Stumbling towards ecstasy

Because of our delightfully stringent comments policy, most of the rants about fatties eating everything in a twelve-block radius never make it onto the site. Those “arguments” just aren’t worth thinking about. But we do see some genuine confusion from otherwise reasonable people who can’t see how non-restricted eating could possibly be compatible with health, or indeed with anything but disorder-level binge consumption. Of course, this is just as unfathomable to me as non-dieting is to the diet crowd — isn’t it obvious that Health At Every Size is a much more salutary way to live? — but I recognize that this is a diet-happy culture and going against the Prime Directive like that will always generate cognitive dissonance. So we do try to put some thought into where exactly the disconnect comes from, and we try to loosen some of the knots that keep people bound to a fat-is-bad pro-diet mentality.

To that end, yesterday as I passed by Starbucks I got to thinking about the four hot chocolates I’d thought about getting but not gotten in the last three days. I didn’t get them for various reasons — I was having fun with the person I was hanging out with at Starbucks and forgot to get in line, there were no comfy chairs available, it was raining and I didn’t feel like leaving the office for cocoa, etc. But I know there are people who would affect to be mildly scandalized that I thought with some seriousness about getting hot chocolate four times in three days — even though I didn’t actually get it once.  And that opened a window into the fear-of-not-dieting mindset.

See, eating what you want doesn’t mean eating everything you think of. I’ve decriminalized my thoughts about food — I’m allowed to consider getting hot chocolate, or having pie for breakfast, or taking second helpings, without any judgment or shame. But that doesn’t mean I always decide to do those things, and in fact, simply being allowed to think rationally about food means that I often don’t. (Starbucks’ Signature Hot Chocolate is amazing but tragic for my insides; breakfast pie is a brilliant invention but kind of a lot of sugar if you need sustained energy; eating too much food makes me uncomfortable.)

The point is, I think people may be terrified of unrestricted eating because they think “wow, there are so many times that I think about eating — just imagine how fat I would be if I didn’t control myself!” But you don’t have to eat everything that pops into your head, just because you may. As a non-dieter I routinely:

  • See a commercial on TV for something that looks good, and not only don’t buy and eat it right then but never buy and eat it.
  • Think about having a snack, but decide it’s too soon until dinner.
  • Have a sudden craving for something I don’t bother to scare up before the urge passes.
  • Want to eat a million Oreos, but do not eat a million Oreos because I don’t own a million Oreos and don’t feel like going to the store.
  • Think about buying something in the grocery store because it looks tasty, but don’t for whatever reason (don’t need it, can’t fit it in my basket, probably not as good as it looks, etc.).

And so forth. The point is that refusing yourself nothing is not the same as giving yourself everything. One thing, one crucial thing I do not refuse myself is the ability to turn things down. I don’t have to eat things just because I have a chance to or I have a notion to or nobody’s watching. Restriction makes you do that, not liberation. And once you’ve let go of the feast-or-famine mindset, it turns out that food is just like other pleasures and other necessities — often worth the trouble, sometimes not, sometimes foregone because it’s inconvenient or costly, sometimes overlooked out of preoccupation or stress, sometimes planned around and sometimes hampered by plans.

A few years ago, a fundamentalist Christian teen organization put out a Modesty Survey that was the subject of much mocking and some horror on the internet. The survey purported to feel out Christian teenage boys on what sorts of dress and behavior they considered “stumbling blocks” in girls — that is, what would tempt them unduly into sin. The picture painted is of a code of decorum so strict as to interfere significantly not just with sexual activity, but with any sort of activity at all. (Among the things found by the majority to be “stumbling blocks”: bending over, sitting cross-legged, lifting your skirt higher than the knee to step over something, showing any cleavage, unspecified “way a girl walks,” unspecified “attitude or behavior.”) Needless to say this was considered problematic for a number of reasons, not least of which is the implication that being reminded of an act that’s considered transgressive amounts to being tempted to do it. A heartening number of respondents said it was their responsibility to avoid lust, not the girl’s responsibility not to provoke it, but the very premise of the survey is that merely being alerted to the possibility of sin is effectively a call to sin, if not a sin in itself. Seeing a girl’s cleavage makes you aware that sex with her is possible, and once you know that, brother, resisting is going to take everything you’ve got.

People who assume that non-dieting is tantamount to wanton indulgence are applying the same non-logic to food that the Modesty Survey applies to sex. Both interpretations require the same unstated axiom: that thoughts about the object of temptation are enough to nullify all self-control, and that control must therefore be externally applied in the form of stringent rules. The ideal outcome is that you never think about the object of temptation in the first place. When you can be brave enough to face your stumbling blocks without a safety harness, though, it becomes clear that thinking about stuff is just thinking about stuff — it doesn’t open the door to sin, it doesn’t compel you to anything, it doesn’t enlist you in a fight you’re bound to lose. It’s not that people who don’t think in terms of “stumbling blocks” don’t think about having sex with every hot person they see — lots of them probably don’t, and lots of them probably do. But they know that thinking about it doesn’t mean they have to do it. All it takes to remain virginal or monogamous or disease-free or unrumpled, or whatever you goal is, is to just not go ahead and fuck everyone you think about fucking. (Assume, in this scenario, that everyone would give consent!) You don’t have to stop looking. You don’t have to stop thinking. You just have to not hump people indiscriminately. If you have a healthy relationship with sex, you probably weren’t going to, right?

Well, if you have — if you can develop — a healthy relationship with food, you’re not going to eat everything that crosses your mind. Forget being unhealthy; it’s not convenient. It’s not necessary. It’s not even particularly plausible. But I think this is where some of the fear comes from, the fear that letting go of restriction means embracing nonstop indulgence, and of course the assumption that that’s what we practice and advocate here. In fact, when you stop seeing everything as a stumbling block, you don’t automatically fall on your face — more often, you can pick your skirt up higher than your knees and just walk on.

Quick Hit: Shark-Fu on Nutrition and Privilege

Shark-Fu has a great post over at Feministing about a 60 Minutes interview with Alice Waters, “the mother of slow food.” Overall, the interview is quite good, save a little of the expected obesity epidemic blathering, and the following. When Waters is asked about the often exorbitant price of organic food, she responds:

We make decisions everyday about what we’re going to eat… And some people want to buy Nike shoes – two pairs, and other people want to eat Bronx grapes, and nourish themselves. I pay a little extra, but this is what I want to do.

Shark-Fu: “Blink.”


When I started teaching life skill classes at a transitional housing shelter for homeless pregnant teens in St. Louis Missouri, I quickly realized that many of my students could teach a master class on making a dollar stretch. A good place to witness their resourcefulness was in the kitchen – trust me, making $160 in food assistance last a month takes serious skill.

With the help of a nutritionist residents came up with quick, healthy and affordable meals that could be frozen and heated up later. They eventually put all their recipes together in a cookbook that I still use today.

What they didn’t do was weigh their nutrition against the joy of shoe shopping.

Shark-Fu focuses on the blatant class aspect here (“Promoting healthy food is a must-try recipe, but folks should skip that extra tablespoon of privilege if they want it to nourish the masses”), but I also want to make explicit what she only implies: that the “two pairs of Nikes” thing is racist, as well as classist bullshit. “Poor white people spend all their money on fancy gym shoes instead of bills and nutritious food” is not a big meme among right wing assholes. Poor black people, on the other hand? Hey, that sounds familiar. 

My point isn’t to trash Waters, who — as Shark-Fu also points out — does a lot of good work trying to increase the availability of fresh, nutritious food for everyone. But that statement had more than one extra tablespoon of privilege in the mix, and that’s without even getting into the idea that people are choosing not to “nourish themselves” properly, a thought process that almost inevitably leads to “people choose to be fat.”  Man, I hate articles like this, where someone is saying so many good things, then blows it with something completely ignorant. Sigh.

Quick Hit: It’s Almost as if Fat Tastes Good

According to The Guardian, a panel of nutritionists and dietitians have reviewed a bunch of celebrity chefs’ cookbooks and declared them dangerously! full! of! killer! fats! 

The report, The Guilty Secret of Celebrity Chefs, published today by The Fat Panel, analysed the saturated fat content of a variety of starters, main courses, side orders and desserts from popular cookbooks. It warns that people eating these dishes regularly could be putting their lives at serious risk by bumping up their saturated fat intake.

…Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver are given overall approval, but they are admonished for their frequent use of butter. Burton-Race and Rick Stein are criticised for being “keen to use high saturated fat ingredients constantly”, and Nigella Lawson is criticised for using butter instead of margarine in her egg and bacon pie, with a single serving brimming with 36g of fat.

The report says some simple swaps can make a dramatic difference to saturated fat content, without adversely affecting the overall flavour and food experience. 

Take all that in. Got it? Now, please appreciate the next sentence in the article:

 The panel – which receives funding from the UK’s Margarine and Spreads Association – suggests that consumers use stronger cheese and low-fat polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated spreads instead of butter.

I’m reading this whole thing like, “Wait, isn’t the jury still out on butter vs. margarine? And hasn’t everybody heard that at this point? Why does this make no mention of that? OH I SEE.”

That little fun fact also makes this beauty make a whole lot more sense:

Nigella Lawson is criticised for using butter instead of margarine in her egg and bacon pie, with a single serving brimming with 36g of fat.

Yes, clearly butter is the culprit responsible for jacking up the saturated fat content of EGG AND BACON PIE. Remember to flavor your bacon pie with a “heart-healthy spread,” folks!

Also, I love that there’s only one nod to why these celebrity chefs are wantonly using butter in all their recipes, which comes from chef Jean-Christophe Novelli’s spokesperson’s response: “Jean-Christophe puts his recipes together for flavour, to give people an exciting eating experience.” You don’t say. It’s almost as if celebrity chefs get to be celebrities (in part) because their recipes taste really good, which is because they use ingredients that taste really good. As always, the refrain here is that the poor, ignorant public JUST DOESN’T KNOW how bad food is for them, and they must be informed!

No, actually, we heard you the first eleventy billion times — it’s just that butter and heavy cream still taste better than any of the suggested substitutions. And since y’all change your mind about which foods are going to kill us on, like, a weekly basis, we might as well live it up.

I’m a chocoholic, I’m addicted to chocahol

So this idea is so dumb that I don’t want to give it too much ink — certainly not as much as the BBC did, christ — but I got a laugh out of this article.

[Dr. David Walker] said chocolate used to be seen as a “treat” but had now become a harmful addiction for some.

GPs at a BMA conference in Clydebank have voted against his proposal.

Dr Walker, who is also a trained food scientist and nutritionist, told the BBC news website: “Obesity is a mushrooming problem. We are heading the same way as the United States.”

“Told the BBC News website,” huh? I guess he posted it on their comments section, because this certainly sounds familiar. Some people eat too much chocolate! Some people are fat! Therefore fat people eat too much chocolate!

And, of course, the reason they eat too much chocolate is that they’re too stupid to realize it’s bad for you and you shouldn’t snarf massive amounts of it at all times. Dr. Walker spit-froths to the BBC about the Dangerous Factoid that “a 225g bag of chocolate sweets contained almost 1,200 calories — almost half the recommended daily calorie intake for a man — and could be eaten incredibly quickly.” (ETA: As The Bald Soprano points out in comments, that’s about half a pound of chocolate!) This is technically true, I suppose. The same is also true of, say, a cup and a half of spray cheez, and that could be eaten incredibly quickly too. But it turns out that shockingly, “can be eaten” and “must therefore be eaten routinely by fatties” are not actually the same thing.

A pack of M&Ms, for comparison, is about 48 grams. If you’re fat and you’ve ever spent the day beating yourself up for “ruining” your diet by getting a pack of M&Ms from the vending machine, rest assured that this guilt and shame never happened. Nutrition expert David Walker says that you routinely inhale five times that amount of chocolate without even noticing.

This, he says, is probably because you’re such a dumb cow that you think chocolate is good for you:

He said: “There is lots of negative publicity about other fast food and junk food but chocolate is sneaking under the radar.

“People have been lulled into a false sense of security about chocolate.

“I had one patient recently who said to me she thought chocolate was good for you. People are being brainwashed into believing this.”

God, I know. What kind of unscrupulous organization could justify peddling such falsehoods to impressionable people? For shame.

How many grams of fat in a gallinule?

This article with the oh so clever title of “‘Joy of Cooking’ or ‘Joy of Obesity’?” describes a study that hilariously mischaracterizes the evolution of everybody’s favorite cookbook. Researchers have found that some recipes now have higher calorie counts and that’s why Americans are OMG SO FAT:

Published as a letter Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the report examined 18 classic recipes found in seven editions of the book from 1936 to 2006. It found that calorie counts for 14 of the recipes have ballooned by an average of 928 calories, or 44%, per recipe. And serving sizes have grown as well.

When we talk about obesity, people like to plant the source of the issue on away-from-home dining,” said Brian Wansink, the study’s co-author and director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. “But that raised the thought in my mind: Is that really the source of things?. . . . What has happened in what we’ve been doing in our own homes over the years?”

I’m gonna state up front that the main reason I’m blogging this is that it’s an excuse share the pictures that are behind the cut, so I’ll try to cut to the chase. Still, about this study and that quote: gender is not mentioned in this article, but I can’t help but be suspicious of this study as contributing to the “blame the moms” aspect of our culture. I’m actually fairly impressed that no one in the article explicitly mentions women (perhaps “impressed” is not the right word), but the phrase “what we’ve been doing in our own homes” sets off alarm bells for me, as it’s used so often as a prelude to returning to the glory days of when women didn’t have pesky things like careers and hobbies that would interfere with cooking the most nutritiously correct meals ever seen on earth. And, as the book’s original cover shows, the intended audience was clearly women: holy women being attacked by monsters.


Now, about those recipes. They had to pick recipes that were present in each of the published editions, so they ended up being American classics: the article lists beef stroganoff, waffles, macaroni and cheese, goulash, Spanish rice, brownies, sugar cookies, and apple pie. I’m not trying to universalize my own eating habits here, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most of these, to quote Obesity Propaganda Cookie Monster, a sometimes food? I know the phrase is “American as apple pie,” but how often do you actually bake an apple pie? I just can’t work up much excitement that a list of foods that were basically already vehicles for enjoying some fat and/or sugar may now contain more fat or sugar. This is not to demonize fat and sugar–far from it!–but just to point out that these may be staple recipes, but that doesn’t mean they’re staple foods. And the idea that the serving sizes have embiggened, honestly, who uses the serving size guidelines who is not already on a diet? I mean, if that beef stroganoff is yummy but way richer than you remember Grandma making it, probably you won’t want quite as much of it as you did at Grandma’s house.

Happily, the book’s editor exhibits some sense about the whole thing: “It’s such a tiny number of recipes. It’s really a non-event,” she said. Anyone who has a copy of the Joy of Cooking knows that it is massive, so 14 recipes — especially 14 recipes that have been in circulation since 1931 — cannot possibly be representative. To wax nostalgic over how 1931 brownies used less butter (perhaps because of that little thing called the Great Depression, maybe?) is to construct a fantasy world where people were never fat but never went hungry, and when all food nourished all bodies the same way.

Now for the real meat (ha) of the post. I had the great fortune to inherit my parents’ old copy of the Joy of Cooking a few months ago. It’s in pretty good shape, considering it’s been in continuous use for at least 40 years, but sadly I don’t know exactly which edition it is, because it had to be rebound, and some of the front matter is missing. FJ and volcanista and I concluded that it’s either from the 40s or early 60s, but I’m not positive which. It seems to be the 1964 edition (thanks, Katia!) Whenever it was published, in the spirit of drawing wild conclusions from unrepresentative samples, I’d like to share with you some helpful tips from the glorious, pre-OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA, Joy of Cooking. (Warning: this post gets picture-heavy behind the cut.)

Continue reading

I am in love for the second time this week

This time with an officially real person, Emily Blunt. That is, Emily Blunt, Doughnut Smuggler

On being monitored to make sure she didn’t gain weight while playing a diet-obsessed fashionista in The Devil Wears Prada, she says:

I understand why I was asked to be like that for that role, my character was surviving on cubes of cheese at one point in the movie. But you need some kind of comfort when you’re on a film set all day, and mine’s usually food. I was being watched like a hawk, but by the end I’d be sneaking in doughnuts just to annoy the producers.

And on Photoshopping:

I did this photo shoot with a big name fashion photographer and he said ‘Just so you know, if you don’t like anything about yourself I can fix it afterwards – like that, for example’ – pointing to my face. I was like, ‘My chin? ‘ ‘Yes, that cleft on your chin, ‘ he said, to which I replied, ‘I wouldn’t mind keeping it, as it’s part of my face, you know’.

I love the phrasing of that: “If you don’t like anything about yourself, I can fix it afterwards.” Really? Can Photoshop help me quit smoking or pay off my credit card debt? If so, maybe I’ve been too hard on it. And of course, the assumption that a woman so conventionally gorgeous she’s being  photographed for a fashion magazine must have a body part she doesn’t like… sigh.

In other news, I’m going out of town for the week, so posting (from me, anyway) might be even lighter than usual. Or I might be bored in a hotel while Al’s at a conference and end up writing up a storm. Don’t know yet, but consider yourselves warned. And if there’s no new content, feel free to use this as an open thread for linking to interesting articles or sharing what’s up your ass this week.

WTF of the day: Fling candy bars

Andy Wright at Mother Jones nails everything wrong with Mars’s new candy bars for the lady market so perfectly, I can’t even add anything. I can only quote:

Predictably, one of the hot selling points for the Fling bar is that “at under 85 calories per finger, it’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.” In other words, the candy perfectly straddles the contradictions of the angel/whore dilemma in a way its intended female consumers never will…. The PR packages that went out to media outlets contained sheer T-shirts that read “Try It In Public,” equating the act of women consuming sweets in front of other people with being as taboo as committing sex acts in front of them. 

Seriously, read the whole thing. Then come back here and scream.

Recipes: Cheap Eats

All right, y’all, it’s time for another recipes thread. I’m trying to do more cooking, and I’m looking for stuff to try. Bring it on.

Since money’s tight for everyone these days, I’ll ask specifically for recipes with inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients. Of course, the definition of  “inexpensive” is relative, so let’s just say this is not a thread for, as Buffpuff put it in an old thread, “poncey, rarified ingredients like… fresh nasturtium flowers gathered by moonlight.” If you can offer a quick estimate of how much the dish costs to make, more’s the better.

Al and I are currently on a mission to use up everything that’s been sitting in our freezer and pantry for ages, so last night, I made Ye Olde Cream of ______ Casserole.  Or, as my Minnesotan husband called it, “Noodle Hot Dish.”

Specifically, I used about 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast tenders (cut up), 1 can of cream of chicken soup, 1 cup water, half a bag of frozen veggies, some partially cooked pasta, some shredded cheese we had in the fridge, onion powder, and black pepper. (Mix up in casserole dish, cover and bake for about an hour at 375. Proportions are up to you. If you want to get fancy, wait and put the cheese on top toward the end, then bake 10 mins. uncovered.)

I only discovered about 2 years ago — when I had little besides tuna, frozen broccoli, pasta, and cream of mushroom soup in the house and didn’t feel like leaving — that I actually like variations on this casserole. Even though it’s a classic of my mom’s generation, and I ate a lot of stuff with cream of ___ -based sauce growing up (pork chops, pot roast, green bean casserole), I don’t recall her doing this kind of thing very often, if it all.  School cafeterias were the only places I got creamy-noodley casseroles, which did not leave a great impression. So I was quite desperate and fully expecting to be disgusted by the final product that first time I attempted a tuna-noodle casserole, but I found it not half bad for something made up of ingredients that have been sitting around the house for months. That led me to variations involving chicken, different soups, different veggies, etc. — only about 40 years after everyone else figured out that this is the world’s simplest way to use up odds and ends and/or make dinner when you haven’t been to the store in 2 weeks.

Oh, and what I made last night cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.50 (probably $12-$15 if you had to buy a new box of pasta, whole bag of veggies, block of cheese, etc.), and made dinner and today’s lunch for both of us. Probably could have gotten 6 servings out of it, but hey, we’re fatasses. 

What have you got, Shapelings? Something more interesting than that, I hope.

No words

Robert Blue was arrested for chaining his 15-year-old daughter to a bed, because he thought she was fat and wanted to stop her from eating. 

On and off for two days, Blue’s 15-year-old daughter was chained to her bed. She was found beaten and in tears — all because Blue thought she was overweight, according to a police report. 

Blue, 53, was also arrested for beating his daughter with a wooden stick and kicking her, police said…

Blue said he was upset because his daughter weighs around 165 pounds, and Blue wanted her to weigh between 140 and 145 pounds, explaining that was her fighting weight in mixed martial arts.

Heart not broken yet? Here you go.

Police said Blue had been chaining his daughter to the bed with a padlock and chain since Jan. 12, when he said he found pea and corn containers in her room. He said she had found a way around the chains on the pantry and refrigerator over the past month.

Now, clearly Robert Blue is an abusive, controlling fuck who likely would have found other “reasons” to act like an abusive, controlling fuck even if his daughter had literally maintained her fighting weight. But you can’t really escape the fact that if we didn’t live in a fat-hating culture, an asshole like this could not tell police with a straight face that he thought he was acting in his daughter’s best interest.*

Beyond that, I have no words. 


*Shapeling Ailbhe rightly corrected me on this point in comments. I’ll quote her here:

Yes, he could. Abusive parents tell police – seriously, believing it – that they burn their kids to save their souls, beat them to instill a respect for authority, and leave them in baths of ice-water to keep them chaste…

The part that wouldn’t happen with burning and freezing (though it apprently does with beating, up to a point) is the police (and later general public) thinking they can see his point for a second there.


Grow up already

I’ve never really watched Project Runway — not from lack of desire but from lack of cable — so I don’t know much about Laura Bennett except that I saw a picture of a pretty dress she designed once. I am going to make a wild guess that, being a fashion designer, she’s not exactly a model of body positivity. Nonetheless, this post of hers on the ways parental restriction on food can lead to binge and compulsive eating is spot on. She starts with a jaw-dropping story about an acquaintance trying to win sole custody of her kids because her ex served them non-organic food for lunch, and then gets into what happens to these overmonitored kids when they visit a house (like hers) where they have access to — heaven forfend! — junk food.

I just want to let the food Nazi moms* in on what happens when your kids come to a house where junk food inhabits the pantry. They have no decision-making skills or sense of moderation when faced with the forbidden fruit roll-up. Like deprived animals, they are determined to consume the lifetime allotment of sugar they have been denied; all before pickup. I have seen one such child eat Swiss Miss Cocoa with a spoon directly out of the family-size container, only to move on to conquer a box of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts. When faced with not one but three brands of chips, they become apoplectic and run from the kitchen clutching bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and French onion-flavored Sun Chips, later to be found in a corner curled up in the fetal position surrounded by wrappers, unable to state their name.

Sheltering children from every evil in the world does them a disservice; decision-making is a skill, learned with practice from the time they are small. At some point my boys will go out into the world and have to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. One would hope that by then they have ascertained that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are not really for breakfast—and there are serious repercussions if you leave the mother of your children for a 24-year-old.

We’ve talked about this dynamic before, of course, often in terms of the self-deprivation of dieting and the fantasy of the compensatory binge. You tell yourself that you are absolutely, under no circumstance, to ever eat an Oreo or you have FAILED at LIFE, and then when you do crave one you figure you may as well eat all the Oreos in the WORLD. As an adult, you can train yourself — haltingly, painstakingly — in the art of intuitive eating; as a kid, you’re often at the mercy of the adults in your life.

I was the kid who grew up in a junk food-friendly house. I loved Cheetos and Frosted Flakes and chocolate chip cookies and god knows what else. But my mom was also a very good cook, so I also loved potatoes and broccoli and homemade soup and pork tenderloin and all that. Having good homemade food and having “junk” food weren’t mutually exclusive in my house — we just had to have a lot of food, period, because we sometimes had heaps of kids in the house at a time between my mom’s three and my stepdad’s three and all our little friends and cousins who’d stop by. The only time I remember ever engaging in what I’d now call compulsive eating of junk food was in the first couple years after my mom remarried — I was probably feeling a lot of emotional strain, and suddenly there were all these older boys in the house who would eat all the snacks in about two minutes if they could, so I would grab my favorite snacks when I got home from school and eat them all on the staircase to my room before my brothers found me. I was 7 years old and I was confused and I liked food; I stopped doing it once our household settled down more. Eventually I learned that I really didn’t want all those Cheetos all the time — they made my tongue feel funny and I didn’t want orange fingers for the rest of the day. In short, I learned the decision-making skills that Bennett talks about (at least until I started reading teen magazines and getting a whole other species of food morality pumped into me).

But boy, did I have those friends who went berserk when they came to my house. They would be so overwhelmed with the prospect of mainlining all that sugar that sometimes they forgot why they came over in the first place; plans to play a game or ride bikes would crumble under the hypnotic sway of Smore-flavored Pop Tarts.** It always baffled me, because I didn’t have the same reaction when I went to their houses — I often really enjoyed the home-grown, hand-picked, carefully allotted food (not organic, though — too early in the century for that) we got there, because hey, I liked food, but I didn’t usually feel the need to go on a carrot stick bender. After all, I could get those at home too. (I did like discovering new kinds of foods at friends’ houses, though — this was the ’80s and ’90s, and in my area “ethnic” foods [i.e., from ethnicities that include non-white people] and hippie foods and fancy vegetables were just starting to enter our awareness. Plus, my mom had some medically based food restrictions, so though we did eat vegetables often, we didn’t eat a wide variety of them, and we didn’t eat them raw. Salad was a total revelation to me when I was a teenager.)

Not being a parent myself, what struck me most about Bennett’s article is that the dynamic she describes — not letting kids have the slightest opportunity to make their own decisions about food — doesn’t actually go away when you’re an adult. We’re all infantilized by the diet industries and the anti-obesity epidemic BOOGA BOOGA scare factories. All of us, but especially if we’re women, are told that we don’t know what we want, that we don’t know how much to eat, that if we claim to eat by the rules we must be lying, that we’re one bad decision away from death’s door. The single most basic act of living that you control — putting food in your body — is considered out of your league, intellectually speaking. We are never allowed to grow up when it comes to the refrigerator.

Here’s the thing: we’re all going to make bad decisions sometimes. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to try to be perfect! If you’re trying to shed a lifetime of infantilization and cognitive dissonance around food, rest assured that practicing intuitive eating doesn’t secretly mean that you have to be Michael Pollan‘s fat twin to do it right. (I’m betting he has had an Oreo or two in his lifetime, too.) It means you get to eat what you want, for real, without judgment. And if you’re trying to raise a kid not to be insane about food and fat, good luck to you — it will be an uphill battle, but you’re already giving your kid a leg up by refusing to treat yourself like a child, too.

*My biggest problem with Bennett’s article: why the focus on moms? Yes, her original encounter was with a food-obsessed woman, but that doesn’t mean that only women can warp their kids’ psyches. This reads to me as resting on unexamined misogynist principles, namely that women are solely in charge of children’s nourishment.

**Dude, are these as good as I remember? I haven’t bought Pop Tarts in ages but OMG I can still taste these in my mind.