“Ooh, I was so bad last night, I ate a whole pint of ice cream myself!”
“Tacos are totally my guilty pleasure.”
“Those cupcakes look positively sinful!”
Why is it that so much of the language we use about our diet revolves around these particular words? “Sinful,” “guilty,” “bad” – all words related to morality. Lying to someone makes you sinful. Stealing something might make you feel guilty. Trying a bathing suit on without any underwear is bad behavior.
Yet, every time I want a cookie I’m supposed to feel as though I’ve done something unethical. It’s not like I’ve committed some morally reprehensible crime. I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t tell a child that Santa isn’t real. I didn’t even eat all the cookies and leave none for anyone else. I ate one cookie, and I’m supposed to go and do fifteen Hail Marys and self-flagellate until my skin bleeds with the salt of my transgressions. In fact, what I’ve done doesn’t affect a single person other than myself in any way. Yet in the eyes of many people, food and eating is closely tied to morality, especially for women. When was the last time you heard a male under the age of forty-five bemoaning how guilty he felt after last night’s six pack of Heineken? They don’t feel the same pressure to do penance for an act that had no real social or ethical consequences. Why is this? What about my consumption of a slice of pizza makes me a “naughty” girl who should be punished?
It stems from this twisted notion we’ve all agreed to adopt, which is that women have an obligation to society to be beautiful. We have long been contributing in ways that have nothing to do with our appearances – we oversee companies, we make art, we teach children. And yet, this tendency to stigmatize eating and food for women is revealing of the gender prison we’re still being sentenced to – that of homemaker, mother, and above all, eye candy. If a woman places delicious food over her appearance and indulges in a few too many doughnuts, she no longer fulfills her function as a boner-magnet for sperm-filled babymakers in a society where the thinner you are, arguably the more beautiful you are considered. She has slacked in her wifely duty to provide a fuckable baby-farm at all times. Those couple extra pounds may very well put her long-suffering husband off his feed for months, debilitating his virility and contributing to the eventual extinction of the human race!
But really, the whole thing is completely ridiculous. Clearly, I am a huge proponent of eating some fruits and veggies every now and then. Maybe don’t eat cake for every single meal. But while eating like shit isn’t good for you, you have every right to do it. It’s not illegal. It’s not immoral. If you want Pop-Tarts for breakfast today, you can eat them and acknowledge that they will make your blood sugar spike and possibly put you at a caloric surplus for the day. And it’s okay. You haven’t hurt anyone except yourself, and not even that, really. One Pop-Tart breakfast is not going to cause the collapse of the world as we know it. You haven’t let down Jahweh, Allah, Beyonce, or any other god you might be praying to. You just had a fucking toaster pastry. We have all gotten over it. Own your toaster pastry. Savor it with relish (the emotional kind, not the pickle kind – gross) and don’t apologize afterward. You haven’t done anything wrong.