11 June 2013

The Thing About Food…

Nancy Upton

…is that I like it.  No, I love it.  I’m a foodie, through and through.

You may be wondering why this is important – why it’s worth mentioning.  I tell you I love food because it’s almost taboo for a plus-size woman to admit such a thing.  We’re supposed to say things like “we’re naturally big boned” or “I would be skinny if I could but my metabolism is slow,” or “I have a fat gene.”  Granted, bone structure and metabolism certainly have a lot to do with genetics.  Chances are if both your parents are tall and broad shouldered, you will be tall and broad shouldered.  But a fat gene?  No no.

I don’t have a fat gene.  The term “fat gene” isn’t even a scientifically proven thing.  My father’s side of the family is tall and big-boned.  My mother’s side is Colombian and stereotypically short and thin, albeit that curvy type of thin Sofia Vergara and Shakira have going on. I have a cousin with a body just like Shakira’s and for the majority of my adolescence I wanted to pull one of those “Freaky Friday” switches, only instead of turning into my mother like Lindsay Lohan (pre-psychotic-break) did, I would turn into my cousin.  Point is, I have my dad’s side’s height and bones and my mom’s side’s curves.  But if genes were solely responsible for my body, I wouldn’t be pudgy; I’d simply be tall and curvaceous.  Not skinny but not big.  But they aren’t solely responsible for my body.

Like I said, I love food.

It’s funny that people are ashamed of saying that – sometimes because they don’t want to admit that they’re heavy because of their own doing, due to the fact that we are conditioned to think being heavy is wrong, and sometimes perhaps because over-eating is considered a sin (i.e. gluttony).  We’re told it’s immoral; we’re told to think of the thousands, if not millions, of suffering, starving human beings out there.  But I find that an utter contradiction: “people are starving, so instead of enjoying the food we are lucky to have, let’s turn our noses up and crash diet; let’s be totally ungrateful for what we have because other’s don’t have it; let’s throw out enough food on a daily basis to probably feed an entire African country," and I am sure if you add up the amount of food American households and businesses alone dispose of unnecessarily, that’d solve a chunk, no pun intended, of the world’s famine.  Does any of that make sense to you – because to me, it’s repulsive?

If you want to help the world’s impoverished, famine-stricken men, women and children, the way to do it is not by starving yourself.  It’s not by throwing out food.  By all means, donate, give, join a charity.  But don’t be ungrateful for what you have – and the truth as I see it is that disposing of perfectly good food or refusing to eat or being pretentious about what you do eat is churlish.

I was brought up in a Catholic household, and we had to memorize the seven deadly sins at CCD, or Sunday school.  There were many things wrong with CCD.  For instance, I remember being told that all Jews were destined to hell, and when a classmate pointed out that Jesus was Jewish, the instructor threw the kid out of the class.  I remember the day we learned the seven deadly sins, and I asked that same instructor whether she ever over-ate.  She said no.  I then asked, “What about on Thanksgiving or Christmas?” because what person with the means or a big family really doesn’t over-eat on those holidays?  She also threw me out of the class, which made me think she probably did over-eat on Thanksgiving and Christmas but wouldn’t admit it because obviously eating too much is a big terrible awful.

I met a girl this past weekend though that gave me hope.  She was plus-size and if you asked a doctor or tested her BMI, she’d probably be on the obese to morbidly obese spectrum.  And she was one of the most confident, beautiful and lovely people I’ve ever met.  She proudly said she loved food; she proudly admitted that in actuality she does over-eat; she proudly demonstrated love for herself and her body.  Like I said, she gave me hope.  We had this conversation about over-eating, about the hypocrisy of not eating when so many out there can’t.  She understood.  She’s one of the few people I’ve met who has understood.  So to her I say thanks, and that I hope someday more people will open their eyes to these truths that she is lucky enough to see.

P.S. The photo featured here is of Nancy Upton.  You may remember her as the clever plus-size gal who entered American Apparel’s plus-size model search back in 2011 to make ironic commentary.  AA’s search, which called for “full-sized fannies” and “bootyful models” was highly sexist and derogatory, so Nancy entered photos of herself chowing down high-calorie foods, with the headline, “I’m a size 12.  I just can’t stop eating.”  She actually won the contest, but the retailer stripped her of first place.  Her photos were meant to protest this idea that all fat women are piggish over-eaters.  And she was right.  I fully recognize that not all women of my size or larger are big because they over-eat.  However, my messages from above stand.  Loving food, letting yourself enjoy food, should be givens when so many people can’t.

But to see more of Nancy’s photos, which I do think are aesthetically amazing and bad ass, click here.

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