down to 800 to 600. Even if you’re not eating that little, just idealizing it is so dangerous. It’s the same as always finding something wrong somewhere on one’s body. Yes, it’s not perfect. Guess what, I’m living in it anyway.

    I was feeling guilty because 1200-1500 a day MINIMUM was leaving me dizzy and famished a good deal of the day. In my disordered, counting mentality, I finally got my nutritionist to give me a number. She said that there was no way I should be eating UNDER 1800 calories a day. Though now I’ve moved into the trying to avoid the c-word at all costs, since once I track that, there’s no satisfying myself (it’s either too many, too few, the wrong balance, all guilt all the time).

    And UGH on the Biggest Loser style contests. I only want to work out for the pleasure of being faster, stronger, better able to climb the stairs, more alert, saner. I don’t WANT to think about weight loss. I want to think about making myself more capable and fueling myself in a way to compliment that. If I’m restricting food to get to some arbitrary goal, I’m not only destroying my metabolism, I’m impeding my function both in fitness and in life. It’s also so much less fun.

    I’ll admit I’m not quite 100% there with the anti-weight loss sentiments of many of the people here. I am not quite free of my own insecurities and not quite free of caring (even if one of them is being taken more seriously as a critic of the dieting culture due to my weight). I do think there are some changes that are good ideas that in some people may lead to modest weight loss. I think I’ve mostly come around to a very HAES-based perspective, but it’s hard not to care about the outside, particularly when so many people around me do.

    But the idea of maximum loss as a goal at all costs? My god, it makes me want to hit something. And not because it would burn calories. Just because it feels good.

  40. I’m probably lucky in that my hunger urges get so strong I couldn’t possibly starve myself. The sad thing is, there was awhile there when I felt like this was a personal failing.

    Yes! I did the diet thing for like… six months, but I could never do it. I’d always end up bingeing on cake or potato chips or something. Then I’d feel terrible, like what’s wrong with me that I can’t live on a perfectly reasonable amount of food. Much later I actually totalled up what I was trying to eat during that time, it was like 900-1100 calories a day. But my idea of a reasonable portion size was so distorted it seemed like the amount of food I should be eating.

    I was telling my husband that some days it feels like pushing a rock up a hill day in and day out to be a woman who is actively trying not to hate her own body. I also feel like it totally cuts me off from the vast majority of other women.

    Can we get some kind of Shapeletariat secret handshake or something so that we can identify like-minded people?!?

    Yes! To this too.

    Also, a great post by sweetmachine… an apple and a sandwich. Wow.

  41. I work in an office that’s made up of thin, wealthy people of foreign extraction, and I’m the token fat (relatively) poor American. Several days a week everyone eats together in the conference room, and some days it’s really hard to eat with them because I feel like such a pig.

    It seems like they just don’t need nearly as much food as I do, and I tend to eat in small quantities so I’m still not eating much at a time. They’ll have things like a medium-sized spinach salad with tomatoes and mozzarella, and that’s it, and they seem perfectly satisfied with it, where I’d be starving in an hour if I ate just that.

    The upside to it, I guess, is that there’s absolutely no atmosphere of dieting or hiding food or comparisons; they just /eat/, and that’s really refreshing. In another way, though, it would almost be more comforting if these people were as disordered about their food as we Americans tend to be, simply because I’d feel more “normal.” That’s pretty horrible, but I just feel so out of place knowing that I really do consume three times the food they do.

  42. I’ll admit I’m not quite 100% there with the anti-weight loss sentiments of many of the people here. I am not quite free of my own insecurities and not quite free of caring (even if one of them is being taken more seriously as a critic of the dieting culture due to my weight). I do think there are some changes that are good ideas that in some people may lead to modest weight loss. I think I’ve mostly come around to a very HAES-based perspective, but it’s hard not to care about the outside, particularly when so many people around me do.

    I’m not all the way there, either. I’ve only recently started trying to learn to accept myself the way I am. But hey – at least we’re trying to accept ourselves as we are instead of changing the one thing that can’t truly be changed.

    I just feel so out of place knowing that I really do consume three times the food they do.

    pearlandopal, if these people are European, they’re probably eating more than you do at DINNER. That’s the thing with Europeans – they eat only a little at breakfast and lunch, but then they have a dinner that would easily feed two or three Americans (even us fatties!!). It all kind of balances out – they eat pretty much the same amount of food that we do, they just have more of it in the evening.

  43. That’s really interesting, nuckingfutz, I think I’d heard about that before but had totally forgotten. Makes me feel a little better about it. :) If I tried to do that, eat very lightly at breakfast and lunch, I’d be weak-kneed by 5 pm!

  44. From a different perspective, I think it also goes to show the principle of “women work twice as hard as men for the same money.” How often do you see women skipping lunch to keep working, or eating their FLL at their desks while working? I’m speaking anecdotally of course, but it seems to me that more women work through lunch than men.

    When my company was bought by a bigger corporation, I ended up doing the work of 5 people. I would sit at my desk for 9 – 10 hours every day, and get up maybe twice to use the bathroom, and the rest of the time would just be staring at my computer. My lunch was usually one of those “Soup At Hand” cans, and maybe the other half of the bagel I’d picked up but not been able to eat at breakfast. (Humorously, the “Soup at Hand” became known as “Soup Grenades” – pull the pin and lob it!)

    I can’t tell you how frustrating it was when a very nice man from the cubicle over the wall would come over every day and ask if I wanted to go to lunch. I’d get to go maybe once every two weeks.

    My example is extreme (and thankfully that situation is over), but I do feel that in the US, women who “work through lunch” are seen as harder working than those who leave their desks – even if a break, no matter how much you eat, is healthier for you than working straight through. How can you possibly eat a healthy meal while reading email, talking on the phone and answering questions? Or alternatively, feeding a baby, doing laundry and running errands?

  45. Penguinlady, I love the Soup Grenade! And yes, both genders (especially women) who work through lunch, come in early, leave extremely late, etc. are seen as being more “serious” about their jobs. Me, I like to be serious about my family (husband, two ferrets and a cat) as well as my job. If working forty hours a week makes me look lazy, so be it.

  46. I dunno — the older I get, the more comfortable I am with setting boundaries, and the more I realize how much of my life is really in my control and is the result of choices that I made (even if I thought that I “had to” at the time). Doing the work of more than one person? Your choice. Eating lunch at your desk? Your choice. Or maybe your choice to work at a place that might enforce that kind of a policy and or work load. Maybe you love the challenge of multi-tasking (I do!!) And actually, I prefer to eat at my desk. Eating certain foods so that others won’t judge you harshly? A choice. I love this blog because it’s made me aware of many many things that influence me (subconsciously and otherwise) and my choices.

  47. “I agree that what people eat is their own business for their own reasons.”

    I totally agree as well…I tend to think the problem is the constant conversation about it, you know? I mean, I just wish people would just eat what they are going to eat, why do we, especially as women, feel compelled to have hours long conversations about what we are or are not eating? I’ve had it, I tell you! I’ll be quiet about your food and you be quiet about mine and maybe we can have a conversation about something ELSE!

    Also, I just have to share what happened to me today. I did some shopping at Lane Bryant and a woman in the dressing room next door was on her cell phone and telling the person that she had been on a diet for five weeks now and was not seeing any changes. She then went on to berate herself and say how even when she does lose weight, it just makes her face look old and her boobs go away and her arms get skinny, but the “big butt never goes anywhere.” And I was very sad and thinking about this post.

    So, I went out and had some beautiful sushi for lunch. I dined well. And felt very happy about it.

    These small acts of rebellion…..you never know, we just might change the world.

  48. nuckingfutz, I wonder about that. Over here in the UK, if you’re working, the ‘sandwich and something’ mid-day, snacks in between, and a larger dinner in the evening is more or less normal. (Well, it is for guys…I have seen many women pretend to subsist on the Single Banana Lunch, the Yogurt Lunch and heaven help us, the Cigarette Lunch. Eek.) Don’t know about the rest of Europe.

    However…I know that to my parents’ generation and class, it was seen as more ‘normal’ to eat a larger meal midday and then have ‘tea’ at 4 or 5 o’clock, which might involve bread and butter, salad, cheese, cake, that kind of thing. I know the idea of waiting till the evening for your main meal always fazed my mother. My dad took a packed lunch to work, but I don’t think she liked the idea of cooking in the evening for either of us.

    Interestingly, considering Woolf’s observations…I have in front of me a cookbook called We’ll Eat Again, published by the Imperial War Museum and containing a bunch of recipes from WWII. And it’s pretty clear that even if most working people didn’t see a sandwich as enough to keep going on, the Ministry of Food was trying to push the idea as such during rationing. They even give some ideas for ‘new and different’ fillings…bacon rinds and toasted oatmeal, anyone? (You can perhaps see why I haven’t used it much.)

    Me, I’ve done both ways. When I was newly divorced and working in London, I’d get a canteen lunch (cheap – it was a government post so the canteen was subsidized – pretty good, and filling) and just have soup, bread and a salad in the evenings. It was refreshing, after being obligatory evening chef for six years to a guy who barely knew what a frying pan was. But then I moved, and married again, and went back to evening meals, and now I’m back to sandwiches (plural)…BUT with other stuff – fruit, cheese, pretzels, pumpkin seeds, and the occasional cupcake – to see me through the afternoon. And, it seems to work pretty well that way too.

  49. It’s a bit off-topic but it pissed me off so much I just have to share:

    I eat several times a day at work, usually every two hours. At one of these food breaks I was making a big delicious salad when the insufferable newbie at the office (very green, his first job out of college) commented “you seem to eat a lot of salads… have you ever thought of trying some complex carbs?”

    I wanted to punch him square in the face. Instead I smiled and said “actually I eat a variety of stuff at work, at the moment I felt like a salad” (I was still cutting carrots for it or I would have stormed out at that point) and he made some remark about how he got spoiled because he used to date a chef. Whatever.

    Anyways, it underlined the extreme rudeness of making any comment whatsoever about what a person chooses to eat. If one of my team members had said something about rabbit food I would have laughed and made a joke about donuts… but since I didn’t know/like this guy it seemed like the height of boorish behavior.

    I talk too much… but yeah… fake lady lunches are annoying too… but less than obnoxious comments about one’s food. To me anyway.

  50. @ Molly:

    You wrote: “This isn’t about the entry …
    Are you familiar w/ this blog?

    http://obesityheadlines.wordpress.com/about-this-blog/

    If so, what’s the point overall?”

    I am not sure if that is a curiosity or an existential question about the blog. :-)

    The blog exists as a repository of research and evidence because most people are educated enough to make up their own minds, IF they have access to information. They can interpret things better according to their own circumstances and preferences.

    I do not know if that answers your question but I traced my way back here from my traffic stats of course.

    Thanks.

  51. I agree that it is really important not to criticize what others eat. You can’t know in any given situation why someone is eating what they’re eating. And the world would be a much better place for sure if people would just quit judging others for what is on their lunch plate or in their shopping cart or for what they order at Starbucks, whether for being “too much” or “too little”–that is definitely a symptom of the “food police” mentality that we have set up for ourselves, and it is really poisonous and ties directly into how people feel others’ weight and perceived “health” are their business these days.

    But on average, a lot of women eat dry salads for lunch because they are terrified of calories and fat, so on balance it makes me sad to see someone eating rabbit food for lunch because that is probably why they are doing so. Not, again, that it gives anyone the right to verbally critique your food, because who knows why you personally are eating that salad.

    The sad thing is, that guy probably thought he was giving you a compliment. A lot of women would consider it a victory if someone noticed how little they were subsisting on.

  52. Double-posting to make a slightly off-topic comment, which is not a great thing to do. But I had to say it. Regarding value judgments about food, I am so fucking sick of hearing “heart attack on a plate” and its variants, particularly since a friend of mine has been dieting and she and her husband (formerly reasonable and low-key about food) have started making that kind of comment (“Oh, that’s real healthy.” I mean, at least it’s not TO anyone but either berating themselves for something they ate, or commenting on a dish in general). I don’t care if it’s those Canadian fries with the gravy and cheese or whatever they are, NOTHING is a “heart attack on a plate” and if I’m going to have something that’s perceived as “unhealthy” then by god I want to enjoy it, so be forewarned that I may need to punch you in the mouth to get you to shut up so that can happen.

    Actually I have about talked myself into suggesting they knock it off next time they start in with the judgment. It ruins whatever I am eating, and the idea that you can compromise your health with ONE meal is ridiculous. I don’t care if people are exaggerating for effect, it’s snotty and stupid and they need to stop. If judging a plate of food makes you feel morally superior, that’s kind of sad.

  53. The sad thing is, that guy probably thought he was giving you a compliment. A lot of women would consider it a victory if someone noticed how little they were subsisting on.

    One night, years ago, while eating dinner with my family my grandfather remarked that I must have liked the potatos because I was actually eating them. My disordered eating self dropped the fork and wouldn’t eat another bite because someone had noticed how much I was eating, which was (in my head) surely too much. In reality, my grandfather was a sweet man who loved to eat and loved for others to enjoy food, and though I didn’t imagine he had, he probably noticed how little I ate normally and was just plain excited to see my happily eating.

    It took me years to even begin to realize that being seen eating was not a sin, and even now I still feel a stubborn twinge of pride if people think I’m not eating enough.

  54. I think we should have our own handshake and a snack food named after us:

    “New…Shapelings! A variety of sizes for every appetite! Comes in: Cheese, Garlic, Sour Cream and Onion, Peanut Butter and Chocolate-Dipped!”

    -E

  55. Poutine!

    Yes, that’s it! Thanks. I have never been to Canada (I mean, I have lived my whole life in Michigan and used to work in downtown Detroit where I could SEE Canada out the building window, so it’s absurd) but that is one of the foods I plan to try if/when I go. :)

  56. I mean, not that I couldn’t recreate them here…

    Jae, I know what you mean. I still remember being in middle-school home ec and a boy commenting that I must be a “light eater” (I was the fat kid so I was petrified of eating very much of the chocolate pie that we had made in class). I felt this sense of extreme triumph that being scared to eat in front of other people had finally paid off. Yuck.

  57. nuckingfutz, I wonder about that. Over here in the UK, if you’re working, the ’sandwich and something’ mid-day, snacks in between, and a larger dinner in the evening is more or less normal. (Well, it is for guys…I have seen many women pretend to subsist on the Single Banana Lunch, the Yogurt Lunch and heaven help us, the Cigarette Lunch. Eek.) Don’t know about the rest of Europe.

    However…I know that to my parents’ generation and class, it was seen as more ‘normal’ to eat a larger meal midday and then have ‘tea’ at 4 or 5 o’clock, which might involve bread and butter, salad, cheese, cake, that kind of thing. I know the idea of waiting till the evening for your main meal always fazed my mother. My dad took a packed lunch to work, but I don’t think she liked the idea of cooking in the evening for either of us.

    Emerald, I was referring to Europe as a whole, not just here in the UK. However, you have a very valid point.

    But it’s like I said in the other post, it’s not so much that Brits even eat MORE now than their parents do, it’s just that they’ve pretty much re-arranged their eating. It used to be that “dinner” (which is LUNCH for Americans) was the biggest meal of the day (and [you're gonna laugh, but...] it took me a while to wrap my head around that one). But now it’s tea/supper/what-i-call-dinner.

    I also wanted to say, though, that as a housewife myself, I have pretty much the same attitude as your mother – just the other way around. I refuse to cook during the day, even on the weekends, if I’m going to be cooking in the evenings (unless it’s something that takes the majority of the day to simmer, like homemade soup or chili or something along those lines). So IF I have lunch during the day (which I don’t, a lot of the time), it’s a sandwich. And for my kids, when they’re home on the weekends, they get a sandwich, crisps, fruit, and sometimes a couple of (cookies) biscuits. I switch around what kind of sandwich fixin’s I buy each week, so it’s not always the same thing. I might buy something like beans & sausages or something along those lines for the kids to have, but I don’t consider microwaving the same as “cooking,” so to me that doesn’t count. I’m just too busy to be cooking all damned day. I’d never get anything else done otherwise.

    And sometimes, when I really don’t feel like cooking or the family specifically requests it, we’ll still have sandwiches for tea/supper/what-i-call-dinner. Just tonight, we had BLTs for dinner. I even let the kids have cereal for dinner occasionally. Hell, it ain’t gonna kill ‘em to have something unorthodox every once in a while. If I was letting them eat sandwiches and/or cereal for dinner every day, then yeah, I’d need a kick in the head. But every once in a while ain’t gonna hurt, and hey! – I get a bit of a break in the bargain too. ;)

  58. Sorry NF, didn’t realize you were in the UK as well!

    Understand what you’re saying…it’s just what works for you at the time. On vacation is different for us too – as big a breakfast as possible, then that’ll last us most of the day with perhaps a quick pitstop for coffee and a cakie thing, then dinner in the evening. (And with the amount of walking we usually do on vacation, it has to be a very big breakfast.) But while we always eat breakfast at home, it’s rarely cooked – I’m just not going to do it at that hour of the morning!

  59. “But it’s like I said in the other post, it’s not so much that Brits even eat MORE now than their parents do, it’s just that they’ve pretty much re-arranged their eating. It used to be that “dinner” (which is LUNCH for Americans) was the biggest meal of the day (and [you’re gonna laugh, but…] it took me a while to wrap my head around that one). But now it’s tea/supper/what-i-call-dinner.”

    Actually if your family was raised in town, they had breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they usually carried their lunch to work in a box. If they were raised on a farm, they had breakfast, dinner and supper, and dinner was the big meal of the day. Now, very few people farm so they have dinner at night.

  60. Is there another article in all this stuff that’s been conflated about women and food and money that Professor Campos hasn’t already written?

    At one of these food breaks I was making a big delicious salad when the insufferable newbie at the office (very green, his first job out of college) commented “you seem to eat a lot of salads… have you ever thought of trying some complex carbs?”

    Lexy, you can smile sweetly at that bloviating bonehead next time and tell him that, actually, vegetables ARE complex carbs.

    (What is it about freshly-college-graduated men that makes them think not only do they know everything in the world, but the rest of us are just desperately dying to hear their commentary on it?)

    “I have a friend who at 5′3″ weighs maybe 96 lbs. She was just the other day bitching that she weighs 8 lbs more than she did when she was pregnant (10-11 years ago). The horror!”

    Alyce, I think, if were me — and I know it’s not — I might pull your friend up short when she gets on one of those rants and ask her “WHY does that bother you?”
    A lot of times we just suck up these assumptions about “what we’re supposed to weigh” without examining who or what fed (*heh*) us those assumptions in the first place.

    (But I’ve been described as confrontational like that. A sin, apparently. Sigh.)

    “just a quick thought, the original definition of gluttony also included eating too little when you had enough. People get so moral about ‘eating too much’ that they forget that it was also considered immoral to starve yourself when you could be keeping yourself healthy with ENOUGH FOOD.”

    apricotmuffins, I’ve GOT to hear more about this.

    I think the snack “Shapelings” in multiple flavors would sell like gangbusters.

  61. Woolf may’ve meant something a bit different by ‘sandwich’ than we do now. At least … to my grandmother, a typical work-day sandwich was made with just a bit of meat paste — leftover meat, run through the grinder with something to keep it moist, drippings, butter, or some pickles. Or, if there was no meat, then cooked beans or other vegetables, mushed up. Or egg salad. And her idea of a decent lunch was two to four of these sandwiches, a couple of hard cooked eggs, two pieces of fruit and/or a dish of mixed salad with tomatoes, a cupcake or two-three cookies, and a thermos of cambric tea. Anything less, as far as she was concerned, was a ‘snack,’ and not enough food for a full meal for someone who was working, or a growing girl in school.

    What I think of as a proper sandwich, my grandmother referred to as ‘Dagwoods,’ for the wildly creative towering sandwiches made by Dagwood in the ‘Blondie’ comic strips.

  62. More European habits: Actually, in most of Scandinavia it’s breakfast (dark bread, cheese or fish/ meat-based spreads), lunch (varies, sandwich or something light), early dinner (4-6 pm) and usually bread and spreads around 8-9 pm. So lots of grains and dairy there…

    When I moved to the States to go to grad school one of the first things I noticed was how no women I was with would FINISH their lunch. They ordered salads and ate half. I’m very small, but always eat more than colleagues who are of a larger build and I think they must be hungry so much of the time. I remember being amazed that they all had (diet) coke and almost no food–why not have water and a good meal if you’re worried about your health? I feel like (some) women here are afraid of eating in public sometimes.

  63. I feel like (some) women here are afraid of eating in public sometimes.

    Oh hells yeah. And why are we so afraid? Because of all the idiotic comments that people make on what women eat, like the ones described in this thread. It makes me really angry.

    I’ve noticed that at grad school functions where pizza is served, the women in my classes always grab one slice of pizza, and the men always grab two or three and often go up for seconds. There’s no shame for them, no fear.

  64. I doubt any of them are going to be lying on their deathbed going “Thank goodness I passed up that bagel in November 2007.” — spacedcowgirl
    Ha!
    I remember some pretty darn good meals and individual victuals, but I don’t remember much about what I didn’t eat.
    I do remember in junior high feeling very, very hungry and lightheaded after eating only a yogurt for lunch (I would make up for it after school when the hunger/privacy combo overtook me). I hated that I couldn’t make it the whole day between breakfast and dinner without more to eat. (sad)
    I now work in public health with people who are very conscious about what they put in their mouths, and I’m always very self-conscious about what and how much I’m eating. These people also know I have type 2 diabetes. I have to make a conscious effort to eat what I truly want, in the amount that I want, in front of them. I try to set a good example by really, truly eating, not just pretending to eat like I did in Jr. High and “making up for it later.”
    Oh, and I really try not to comment at all on what others are eating — even what I think are positive comments. The people I work with do tend to say when we think something looks particularly appetizing. But there are the “sharks” among us who will say, “wow, you’re really treating yourself today, aren’t you?”
    I don’t believe in heaven, but if there is a heaven, there would be all of the very best things in the world to eat and nothing but pleasure in eating them.

    On another note, I’ve had a few female friends who are petite and who have a “macho” attitude toward eating and finishing food. They are almost “male” in their desire and ability to finish a large meal in public, as if they take it as a challenge and opportunity to prove themselves. I have always been in awe when I witness this, and a bit jealous, and if I’m eating with people I don’t know, I almost always undereat (and take the leftovers home to eat later if I like).

    Lately, I think I define freedom around food as the ability to eat as much or as little as I like, not determined in particular by the situation as much as my internal hunger.

    I have to go, my little one is dragging a giant stuffed-animal horse across the floor and saying “don’t cwy, okay, I’m gonna help you.” and while it’s not the time appearing on the time stamp above in this time zone, it’s definitely past bedtime.

  65. Criseyde, it’s because we’re all caffeine junkies. Or addicted to aspartame. XD

    I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how I enjoy meals depending on the group I’m with. In college, I mostly hung out with girls who were thinner than I was and almost universally trying to lose weight. I always felt guilty and monstrously fat.

    Now, though, I spend most of my food outings with three girls of sizes from “chubby” to “fat”. And they all love food. We are currently on a mission to try all the diners in our area, and when I order a bacon cheeseburger they only ask me if it was cooked properly. Going out with people who enjoy food, who enjoy eating and socializing, is amazing.

    (Side note: the Skylark Diner in Edison, NJ has a divine chocolate milkshake.)

  66. Nornie, I must be right beside you (Fords, NJ, immediately off Rte. 1)! The Skylark seemed a bit spendy for a diner to me.

  67. Megan, that’s really cool! And yeah, the Skylark was expensive, but I thought it was worth it – the food was great, as was the service and atmosphere. Plus it’s hard to find a diner with a full bar. Hee.

  68. In my family, food = love. My grandmother survived the Great Depression, so she always fed everyone in response to that. If you weren’t stuffed to bursting, you had room for more. The first thing that was asked when you walked in the door was, “Can I fix you anything?” (On a sad note, when my mother passed away this summer, I felt bereft when I walked through the door and wasn’t greeted with cookies or cheese or cake.)

    Now, there was a double standard. I did get told at Thanksgiving one year, “You’re as big as a horse. (pause) Do you want another piece of pie?” For some reason in my house, exercise (or lack of it) was considered the reason for my fatness, not the food I ate.

  69. “just a quick thought, the original definition of gluttony also included eating too little when you had enough.”

    apricotmuffins – ever read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis? There’s this passage where the older devil Wormwood, advising his nephew Screwtape on tempting his human ‘client’, talks about how the client’s mother has a habit of sending food back in restaurants, complaining that it’s much too much for her and can she have a really really tiny portion, properly done…putting the waitress through a whole load of inconvenience on her behalf. That, says Uncle Wormwood, is simply another form of gluttony, all the more delightful because the sinner doesn’t see it as such. It’s the only place I’ve come across that viewpoint. (Then again, Lewis liked his food and probably wouldn’t have been keen on self-deprivation as a virtue – and if it’s not changed since I last went there a few years ago, his favorite pub, the Eagle and Child in Oxford, is an excellent place to have lunch.)

  70. “I did get told at Thanksgiving one year, “You’re as big as a horse. (pause) Do you want another piece of pie?”

    Oh, I guess we are related. I’ve been waiting years for someone’s head (other than mine) to explode from the cognitive dissonance.

    “For some reason in my house, exercise (or lack of it) was considered the reason for my fatness, not the food I ate.”

    Thank you so much for sorting that out. For years I could not parse the mystery.

    (‘Course, I spent years running track and more in modern dance, after mom got over her paralyzing fears that I would be run over on the way to the mailbox by an out-of-control vehicle and therefore should not go out to play with the the other kids, but … whatevs.)

  71. Well Nomie, if you ever need an exta person to enjoy diner food with, let me know. I’m a big fan of mashed potatoes. and i don’t know anyone around here yet… i’m from pittsburgh

  72. About the “fake lady lunches” and mother-daughter banquets, I remember being so excited for my elementary school’s mother-daughter function. My mom is awesome, and I thought it’d be really fun. Instead, we had to sit quietly at big round tables in the gym, eating fruit salad and teeny cucumber sandwiches and watching random people walk down a “runway” in the middle of the room. Suffice it to say I was extremely disappointed. Not fun at all.

    Then my mom and I volunteered at the father-son event.

    Where they got to eat hot dogs and play games outside. Boo.

  73. Catrina, ugh, yes. That seems to be how those things always go.

    Since I guess I am still bitter today, I will add that I hate it when I have to go over to my mother-in-law’s for a bridal shower or her church’s stupid Mother’s Day mother-daughter banquet (don’t get me wrong, I am OK with spending time with her and this is a nice opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day, it is just never actually fun), and while we are doing that my husband and his dad do something they actually enjoy like hang around at home watching football and eating pizza, or play a round of golf. I don’t begrudge them the time together but I hate the idea that nibbling dainty food and doing “lady” things is supposed to be just as much fun for me as their activity is for them. Not that men don’t get stereotypical gender-based
    “forced fun” too, but at least there is usually hearty food at theirs. :)

Comments are closed.