Food, Fat and Feminism

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Firstly, this isn't to say that only one gender or sex can develop an eating disorder. I would be wrong to say that and I also know that it's simply not true. The information I received growing up about how women's bodies should look and be treated were conflicting to the way men saw their bodies.

It was my understanding that, as I grew further into my adolescence, the occasions in which it would feel okay to order a pizza at a restaurant, and not salad, would diminish. I was also waiting for when my love of NHS approved balanced meals would also diminish and that I'd be left with nothing but an insatiable desire to eat rocket leaves for the rest of my life. However, as I'm sure you can guess, my love of pizza never quietened down and I was left feeling gluttonous and ashamed as a woman ordering what my Dad and brother would order at a restaurant. This may seem over the top and excessive, but I genuinely didn't like the part of me that enjoyed unhealthy food. Why should I? And even if I did want to order a pizza, why couldn't I just push that craving down and get a salad?

One of the few guilt free pizza's I've enjoyed as a teen...

I was also waiting for the time when I could 'weightlessly' leap into the conversations my Mum, Grandmothers and Aunts would have about diet's and weight, without feeling defensive of my body and not wanting to draw attention to it within that dialogue. I want to stress that with or without these influences I would have developed an eating disorder. Not only is it to me genetic and a part of my make up in regards to my own experience, but I can trace my disorder back to when I was at nursery. The women in my life have been just as much affected by food, fat and feminism and today's gendered society as I and others have been. Everybody behaves differently around food and managing their weight in a culture of envy and perfectionism. For me, my solution was to eat even more, or less, depending on the day.

I had developed an addictive relationship to food in my early teenage years which, although it was present from my toddler years, had been triggered by a tricky school phase when I was 9. This meant that by the time I went to college I had such a harsh relationship with my body; I hated it so much that I would comfort myself with the one thing that couldn't judge me - food, but also hate it enough to not eat for months and purge to combat the fear of weight gain.

I'm an intelligent and sensible girl but my God I did some stupid things. The thought of skinny legs and arms motivated me to burn another few hundred calories on the treadmill when the heart palpitations were ever increasing in frequency. Don't get me wrong, I was worried about my health, but compared to the fantasy of having a thigh gap, it just didn't phase me enough to stop. Anyway, I'm rambling on now. I truly believe that the differences in expectations of men and women's diets and bodies still have devastating effects on the way women see themselves today. The timeless truth is that body shame will negatively impact anyone who has to face it - but particularly young girls developing through puberty. It's no longer the 50s but women still diet, it's no longer the 90s but girls are still anorexic, and therefore we still need to talk about it.

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