Friday, August 7, 2009

"No Wonder You Look Like That!"

A couple of nights ago, a group of us sat together at Dairy Queen to enjoy some soft serve ice cream on a hot summer night. An old family friend happened to pass by and stopped to say hello. As she noticed that my daughter wasn't eating any ice cream, she was quick to comment, "No wonder you look like that!"

These kind of moments always fill me with tension. Do I explain to her that she happened to catch my daughter at a moment when she wasn't hungry, so she didn't order the ice cream? Do I inform her that on another evening she may have found her enjoying a hot fudge sundae? Do I lecture her on the intrusiveness of comments that focus on body size and make assumptions about another person's relationship with food? Or do I ignore her words, and move on to the next topic?

My daughter solved these particular dilemmas for me when she jumped in and explained, "One of the parents at our camp brought in donuts today. They were delicious, but now I'm just not hungry for ice cream." Ahhh...the joys of raising an attuned/intuitive eater!

This experience reminded me of a time when I worked in an office where cakes were brought in routinely to celebrate each other's birthdays. I remember that if I wasn't hungry and passed on the cake, invariably someone would say, "No wonder you look like that." But the interesting thing was that when I was hungry and had a piece of cake, the response was, "You are so lucky - you can eat anything you want!"

The assumptions people make about our eating - whether we are fat, thin, and anywhere in between - have much more to do with their projections than with our relationship to food. In fact, there is yet to be a scientific study validating that fat people eat more than thin people. I think that for all of us, it's worth reflecting on any assumptions we make that are connected to body weight, when we observe others eating. At the same time, it is so important to remember that when someone comments on our weight and/or our relationship with food, it says a lot more about them than it does about us.

This family friend has always been obsessed with her size. I have no way of knowing what she was thinking about or feeling when she noticed my daughter without any ice cream, but I do know that her interpretation of my daughter's body size - and the fantasy that she must not eat ice cream - had nothing to do with my daughter, and everything to do with her.

I still haven't figured out the best way to respond in these situations. To do nothing seems reinforce or accept a statement that I am uncomfortable with. To have to respond each and every time feels like a burden, and truthfully, I just don't always have the energy to engage in a discussion about the concepts of ending diets, attuned/intuitive eating, and size diversity. So I pick and about you?

Eat well! Live well! Be well!

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