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Stop Caring About What Other Women Eat

I've had a gutful.

11/05/2017 9:20 AM AEST | Updated 11/05/2017 9:20 AM AEST
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"If you are watching what a woman does with her mouth, you should also watch what you do with your own."

Dear Women

Please stop worrying about what other women eat.

To paraphrase Ellen De Generes: Do we have to know who's eating what? Can't we just love everybody and judge them by the car they drive?

I'm not just talking about researching Pippa Middleton's pre-wedding diet, or Lena Dunham's "20 Slimdown Diet Tips", which have both recently made headline news. We can 'blame' that on the tabloids, on our celebrity-obsessed culture -- but I don't think we realise how much of this we do to each other.

Logically speaking, we all know that food shouldn't be yet another competition category in the 'Sisterhood' Games. Yet how often do we consciously or unconsciously make a judgement, or hear one, about how a woman known to us is fuelling her body?

Perhaps it's human nature, but my general rule is if you are watching what a woman does with her mouth, you should also watch what you do with your own. You don't need to comment on what they order. How much of it they consume. If they also eat dessert. If they choose to drink their calories and eat a small entrée.

Isn't it enough that we have to listen to our own internal monologues -– do we also need to become the voices in other people's heads?

Unless you are concerned about a life-threatening pattern, you don't need to relay any of your observations to that woman, or make it a topic of conversation with someone else later. Or maybe you do, depending on your own self-esteem at the time.

At best, it's a little snide remark, and at worst, it can be bullying. In most cases, it's definitely a little worm of opinion that wriggles its way into someone's head, and will be re-played for years to come.

And most of the time, we're wrong. We make snap judgements on a fleeting interaction, uninterested in the full picture. My most recent experience of this is a perfect example. I was offered the dessert platter at a party by an acquaintance. When I declined by politely saying "no, thank you", the person offering whispered with a sad smile: "Aw, are you on a diet again?"

My mouth emitted a tinkling giggle -- which means I basically laughed in her face. I thought: no, I'm not on a diet. I'm an adult. I'm 40 years old and I am allowed to make decisions about what I put in my mouth (food, beverage, or otherwise) without justifying it to anyone. So sod off.

I'd like to say that politeness kept me from honesty, but that's not why I merely laughed in response. The woman was a healthy, fit human, who had once appraised (uninvited) my body as an "apple". I had to Google the term to understand what she meant. She did not mean an amazing piece of technology that billions of people desire and depend on -- she meant that she had noticed that I carry most of my weight around my torso.

And that's why, when faced with a dessert platter and a condescending question, I didn't bother giving the woman the honour of my honesty. She didn't care about my answer. She enjoyed asking me whether I was on a diet because she assumes that anyone who has weight that needs watching must spend their time fearfully monitoring life's simple pleasures, but are obviously failing, because they don't look like her.

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She's right, to the extent that I do consider what I eat, like most people –- but also because I'm a diabetic. I'm not "on a diet". I'm managing a disease. Like a boss.

But what if I weren't a diabetic? What if I had made a wild, random decision to simply not eat something? Because I'm a grown up in charge of my body and her dry dessert didn't look remotely tempting.

Ever entertain that idea? It's not me, it's your dessert?

And here's another revolutionary concept –- I wasn't there just for the food and booze. Before the woman offered me her dessert and interrupted a conversation I was having with a man -- who, for the record, also declined the dessert, which she let go without comment -- I hadn't even glanced at her platter that was sitting untouched on the table. I was too busy listening to other people and/or talking about myself (in a 30/70 split).

And what if I had brazenly picked two sweets from her platter? What would she have said about that? Would she have considered that I might have adjusted my food consumption for the day knowing that I would like to enjoy some dessert that night? Or would she have smugly thought, "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why she's an apple"?

Often you're damned if you do, and damned even more if you don't. We all know this, and we've all had experiences like this. Isn't it enough that we have to listen to our own internal monologues -– do we also need to become the voices in other people's heads?

Like most people in the First World, I'm lucky enough to be able triage what I put in my mouth. It's not anyone's business that I do.

And it's not my business to admonish anyone for their thoughts -- but it is my business if they directly make it my business. If they openly, vocally judge a woman for her choices, it speaks more about their character than it does about that woman's eating habits. Now that is food for thought.

Love and best wishes,

An apple-shaped woman.

PS: Just FYI, I'm more Golden Delicious than Granny Smith.

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