Fat, Food, Health at Every Size, Self-Image

Be Comfortable in Your Genes

I’ve been remiss in not mentioning National Eating Disorders Awareness Week yet (and in not posting much this week at all). But hey, it’s only hump day — still plenty of week left.

The theme this year, which I absolutely love, is “Be Comfortable in Your Genes.

Brilliant. And not just because they’ve tied it into a 20% discount at True Jeans, an online retailer that asks about your measurements, style preferences, and body type, then tells you which brands of jeans will fit you best and sells them to you. (Of course, they recommend Svoboda jeans for me, which are out of my price range, not to mention too long, but the concept is great.)

Wait, I’m sorry, were we talking about something besides clothes?

Oh, right, eating disorders. They’re way less fun to talk about. But we bloody well need to be talking about them, because the line between disordered eating and what’s promoted as “healthy” eating grows ever slimmer (pun intended). The Department of Health and Human Services’s “Small Step” campaign, for instance, is ostensibly about helping people make little, sustainable lifestyle changes to improve their health. Awesome! Finally, the government promotes Health at Every Size! Except, wait. Those “small, sustainable” steps include things like, “Don’t eat a portion bigger than your fist” and “Eat your meals at home on a smaller plate” to fool yourself into thinking you’ve eaten more, and my personal favorite, “When dining out, order a light appetizer instead of an entree.”

This is what the government is telling us to do to be “healthier.” Eat a “light appetizer” instead of an entree — because of course ONLY GRODY FATTIES EAT FULL MEALS!! And let’s not think about the fact that only eating portions smaller than my fist would mean I couldn’t eat an entire apple, orange, pear, bell pepper, tomato, or cut-up carrot in one sitting. My tiny fist is equal to about 1 tangerine, 3 brussels sprouts, or 2 good-sized broccoli florets. If I never ate anything bigger than my fist, I would be FUCKING STARVING ALL THE TIME — but hey, since I’m fat, that’s not a problem. That’s the point.

I mean, many among us will recognize those “small steps” as hoary old diet tips, and some will even recognize them as the sort of helpful advice that circulates on pro-ana sites. But when it comes from the government, it is totally not about weight loss at any cost, even if it means disordered eating! It’s about OUR HEALTH.


Eating until you’re satisfied is bad for your health. Ordering an actual meal is bad for your health. Downing a WHOLE APPLE in one sitting is bad for your health. As long as you remember those things, you will be healthy, and once you get healthy enough, you will be able to wear “a bikini that challenges some obscenity laws.

This is how it works.

And this is why we need a National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Among about a billion other reasons.

Some other recommended reading this week…

Harriet Brown: “Anorexia: a portrait” (trigger warning)

Paul Campos: The weight of a cruel culture

Rachel: An eating disorder by any other name

The Rotund: Intuitive Eating Primer

Take care of yourselves, Shapelings. Cheers to those currently recovering from eating disorders — and love to those still fighting them.

91 thoughts on “Be Comfortable in Your Genes”

  1. i would say that part of what perpetuated my eating disorder during oases of relative sanity was

    1) (foremost) the belief that i was still just too, too much and needed to lose weight and

    2) (keeping the bed warm) the fact that the sources i sought out when trying to be “healthy” were telling me to do things that, as you say here, are the same exact handy tips that are swapped among pro-ED people.

    so yes, totally agree with every word you say here. oh, and one other thing:

    DAMN YOU!!! my entire next paycheck is going toward jeans when i could be saving for my future children’s future college education!! my husband and i just signed up for a financial planner and now it’s all going down the drain thanks to YOU kate harding.

    all right, back to work for me.

  2. I am glad you guys are here to point out the ridiculousness of “healthy advice”. I often don’t even think about what it means when I hear “don’t eat anything bigger than __________” because I think I somehow think of the item being portioned as lard or something. I never really think, well, yeah, a fucking apple is bigger than that.

    Also, True Jeans made me cry. Really. Because I put in my measurements, and there were no jeans for me. None. :(

  3. Kristin, if you tell me about your size, shape, and budget, I might be able to help. True only carries certain brands, and there are a whole lot out there that aren’t represented on the site. (Which is why I end up with them telling me to buy 32-inch inseam Svobodas, when I can get decent fitting jeans that aren’t way too long for under $50 at several places.) I’m an obsessive online shopper, so I might very well know of someplace to get good jeans that you haven’t thought of.

  4. Oh, the tip about using a smaller plate really gets my goat. The only person I know who does that is an recovering anorexic friend and I suspect she does it to fool herself into believing she eating a full-sized meal for completely different reasons.

  5. I can get sexy jeans that are the right length for thirty dollars or less myself. The ones they recommended were around 150.
    I was surprised about the size recommendation being the same size as what I’ve been buying.

  6. I eat on small plates all the time. I do this because frequently I have lunch at my desk and a small plate fits on it better. I’ve done so for years. Eating on small plates does not make you thin if Mother Nature has not intended it. Neither does anything else. Including ordering an appetizer instead of a meal, which I do all the goddamn time because sometimes the appetizers look better to me and/or are a better value. (My favorite thing to eat out is still sushi, take that all you haters!)

    But don’t they mean that instead of the total meal not being bigger than your fist, instead don’t they mean that the total serving of each individual food in the meal be that size? It’s still a stupid-ass rule, but it’s slightly less toxic when thought of that way. And I do mean slightly. They cannot stop me from eating a Sweet Sue peach the size of a softball come next August, and if they try they may wind up wearing the pit in an interesting place.

  7. Instead of my fist, I never eat anything smaller than Shaquille O’Neal’s fist. Thus, the two pound smoked ribeye I had the other night.

  8. Kate, I am pretty much 47 inches waist through hips through seat. However, this measurement would put me in a size 7 right fit jean, and the 4s practically fall off of me. So I don’t know what’s up with that. I would love the right fit yellows, except they are not cut evenly all around (the back of the waistband is WAY higher than the front) thus a belt is somewhat useless since I have no butt or hips to accomodate the extra material. Angels size 17 juniors jeans would be perfect, except they are cut slightly too low, thus falling down below my belly occassionally. I would be indebted to you for, I dunno, FOREVER, if you could recommend something!

  9. Hah hah oops–that should be “larger than Shaq’s fist” for the joke to work although “smaller” is more accurate.

  10. Laura, not to say I am happy, exactly, but I am glad I wasn’t the only one! I also tried another site (I can’t remember what it was) and it said “Congratulations, your patience has been rewarded! We found 0 jeans for you”!

  11. The university where I work is doing a “Skinny Jeans” drive for Eating Disorder Awareness Week. AKA, get rid of clothes that don’t fit, skinny jeans are not an appropriate goal, and give some clothes to charity. I’m pleased.

    I also sent a link to Shapely Prose to the Body Image Awareness Committee (or whatever they’re called… I was asked to join, but I just can’t do any more committees right now). I love working in higher ed student affairs.

  12. Dear Kate – I am still actively struggling with an eating disorder and I thank you for your support. Your words mean a lot to me, help me to support others and help me to take care of myself.

    Keep fighting Shapelings. Keep fighting.

  13. Kate — thank you for pointing out that the ad campaign is really just dieting advice, NOT health advice. I do many of those things already, and yet, I am fat. It is not a lifestyle choice.

  14. Laura, not to say I am happy, exactly, but I am glad I wasn’t the only one! I also tried another site (I can’t remember what it was) and it said “Congratulations, your patience has been rewarded! We found 0 jeans for you”!

    Zafu.com? I got that from them when I tried using their dress pants search feature. I was so excited to see it because I have never in my life been able to find a pair of dress pants that fits doesn’t look weird in the crotch and butt area, and I thought that might help. But no, apparently my body shape is just too freakish.

  15. I have not seen any of the food related ads I have only seen the activity related ads.

    Do they make a distinction between a portion and a meal? Because eating a portion of meat much larger your fist is not necessarily healthy (I know the typical chain restaurant size makes me feel a little gross afterwards which is why I avoid eating them now. Go intuitive eating!). Also an appetizer in many American chain restaurants is the size of a meal including the salads. The plate advice is dumb because they should be focusing on slowing down, enjoying your food and evaluating overall satisfaction instead of silly rules about plates.

    Of course that is a lot more difficult to fit in a 30 second commercial.

  16. I really appreciate this post, because for whatever reason I’ve seen an absolute rash of situations on food blogs I frequent (trolling for recipes) where someone says that a serving of some entree-type food has 600 calories – it’s always 600 calories for some reason – and the commentors absolutely freak out about how much that is and how this is why Americans are so fat and how they would just eat half and package the rest up to serve as lunch for the next three days and etc. etc. etc. And I just want to scream “Don’t you realize that even if this calorie counting shit WAS a worthy goal, three meals of 600 calories a day only equals 1800?” It’s completely insane to be freaking out about the equivalent of 1800 calories a day.

    In fact, I’m willing to bet that most of these people do eat 600 calorie meals; they just beat themselves up for it and are convinced they should be living on air instead.

  17. Hint for Kristin, and any other apple-shaped readers: in my experience, the best jeans are classic fit, at waist or just below waist. Low-rises will fall off, and relaxed fit will make you feel like you’re swimming in excess hip and butt room. Maybe also try some guys’ jeans, again avoiding relaxed fit.

  18. Yeah, I can’t afford even to try ON any of the jeans that the True Jeans site recommended for me. I think I’ll stick to my $15 GAP outlet finds. But it was interesting to find a website that actually offered options that LOOKED like me — ‘curvy’ hips, perky butt, full thighs and all.

    Luckily, my fists are comparatively big. I think I’m a whopping inch taller than Kate, and only the ginormous Granny Smith apples are larger than my fist.

    My college (well, my alma mater and my current place of employment) is doing the donate-your-skinny-jeans thing, too. I don’t have any skinny jeans or I would have donated them already.

  19. I can think of at least two better things to do with my fists rather than comparing my portion size to them. :P

  20. “Don’t you realize that even if this calorie counting shit WAS a worthy goal, three meals of 600 calories a day only equals 1800?”

    That’s because we’ve been brainwashed by the diet industry into thinking an acceptable meal is 300 calories or less. All my recipe books (not diet books, just regular cookbooks) have calorie counts at the bottom, and I used to cringe at making meals where the calorie count was more than 400 calories for a full meal because that seemed like so much, you know? 400 whole calories in one sitting! Until I realised that three 400 calorie meals a day was only 1200 calories, so even with snacks that’s still well under 2000 calories a day.

  21. I got the same thing with the jeans site, that they could not match my measurements to any style or size jeans, which is strange, since it turns out that I am a perfect Right Fit Yellow 5, in my favorite classic tapered ankle jeans & that I seldom have a lot of trouble finding jeans I like which fit me from several places.

    And I send positive thoughts & best wishes to all dealing with eating disorders, & I do wish that the Powers That Be would pull their heads out of their asses & stop insisting that we all need to live on a diet & stop giving suggestions which PROMOTE disordered eating.

  22. I like the Be Comfortable in your Genes slogan, it’s really cute.

    Also, to my surprise there are alot of people on Dr. Phil.com complaining that he started a show about eating disorders, off with a short primer that, “The fatz is still eeeviiillll” I think we’re making a difference! I have not seen one, “Well at least she’s not, TeH fAtZ!” post. As I had expected.

    It seems the word has been getting out about accepting yourself as you are. ;)

  23. Ugh, add me to the nothing founds *sigh* Probably because I was honest about the inseam I prefer….36″ inseam women’s pants aren’t exactly common. But 34″ still don’t come down to the floor, and I like them that long! Plus I suspect it thinks I’m lying about something, no one/thing believes I weigh what I do (315ish) and still wear a size 20. Ummm…let’s see…tall, broad shoulders, major rackage….wonder how it happens?

    And BLECH on the “health” advice. Same stupid games, as always.

  24. Another thing I don’t think they realize is that there’s such a thing as “inverse power of suggestion,” otherwise known as “doing the noun.” I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not and it could have been, but not long after reading this I got ravenously hungry and went to Burgerville for a GIANT lunch — 3-piece fish and chips, iced tea, and a chocolate hazelnut shake. (I had a fairly small breakfast and my lunch was pretty late, FWIW.) The shake alone was probably three fists. Would I have been so hungry if they hadn’t told me I wasn’t entitled to it? Possibly not.

    After this it wouldn’t surprise me if my dinner was about 300 calories, because I am seriously stuffed. But there’s a difference between eating a 300-calorie meal because you ate a huge meal before that and that’s all you want, and forcing yourself to eat little bunny mouthfuls because that’s what ladies are supposed to do. Like the difference between Pluto and the sun.

  25. OMG Meowser, thanks… now I’ll be stopping at BV on my way home…

    I’m all about the pepperjack chipotle cheeseburger right now though… with the yukon gold fries. And for reals on the chocolate hazlenut shake.

  26. Ugh, no love for True Jeans. They gave me two mom-jean styles, after I said I liked low rise. I’m not even sure they HAVE low-rise plus items, and I certainly can’t wear high-rise.

  27. Yukon golds, yummm. (These are crisscut fries made with Yukon Gold yellow potatoes, for you non-PDX-ers. And HUGE. One fry is practically fist-sized!)

  28. Ugh, 300 calories? That’s a nice glass of orange juice. Or a cookie. Not a meal.

    It depends on what you eat. I eat the same thing every day for lunch: two Quorn faux chicken breasts and a individual steamer pack of peas or brussel sprouts. Sometimes I throw in a salad, all of which combines to make a 300-calorie or less meal.

    The difference between my 300-calorie meal and the 300-calorie meal promoted by these so-called health experts is that for me, the calorie count is entirely irrelevant to what I eat. And it is this – our mental and emotional relationship to food – that is really the key here, not whether or not a 300-calorie meal is a meal or not.

  29. Be comfortable in your genes…

    As long as they’re not bigger than a 28W.

    Can’t get a recommendation if you wear a size bigger than that.

  30. The difference between my 300-calorie meal and the 300-calorie meal promoted by these so-called health experts is that for me, the calorie count is entirely irrelevant to what I eat. And it is this – our mental and emotional relationship to food – that is really the key here, not whether or not a 300-calorie meal is a meal or not.

    Well, but there’s another important difference there, Rachel. Presumably, you don’t think EVERY meal must be under 300 calories, and you eat bigger breakfasts and dinners. Because otherwise, you’re eating 900 calories a day, which is a big fucking problem.

  31. I’ve come to realize that we live in a profoundly narcissistic society, so it really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when the “health advice” the government gives resembles the counsel of a narcissistic parent to a confused and naive teenage daughter.

  32. I am reading the comments, and trying to think about how many calories my lunch was today. I can’t figure it out, and what’s better is I don’t even know how many points brie, blueberries, and crackers would be! Which is HUGE for me. Points have left my brain! I love FA!!!

  33. Kate, fwiw, the Svoboda jeans look similar in cut and style to the Ann Taylor Lindsey Modern Fit jeans, which are too expensive for me when they’re not on sale, but when they are I buy them. I do have to have them hemmed, but otherwise they really fit me well. Might be worth a try.

  34. Certainly can’t argue with your main point, but in my experience, an American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals. That particular tip on appetisers is what I normally do when travelling in the US, and advise other travellers to do.

    (No, I’m not a troll. I’m officially BMI-obese and about 95% down with the message here.)

  35. It is definitely important to talk about this. I wrote about this very topic in my own journal today. Why the fuck, in our culture, is it so easy for us to routinely say horrible things about ourselves (flippantly, even!), and yet soooo hard to have an open dialogue about, you know…what happens when that irrational self-hatred is manifested in an eating disorder?! Heaven forbid!

  36. American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.

    In terms of surface area, or in terms of calories? I’m having a hard time accepting that Australians have half the calorie intake of Americans on average, and that Europeans on average only have one-third the calorie intake we do.

  37. Cath- I have been in the U.S. all my life, but I can see a difference in portion sizes depending on the quality of restaurant I go to. I rarely eat at chains, but it seems that they try to make up for their lack of taste and creativity by just giving you more. Most local places (and especially those that are pricier) have much smaller portions, usually just about a perfectly filling meal.

    So if you are basing a “full American meal” on what you find at a chain or anywhere in Las Vegas, I would say it isn’t a representative sample.

  38. Have you guys seen the ads for the Small Step campaign? I see bus ads for them all the time (southern CA, Los Angeles area), and they show men’s naked bellies (I’ve only seen ones with men in them, not sure if they have them with women) with … I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re the little plastic part that lets the air out of an airbed? So, it’s like a naked belly with air shooting out of this plastic nozzle thing. I’m doing a TERRIBLE job of describing them, but they’re really offensive.

  39. On a somewhat related note, I think most women have a relationship with their clothes that’s every bit as fucked up as their relationship with food.

    What woman hasn’t worn something that wasn’t her style just because it’s what’s trendy? Or not worn something she loves just because she’s been told that it Doesn’t Flatter People Like Her? Or bought five things she may never actually wear just because they were on sale and they sorta kinda fit and flatter?

    I know I have, and that nagging voice in my head that says “Don’t wear that green sweater! Don’t you know that bright colors make fat girls look fatter? Wear this nice, slimming black one instead!” sounds an awful lot like the one that says “Don’t eat that cookie! Don’t you know haw many calories are in that? Eat this healthy, satisfying apple instead!”

  40. in my experience, an American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.

    That hasn’t been my experience. What I’ve found while travelling is that in Europe, the meal is treated more as an experience, where you order an appetizer, then one or two courses, and then dessert. Whereas in Canada or the US, you just have one course, plus maybe (but often not) sharing an appetizer or dessert with the rest of your party. So while the individual portions are a lot bigger, you end up eating a similar amount of food.

    I think healthier advice as far as restaurant meals would be: “Don’t feel like you have to eat the whole thing just because you ordered it. Eat until you feel full and satisfied, and then ask for the rest to be wrapped up so you can take it home with you.” I think it’s important to realise that it is okay to eat a whole restaurant meal if that’s what makes you feel full and satisfied. But it’s also important to realise that it’s okay not to eat the whole thing if that would make you feel uncomfortably full.

  41. OK, I found the ad–go to the Small Step site, then “Get the Facts,” then “Campaign PSAs” at the bottom right of the page. It’s under “Outdoor” and is called, creatively, “Gut.” Ugh.

  42. Also, I more often feel uncomfortably full after eating at an expensive European style restaurant with small portion sizes than after eating at a chain with large portions, because the European style food is often very rich and filling, and so I overestimate the amount I can comfortably eat.

  43. I’ve found that for better health, physical and mental, the only rule is: there are no rules. The only guideline is “eat when hungry, stop when full and before uncomfortably so.” Even that can be broken, though, with good reason or even now and then just to prove that it’s only a guideline because it is a generally good idea for well-being and general enjoyment of life.

    Before I discovered intuitive eating and that “health” tips and articles are mostly bullshit, I bought small plates. While I don’t like having my three hard boiled eggs on swimming on a giant plate, I do find that when it comes to things like dinner, there’s one surefire result of the small plate decision. There is ALWAYS a second helping. Because no matter how full the bowl was, it’s not enough to make the hunger go away.

  44. @Loveandlight:
    “resembles the counsel of a narcissistic parent to a confused and naive teenage daughter.” Exactly!!

    Re Calories and Meal Sizes, I’ve started recently to believe that being obese is actually a form of malnutrition. I ate so lightly for so many years, and refused to eat meat, fat, dairy, etc. (I ate a lot of meals that were like the Quorn meal described above, only mostly not processed, so substitute black beans for the Quorn.)

    I was actually fat and starving. Look at the calorie counts these people eat:

    The one skinny little lady is eating 3-4 thousand calories a day, and it’s not that much food, but it’s dense.

    (BTW, I think I’m in love with this WAP organization.)

  45. @Stacy:

    Eek, that website creeps me out a little, though. I love the idea of eating lots of real food, but so many rules! It’s one thing to challenge conventional dietary advice, but another to supplant it all with a new set of strict good food-bad food ideas.

  46. @Entangled

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean. That’s why I didn’t really give it much credence when I would idly check it out over the last six months or so.

    It does seem like a lot of rules, and it’s totally jammed with information. But the more I looked at it, the more I slowly realized it’s not actually “rules” as much as it is myth-busting and science about traditional eating.

    The white flour/ refined sugar thing is really the only thing that could be considered a rule, and they base their rejection of it on some significant research and on history, which most nutritional advice just throws out the window.

    So I was entirely skeptical of it at first, the gradually less so, until finally, when reading (the suddenly ironically entitled) “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes, it stopped seeming so crazy.

    And then I found an interview with Taubes where he explained why he didn’t cover this organization in the book, but now thinks they are totally onto something. Believe me, I’m a journalist and a skeptic. I know how insane that website seems.

  47. “American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.”

    Hmmm, this sounds like some fat fearing quote from News.com.au or something.

    This has never been the case as far as I can see. Big meals and small meals are available everywhere and are eaten by big and small people. I’ve seen them.

    It is also a hidden statement about Americans being fat, gluttonous over consumers and the rest of the world being more ‘moral’ and eating like the birds.

    I don’t like it.

  48. You know, I’m going to have to write to True Jeans. They shouldn’t be sponsoring Eating Disorders Awareness Week if they can’t offer a decent range of sizes. “Be comfortable in your genes and your jeans — unless you’re too fat for us to find any jeans for you!”

  49. European who spent some time in the US and Canada here :) I think the whole myth about fat Americans and their enormous serving sizes are just another version of the obesity epidemic scare – held up as a frightening example of where we might be in ten years. Most of it is bullshit.

    On the other hand, there are some real differences between Europe and America when it comes to food. I thought we were all western and it would be more or less the same, but it’s really not. I can see how Europeans coming over to the US see food! everywhere! in enormous, bright packages! and think OMG, these people are really going to eat the world. But I don’t imagine the total amount of calories eaten is actually that different.

  50. Midsize lurker- Men’s jeans! I never thought of that. I wonder if they have a “slim fit” or something with a skinny thigh. Boot cuts might work! What a great idea. I will probably feel pretty silly going into the dressing room, though…

  51. I think healthier advice as far as restaurant meals would be: “Don’t feel like you have to eat the whole thing just because you ordered it. Eat until you feel full and satisfied

    Bingo. Order what you want and eat until you are full. Yes, I have absolutely been to places where an appetizer is plenty for me for dinner — and to some places where I can’t even finish an appetizer. But if the appetizer is not what sounds good to me? Then I order whatever I want to eat, and eat as much of it as I feel like. Because I am A GROWN-UP.

    And very good points above about A) the number of courses in a meal, and B) the richness of the food. I LOVE eating at tapas restaurants or places where they give you a single scallop on a lettuce leaf, followed by a cup of soup, followed by a small entree, followed by a taste of dessert. I like to try lots of different things, and I do like that teeny portions encourage me to savor each bite of what I’m trying. It is indeed more of an experience. But I never leave those places hungry, because there is still plenty of fucking food — it just doesn’t come all on one plate.

  52. a.) TrueJeans? NO. Didn’t even find more than *ONE!!!!* pair of decent 16s. BOO-URNS.

    b.) Zafu.com, on the other hand–ding ding ding! I think I shall drop by Torrid soon and try on those sweet lookin’ Paris Blues.

    c.) Kate, the whole bikini discussion today got me thinking of possibly bikini-ing this year–which is definitely a first. I’ve been checking out some rather blah sites, but your beloved Land’s End has some hot hot stuff. :)

    d.) The Euro-American food discussion is spot on: Eating “non-American” styles requires several different dishes.

    My $.04!

  53. PS- Is it just me, or is this the first year that mastectomy swimsuits seem to be very available to women who need them? That makes me so happy.

  54. “American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.”

    i would also say this is an exaggeration, but not a total lie. i live outside the U.S. (oops, outed myself…) and the portions you get for a lot of things are, in my adoptive country at least, much smaller. and from my travel experience i would say it’s the same in the rest of the EU.

    and Cath, i agree with what you said about the dining experience being different when you go out for a meal, but the things people eat on everyday occasions are smaller, too. (in size, maybe not calories.)

    for example, sandwiches, plain old ones that you get on the run (there’s another myth, that europeans don’t wolf down meals when they’re in a hurry and therefore aren’t fatz) are usually 2 or 3 thin slices of meat (or cheese for the veggie among us) vs. a thick stack of it. but (and this is only a hypothesis), the bread is often thick bakery-style stuff and so might make up for fewer calories from meat, therefore resulting in no calorie difference between euro and U.S. sandwiches. also, produce is often bigger in the U.S. when i went home last, one of the culture shocks was the gigundo bananas : ) and potatoes. and, you know, getting to speak my mother tongue. (that was nice.)

    restaurants, same deal. but with that, i don’t know what the average is because, like in the U.S., you have places that serve big portions and places that serve smaller ones. totally depends on where you go, but absolutely, the big-portion places here don’t come close to the places in the U.S. that are known for large portions. “3x larger” is scare-mongering, but i think if you look at comparably priced places with comparable quality, U.S. vs. EU, individual dishes in the U.S. are often larger.

    i’m afraid i’ve made enemies by saying this, but really, this is the case where i live and it’s noticeable enough that, well, i noticed it. i would like to point out, however, that my husband and i are both the same size we were when we left the U.S. neither of us are fat, but if you listen to the people who talk about what gluttons americans are, you would get the impression that everyone turns into a rail if they move here, regardless of weight, because americans are such pigs! and europeans are all skinny! please. your appetite doesn’t suddenly change because your address does.

  55. One of the things I love so much about travelling to the US and eating out is the prevalent use of the ‘doggy bag’.

    I always feel guilty if I order a meal and can’t finish it (probably due to my upbringing) so I love being able to eat what I want, and having the choice to take the rest home for later. Sometimes I genuinely don’t want any more, and that’s fine too, but it is nice to open the fridge the next day and realise I can have some more delicious ribs, or burger.

    I read Harriet’s piece and couldn’t relate to it at all. It never ceases to amaze me how differently everyone experiences anorexia. We all have some things in common but the experience itself is very personal and individual.

    Hunger wasn’t an issue for me. I stopped feeling hungry very early on. If I’d been standing in that bakery, I wouldn’t have been hungry, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat; I would have felt physically sick and assaulted by the calories and food all around me. I would have felt under attack.

  56. Gemma, if you didn’t say it first (doggy-bag) I was gonna. The whole point of having too much food at the restaurant is so you can bring half of it home lol. I never leave my favorite restaurant without at least 3 containers of food – for eating later or the next day. I probably leave even more room for leftovers than I would if I were just eating at home.

    Harriet probably wouldn’t mind hearing from all sorts of people who experienced things very differently – the way you did, for example. I’d suggest writing her and describing that. She seems to be a very kind-hearted woman who would welcome other perspectives.

  57. I’m another American living outside of the country, and I was told by multiple people that I would probably lose a ton of weight when I moved, because the Asian lifestyle is sooooo much healthier. Yeah, you know what? I’ve lost maybe five pounds and one dress size, and I’m 99.9% sure that’s because I was sedentary before and I’m pretty active now. And you know what? I tend to eat less than a lot of my friends over here, and some of them are half my size. But yet it’s lifestyle, not genetics. Please.

  58. American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.
    Sadly, I’ve never traveled to the US, and I’d love to hear more opinions from people who travel between continents.

    But I LOVE American food, and I love cooking, which means I’ve read, cooked and baked hundreds of american recipes over the years. I’ve noticed that recipes are generally richer, fattier and sweeter than in our cookbooks. Something MSNBC calls a “low-fat, healthy homemade dinner with two servings of vegetables” would be considered convenience junk food that me and most of my peers would feel guilty eating! But then, the European fear of convenience food is as rampant and irrational as the fear of fat or carbs.

    Another thing, when you make a sweet american dish, everyone knows that you’ve GOT to reduce the amount of sugar at least by half, and most people are still going to complain that it’s too sweet. I imagine an American traveling Europe must be thinking “eww, this cake/chocolate/muffin/custard is so bitter!” all the time. :-)

    Well, in the end, I don’t know and don’t care who eats what on average, but what I want to say, even if we supposed for a moment there was solid evidence that the whole continent of America is stuffing their face with baby donuts all day, and they’re STILL more or less the same size as we are on average, (give or take a few pounds because almost everyone is Caucasian here and they tend to weigh a bit less on average)- isn’t that the most beautiful proof that what you eat doesn’t matter very much at all, in the long term, to your weight? Be comfortable in your genes! :-)

  59. @Stacy,

    See, the “no white flour” is one of the things that I hate. Maybe I come at it from off the deep end, because I love the taste of whole grains (I like white flours too, but mmm fibery goodness). I’ve found that I get pretty serious digestive discomfort if I don’t mix up my whole grains with white rice, white bread, white pasta, etc, 1/3 of the time. Bleaching the hull off a grain makes it less chock-full of vitamins, sure, but all foods are part of a well-balanced diet.

    I feel like the demonization of carbohydrates is just as bad as the demonization of fats that lead to replacing fat with HFCS was.

    Like I always say, everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you. After all, I’ve found a very bizarre mix of foods that make me feel good and a bizarre mix that makes me feel bad. Some follow the “rules of good nutrition,” others do not.

  60. It’s definitely true that the doggy bag thing isn’t very common in the UK. Although I have had to take home food from our local chinese restaurant because by the time we got to the main course we only had room for about a bite of each dish.

    The thing for me though is that I’d rather have a smaller cheaper portion of fresh hot food now and have something different tomorrow than have reheated or cold leftovers the next day. The main exception to this is pizza, I love cold pizza, but a lot of things just don’t reheat well or aren’t nice cold.

    Still, if the food’s good enough in the first place I won’t mind that I paid for all of it and only ate three quarters or half.

  61. anniemcphee, I went over to Harriet’s blog and commented. :) Thanks for the prompting.

    I think it’s so important to share our stories and experiences with EDs. I can’t relate to Harriet’s experience but that doesn’t make it any less valuable or important.

    The more we share and confide in each other, the more people we have a chance of reaching, and that’s really important to me because I felt so alone when I was sick. It really did feel like me against the world.

  62. The thing I remember about eating in London, for example, is that they put a metric fuck-tonne of cheese on a sandwich. So much so that I had to pull it apart and throw out 90% of it. It was really not my experience that their sandwiches had less ‘middle part’ than North American. And in Paris? Piles of ham in a crepe. Way more than I’d eat in a day, let alone one meal.

    I think it’s so strange that people have such widely divergent experiences in the same places.

    I, the chubby white chick, can’t even finish a small bowl of pho but the skinny Asian chick can not only finish the medium but also have an appetizer and a fruit shake. Just interesting how it all plays out.

  63. An American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.

    I agree that this is an obnoxious statement. I’m another person who travels a lot. I live in Toronto, but I lived in the Detroit area for over 30 years. In the last 2 years, I’ve visited in Paris, London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Chicago and Minneapolis. I should also mention that I’m a snob about chain restaurants. I like to sample the local food wherever I travel. The big chain restaurants are for people who are afraid to try something new. They give you a lot of very predictable food that’s designed to offend as few people as possible.

    Frankly, I haven’t seen a big difference in the amount of food you get in restaurants in Europe, the UK, the US and Canada. I’ve been to Asia as well, and let me tell you, Asians do not eat like birds. The American restaurants that have the huge portion sizes aren’t typical – and when we eat at them, we generally eat only one course and take the leftovers home. In Europe, the entrees might be smaller, but people get appetizers and desserts with their meals.

    A word to Europeans visiting the US – look for the local culture. The US is a huge, diverse country, and what passes for “American culture” abroad is sort of a simplified, generalized catch-all that developed in order to appeal to the diverse ethnicities and regional sub-cultures that make up the country. That’s why it’s so viral. But, it’s also flashy, shallow, and mediocre. You don’t have to come to the US to experience it, and if it’s all you look for when you go there, you’ll miss out on the interesting stuff. If you go to the US and only eat at the kind of restaurants with the huge portion sizes, then I can’t help but think that you’ve experienced the country in a very limited way. You’ve come to confirm your preconceptions, not to explore a new place. If you speak English, why settle for a tour package that isn’t going to take you anywhere interesting?

    Don’t spend all your time at manufactured tourist attractions and don’t stay in the suburbs. Check out the cities, go camping, and go to the historical towns. If you want a resort, consider an older resort area where there’s some history and local culture. Look at the entertainment listings in the local free tabloid and catch some live music or theater. It’s not all Disney World and shopping malls.

  64. I simply resent the government telling me what to eat, particularly when I make smarter choices that they do EVERY DAY. I also resent them clearly targeting fat people for this “health advice” when like, 1.3 million Americans are in poverty, which probably means they can’t afford to eat good food. How about some health advice that FEEDS people, rather than tells them NOT TO EAT?

    And this, from the SAME GOVERNMENT that allows Halliburton and Bechtel and McDonald’s and Starbucks to ruin the environment so even fewer people can get healthy food. “Don’t eat anything bigger than your fist. PS: by 2050 the world will explode. Kthxbai.”

  65. Well, but there’s another important difference there, Rachel. Presumably, you don’t think EVERY meal must be under 300 calories, and you eat bigger breakfasts and dinners. Because otherwise, you’re eating 900 calories a day, which is a big fucking problem.

    Oh, no. Of course not. This is lunch; dinner is always more substantial. I probably consume around 1,500 to 1,600 calories a day (yes, it’s sad that I am still painfully aware of my daily caloric intake). And vegetarian products naturally have lower calories – if I were eating real chicken breasts, the calorie count would be much higher.

    But my entire point is that calorie count should be irrelevant in considering meals. We need to learn to see food as food, and not apportioned units of calories.

  66. @Entangled — Yes, I hear what you’re saying. One thing I’ve found is that whole grains work better for me if they’re sprouted, like the Ezekial brand. But most white flour puffs me up like a balloon. So you’re right, everyone is different!

    A last point, I may have been poor at explaining the flour thing…it’s just the processing they object to. They really seem to think folks should follow whatever eating style was natural for their ancesters. An asian person would eat differently than a scandanavian. (To clarify, I’m not an evangelist, I just started absorbing what they have to say, after reading Taubes book.)

  67. RachelR — Not to pick on you, or anything, but the way you are eating is exactly the way I used to eat, and it turns out my body was nutritionally starving. The fact that you said “vegetarian products” is a red flag. I ate a ton of soy and come to find out, soy is estrogenic and acts as a hormone. It interacts with your fat cells, your thyroid, your reproductive hormones etc. If you are eating real food, you actually would be eating chicken, and the extra calories and fat would be good for you. I’m sorry, I’m not telling you what to do, but I think you should be careful with those “products,”

  68. Stacy – Actually, Quorn products aren’t made with soy, but with a fungi called mycoprotein – check it out at quorn.us. Quorn products are completely soy-free, actually.

    But this is a moot point. When you say “real food,” to me it sounds like code for “good” food and I am strongly opposed to the labeling of any foods as “good” foods or “bad” foods. I’m vegetarian out of very strong spiritual convictions, so even if a meat-based diet is a healthier one (and I can name numerous studies that suggest otherwise), I still wouldn’t eat meat.

    My diet is extremely healthy. My relationship with food is healthier than its ever been. And I am healthy – both mentally and physically. I must be doing something right.

  69. Dee — i’m realizing now that i came across as a snotty expat, as in “oooh EUROPE is SO much better than the U.S. je suis SO enlightened, oh excuse me, i lapse into french some times huhu oui.”

    i totally did not mean to sound like that. and, in reference to thick meaty sandwiches, i also probably should have prefaced my comment by saying that before living here i lived in NYC, where deli sandwiches are of the two inches of turkey on soggy sarah lee bread variety.

    i do agree with Poet With a Day Job (love the name by the way) saying that high quality food in the U.S. is prohibitively expensive for people with low incomes, especially in cities. that’s not the case where i live, but again, this is only my experience.

  70. Fuckin’a!
    i put my foot in my mouth again!!!! arg — okay, FYI, that last paragraph had nothing to do with what i said above it. i just wanted to agree with PWaDJ that the US gov’t sucks. (as do most, but that’s another discussion.)

  71. RachelR – no offense meant. Chicken was just an example. I know the difference between Quorn and soy, but was cautioning against soy products because when I ate Quorn I also ate Boca Burgers, Amy’s Pockets, Morningstar Farms, etc. etc., all of which are packed with soy. So it was just a friendly heads up.

  72. I think my last comment got sucked into internet deep space…

    Poet- you rock. What an incredibly important and usually ignored point!

    RachelR- I love Quorn.

    And Amy’s enchiladas, and boca burgers, and all kinds of things. It is pretty hard to pick up any item of food and not find something terrifying. Like the apple I ate yesterday that probably still had pesticide residue on it (yeah, sometimes i can’t afford organic). I mean, at what point can we just eat something without thinking about all the dangers associated with it? I know people freak out about soy, but what about hormones in milk and any meats you eat? Or the unknown effects of GMOs?

  73. I too am really offended by the governments policies of telling me how to eat when they don’t do anything about regulating their own ‘body’.

    Don’t eat a portion bigger than my fist? wtf? I’ve been to the congressional cafeteria none of the people I saw eating there, everyone from a four star general to congressmen themselves were eating small portions.

    One more example of big government not practicing what they preach

  74. Another thing, when you make a sweet american dish, everyone knows that you’ve GOT to reduce the amount of sugar at least by half, and most people are still going to complain that it’s too sweet. I imagine an American traveling Europe must be thinking “eww, this cake/chocolate/muffin/custard is so bitter!” all the time.

    You know, I clearly can’t speak for all Americans, ’cause there must be a reason why recipes like that are so popular, but I totally reduce the amount of sugar whenever I get a recipe off the internet. I made German potato salad last summer — not even a dessert, FFS — and cut the recommended sugar by half, because a couple commenters on the site where I got the recipe said it was too sweet. Well, with HALF the fucking sugar the recipe called for, I still almost barfed from the sweetness. (But then, I like my German potato salad really vinegary — and am just not a savvy enough cook yet to know how much sugar will overwhelm a dish before I make it.) I also love desserts that aren’t sweet-sweet.

    So I imagine it’s like anything else — there are probably loads of Americans with tastes more like mine, and loads of Europeans who wish they could get their hands on sugar bombs more easily.

    Oh, and kristin, I haven’t forgotten about your jeans. Still thinking.

  75. An American full meal is approximately two Australian full meals, or three European full meals.

    Um, I’m not so sure either. In a couple of two-week stays in the US (both in Seattle), we had perhaps three or four meals that were ‘too much’ for us as Brits. The one really outrageously huge thing was a Mexican which would have done us about twice. Everything else was perfectly manageable. I’ve heard different things from different parts of the US, but I suspect the quote above is an exaggeration. I can name several restaurants in my vicinity here in the UK that serve huge plates, and when I lived alone a great Friday night pleasure was to get Indian takeout, have half that night and reheat the rest on Saturday.

    As for sugar…hmm. I have many American friends, and attend a fair number of potlucks, and the only dish anyone’s come up with that seems outrageously sweet to me is that Thanksgiving thing where you cook sweet potato in syrup and top it with marshmallows. I’m not a great fan. My husband is crazy for sugary American stuff like Twinkies and Zingers, but draws the line at Peeps.

  76. Kristin – I’m trying to get *all* the hormones out of my food. So I certainly didn’t give up Amy’s to go eat slaughterhouse beef. I order grass fed beef, raw milk etc. I think it’s absolutely wrong and unjustifiable that the government allows estrogenic compounds in our food and water. So, yeah, just because there’s a lot of it out there doesn’t make it okay.

  77. I just wanted to say that I try to put my food on a smaller plate because sometimes I have trouble realising when I’m full. This is probably also partially because I eat too quickly, but that’s being dealt with too.

    The other thing is, I always feel /extremely/ guilty about leaving food on my plate, because I grew up with – as most other people seem to have – the mentality of “eat everything on your plate”. It took me a while to not make myself eat that extra bit of food, and this is one of the reasons I am pro-smaller plate.

    If I’m still hungry when I’ve finished my plate full of food, don’t get me wrong, I will go back and serve up some more. Smaller initial portions just work for me from my guilt and not-recognising-fullness.

  78. This is not QUITE on topic but I am really excited about it and wanted to spread the word –

    Ontario and Nova Scotia have put together a teacher training module designed to prevent kids and teenagers from dieting and to promote body acceptance – and they specifically use the phrase Health At Every Size!


    It’s not perfect but it’s pretty awesome.

  79. With a genetic heritage exquisitely tuned to the food scarcity of the Paleolithic era, a bonanza of cheap, high-calorie 21st-century food, and a society designed to minimize physical exertion, some believe it’s a wonder we’re not all obese.

  80. Hey Wanda, one more of these and I’m sending you to spam! Cheers!

    I think it’s possible that you actually want to contribute, but you should start doing that by reading and responding, not via zealotry. Like, now.

  81. Eden, i could KISS you right now!!! i’ve been looking for that kind of resource online practically all day for work. you’re right, it’s not perfect (i almost spit out my tea at the peer pressure cartoon), but it’s totally what i’m looking for. thank you : )

  82. Thank you, I needed to read this just now to recover from a WW leader on another site instructing a woman to eat ~1000 calories a day in order to lose weight.

    Please, please, please STOP the madness, people!

    (And at least the woman being told to eat 1000 calories a day stated that she wouldn’t be comfortable eating fewer than 1300.)

  83. Stacy- I didn’t mean to attack your personal food choices, but the question of what can we really eat that doesn’t have some sort of possible negative effect. I guess if one can afford to eat only top quality organic locally grown grass fed hormone free nutrient laden whatever, it might be a little less threatening (except for the pollutants taken up by plants through the water, but that is a whole other discussion). But most people don’t eat like that, since it is extremely expensive and in many places not possible.

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