Diet Culture Belief #3, as summarized in the intro, is hyper-focusing on the type of food eaten, demonstrating high social currency when in public. I am going to go ahead and break this belief down piece by piece sharing my own personal struggle as a guide. SO, LET’S GO!
Back in 2009, estimating here, I was attending a K-8 School in Arizona. Over the four years I was there, I traveled grade to grade with the people in my class. I saw them grow, and they saw me grow. Around the time of seventh grade, lunch became a very social and elite activity. Cliques would divide and take the tables, outsiders would bounce around looking for a place to call “home,” and then there was me. A child from a family too poor, but rich enough to not be qualified for free lunch. I brown-paper bagged it the majority of my time there, and I felt as though the brown-paper bag was a symbol of poor quality, poor health, and just plain poorness.
A peanut butter sandwich with an apple was my go-to lunch, high in calories and certainly filling enough. There was no snack bar for me, no slushies on Fridays, and no curly french fries whenever I wanted them. I was left out of the “cool” people realm so-to-speak.
One day, my mom decided to deliver me lunch to my school, a McDonald’s bag with a cheeseburger and french fries. I was so excited to not only eat my lunch, but I was excited to take part in a “fancy” unlike me lunch.
Sounds like I had a good day that day, right? Wrong… So seventh grade me, eating McDonald’s with my seventh grade peers made a lot of people stare at me. It was like I was a slide in a microscope and 500X strength just wasn’t cutting it. There were whispers, laughter, and even fingers pointing directly at me. The popular girls did the brunt of the talking.
“That’s why she’s so fat. She can’t help herself.”
“Maybe if she didn’t eat that crap she wouldn’t look so horrible.”
“Eww, I just hate her.”
Obviously, in the physical state I was in, eating McDonald’s was somehow linked to ugliness. A fallacy none-the-less where A led to B, and B led to C. Rebecca is fat because she is eating McDonald’s, so McDonald’s makes her more fat. (I assure you, that is not how it works).
I can prove it to you, let’s think of the reverse. When I watched the popular girls get lunch from McDonald’s they were met with so much admiration.
“Your mom is so cool.”
“I wish I had lunch from there.”
“Maybe if I am nice to her, she will have pity on my and give me a fry.”
I guess the fallacy equation was irrelevant when a thin popular girl ate it. ___ is so cool because she has McDonald’s, so McDonald’s makes you cool. Honestly I had no idea being thin changed social rules of seventh grade lunch. Hmm, almost like there was a hierarchy and I was definitely on the bottom. Funny isn’t it.
So how does explain social currency?
Simply, the thinner you are and the cleaner you eat, the more power you have (social currency=power). The fatter you are and the junkier you eat, the less power you have. You can find this idea embedded in friend dinner dates. For example, you go out to eat and are having a grand old time with your girl group. All the pretty girls get the salad, and the average girl gets the burger. For this analogy you are the average girl who gets the burger, because why wouldn’t you!?
A friend responds, “Wow, you must really not care what you eat. I wish I had your strength.”
And the appropriate reply you should quip back is a simple, “Fuck you Janet.”
The way in which Diet Culture shapes our views is volatile and misrepresenting. Just because you look a certain way and eat a certain way doesn’t mean you are any less human, any less you, or any less a part of a community. What drives me crazy is when you people assume you look the way you do because you opt for better tasting, more satisfying food. Sorry, but this girl is going to have pizza when she wants it. And if my jeans get too tight, I’ll fucking go up a size. That’s rational thinking.
No matter if you are in public, by yourself, tiny, or large, the food you should eat is the food that is going to make your body (AND JUST YOUR BODY ALONE) happy. Just because you eat a burger doesn’t make you inferior to everyone else not eating a burger. So stop over thinking everything on terms of what others would want you to do. Decide for yourself, that’s why you have a brain. Unlike Janet.