An Email Conversation About Food

The Writers | December 3, 2015

Because we spend perhaps a bit too much time thinking about it. And is that a problem?

Man-Repeller-Food-Talk-Leandra-Amelia-Surreal-Still-Life-by-Krista-bright--2

On Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 5:32 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Can I ask you a weird question, which will either really hit home or seem really ridiculous depending on which side of the spectrum you sway: how much time do you spend thinking about food?

On Nov 11, 2015, at 5:45 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I go through phases. Sometimes my life feels so all-consuming that food is my last thought. I rarely “forget to eat,” but I do “forget” to *think* about it.

In college, I used to think about food a lot. Probably too much because I was always on a diet to lose weight. Things like, “Oh crap, how am I supposed to go to dinner with my friends tonight? What will I eat? Should I eat? Do I eat before so that I don’t eat at dinner, and if I do that, do I risk getting hungry at dinner then eating TWO dinners?”

That made me feel insane. I hate thinking about food in that way. The only way I like to think about food is, “What do I need, and what do I want?”

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 12:21 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

I’m so with you. I do think about it a lot. Sometimes so much that by the time I’m actually eating, the food is underwhelming. Ultimately, I feel lucky that don’t have the time to think about it more, but I could absolutely see myself falling down a rabbit hole if I had a few more hours in the day. The thing is, I sometimes wonder if that makes me a disordered eater, you know?

I think this is another one of those topics that doesn’t really get spoken about honestly enough or through enough lenses and it somehow seems taboo to mention food hang-ups without immediately being diagnosed as something. My understanding is that everyone — EVERYONE — has a particular relationship with food, so I guess I just wonder what’s okay to say and what’s not.

On Nov 12, 2015, at 3:40 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I think everyone has a relationship with food, too — even if you think you don’t. If you’re an “eat to live” person as opposed to “live to eat,” that’s still a relationship. It’s crazy how psychological eating is. What I cannot say is if everyone has a difficult relationship with food, but I can generalize and say that almost everyone I know either currently has or has had a personal food-related hurdle to cross. That’s ranged from the mild peanut allergy to serious, doctor-diagnosed disorders.

But you’re right. It’s hard to talk about. I’ve also heard that it’s a hard topic to write about from a publisher’s standpoint, because reading about it can teach, trigger or encourage disordered eating.

What seems to be talked about less is the gray area you mention. The slightly disordered thinking as opposed to the clinical disorder. It seems pretty prevalent in our industry: everyone’s always on a juice cleanse, a fad diet, we’re always commenting on one another’s weight. (“You look great! What have you been doing?” implies, “You look skinny! What’s your secret?”)

Where does a diet or a new fitness regiment end and a problem begin?

I can kind of answer that for myself with the word “obsession.” When it begins to control your life as opposed to guide certain decisions (avoiding dinners with friends altogether versus packing a healthful, homemade lunch).

But even that’s too simple. I know we’re talking just you and me but the fact that we might publish this convo is making me edit my own thoughts a bit, which proves your point: we don’t really know what’s okay to say and what’s not okay. What do you think is not okay?

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 4:16 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

I’m not sure. I  started seeing an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility and I mentioned to her that my eating behavior is unusual because I’m kind of afraid of putting on weight/try to avoid grains and sugar as a result. It was refreshing to say it so matter of factly without feeling like I was being accused of a clinical disorder. Specifically because I have an incredibly hard time with deprivation, as in: I can’t do it. So I might want to avoid grains in my mind, but in action, I’m not great at it. Mostly, the reason I brought this up is because I’m thinking there’s a gray area between problem and not that is maybe “underserved” from a conversational perspective.

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 4:38 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I wonder if that gray area is underserved because of this: we talk about talking about things (ha ha) as a means to normalize them, take away the shame and create a supportive environment. But maybe fear surrounds “normalizing” food-weirdness talk because it could possibly come off as encouraging unhealthy, disordered behavior.

Goal: make everyone feel understood and not alone. “This is normal. It sucks. I go through this too. Nothing wrong with the way you’re thinking,” which translates to a release in anxiety and societal pressure and all the things that come with this territory.

Fear: “This is normal. It’s good. Nothing wrong with the way you’re thinking.” — which translates into someone getting worse, or not getting the help they need…

I DON’T KNOW THIS IS VERY HARD TO TALK ABOUT without sounding like a self-righteous know-it-all, an overly concerned mom or “like you have a problem” !!!!

Let’s say your daughter came home and told you, “I don’t want dinner. I’m fat.” How would you react?

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 5:21 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

I would not say, “No you’re not!!!!! You sound crazy!!!!!” because that devalidates someone’s feelings. And I know that when I tell my husband I feel ugly and he says I look beautiful what I’d prefer is for him to be like, “So take a shower and do your hair.” Agree with my plight and offer a solution! So maybe I’d start with, “Why do you think you’re fat? Are you unhappy with what you see in the mirror? Are you comparing yourself to someone at school?” It’s important for kids, I think, to learn early on that comparison is a fast track to misery. Then I might say, “You can’t not eat because we need food to survive, so that’s not really a choice. What is a choice is what you choose to eat, so if you want, we can talk about which foods won’t make you feel “fat” and which ones might.” (Like cake, which will be her favorite if she is anything like her mother.)

Maybe that’s terrible advice, I don’t know, but I do think you bring up a really good and important point about this convo — the goal is definitely not to mitigate-without-solving unhealthy behavior. What I’m getting at is more trying to figure out whether we blow our habits out of proportion because shame comes into play.

Of course, everyone experiences food differently so it’s stupid to assume that what I think isn’t completely tailored to the way my mind works, but I do also feel pretty confident in my own sense of self-awareness. I know (for the most part) when I have an issue and when I don’t, but I’m a little stumped with food stuff, though I do know that when I bring it up, my understanding is that many other (mostly) women experience similar tendencies. Comments like, “I’m being good tonight,” or “You had a stomach virus, I’m so jealous!” seem to indicate a very real flaw in our relationships with food. I guess I’m just wondering whether the flaw is palpable enough to even bother “overcoming” or if it should just be relegated to…Circumstance About the Way Women Feel.

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 5:41 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

“…Trying to figure out whether we blow our habits out of proportion because shame comes in play.” — that’s so interesting. Definitely. Right? Hanging around people who chide you for bringing up real thoughts that come into your mind (You: I feel fat, I want to lose weight; Them: you’re crazy, don’t talk like that, you sound like a nut) really could make you feel like…whoa, I am crazy.

Then there’s the opposite where you’re surrounded by people who all say the same thing i.e., “I’m being good tonight,” like you mentioned — so you feel NOT crazy.

There’s no great way to gauge your own standing, even if you are super self-aware, like you said. It’s such a murky area. We know when we’re feeling stressed or burned out or sad because those are causes of something else we can pinpoint, like work or a relationship. But when we have to assess a problem with ourselves, that’s always so much harder. Everything thinks they’re “fine.”

That whole overcoming the flaw in our relationships with food thing…it’s very tied to societal standards. We’re weird about food because it affects the way we look. And we can also be weird about food because of antiquated things we were taught (pressure to clean your plate, that certain foods are “bad”) so it’s almost like to overcome the flaw we’d have to hit rewind and wipe our memories… And then you read something like “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and it’s because they not only have self-control, but exercise everything in moderation.

If Americans don’t do moderation well then maybe that’s why we also assume we have a problem!

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 6:09 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

I find that I mostly become hung up about food when everything else in my life seems out of control. It’s pretty textbook, but specifically with the pregnancy thing, I keep thinking that maybe if I eat really REALLY healthy fats and just like, zero sugar and don’t consume alcohol, it will change the outcome of my issue (which is rooted in the fact that I’m not getting periods).

Same thing when my dad was sick with colon cancer — I literally ate raw food for six months because I read in a book that your colon doesn’t have to work to digest raw food. It was the most literal way to internalize a near-tragedy.

Anyway, I don’t have a solution. I don’t even know if what we’re talking about makes sense, but I would love to have a larger conversation with THE PEOPLE about food and eating because I’m curious about their opinions. What are you thinking?

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 6:26 PM, Amelia Diamond wrote:

I tend to operate in extremes, so either I’m being REALLY HEALTHY, or I’m YOLO-ing. Monday through Friday day: a food saint. Friday night through Sunday, a frat bro. Then I repent on Monday onward and the cycle goes on. If I’m emotionally stressed, I can’t eat. If I’m work-stressed, I’m mad at anyone who isn’t a doughnut. But I guess I’ve always assumed all of that was normal. Ish. Normal as in — I don’t have a problem.

What you’ve really made me think about are things like: what is a problem when everything exists on a gray sliding scale? Who’s to say what is/isn’t? Is that a doctor’s job? Your parent’s job? As an adult: your job?

Can you learn to not be weird about food? Or do you just accept it…because it’s normal…and then talk about it…

Did we go in a circle?

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis

hyperlink-gif-email-convo-on-food

  • cheyfoster

    I have a hard time dealing with the amount of time my coworkers spend talking about their eating habits/diet. It causes them to make comments about what I’m eating for lunch or what I’m snacking on. I think that your diet is a personal thing and I hate how our body conscious culture now dominates my workplace.

    Side note: I read this book called “French Kids Eat Everything” that I didn’t realize was a book about parenting *but* spoke at length to the difference between Americans’ and Europeans’ attitude towards food. It’s a great read and has helped me appreciate food for more than just fuel. I now take time to enjoy my meal away from my phone or tv, I don’t eat on the go, and I don’t see food as a necessary evil in the way that most girls around me do. I highly recommend the book!

    • Amelia Diamond

      I want to check out that book, thank you!

      • Kerrith

        My husband and I read that book as a way to educate ourselves about feeding our children in a healthy way that didn’t project our food issues onto them. Seriously, you think you might have food issues now? Wait until your trying to cultivate someone else’s healthy relationship with food. It really brings to light how ingrained some of our food beliefs are. That book is great. It made me pause and just observe the way my kids eat. We stopped letting them snack so they would be hungrier for their meals, but what I found/still find interesting is that we offer them a few healthy choices on their plate and they eat slowly, laugh, talk and play. They stop eating when they are full, and they never eat alone. Without any interference from us there relationship to food is totally healthy. I learn a lot from them in general. We could all benefit from getting up early, being active and learning new things all day, then bathe, read some books and go to bed early. I have so much more to say about this subject, but feel like Ive written too much already.

        • Larissa Carpenter

          I have generated 74,000 dollars so far this year working online and I am a full time student. I am attached with an online business entity that I heard about and I have earned such great cash. It is really user friendly and I feel myself lucky to have that option. Why not try this. ii…

          http://www.WavesForDevelopmen.eu.nu

        • Loretta Vest

          I have generated 74,000 dollars so far this year working online and I am a full time student. I am attached with an online business entity that I heard about and I have earned such great cash. It is really user friendly and I feel myself lucky to have that option. Why not try this. uu…

          CLICK Here For Details
          ░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓░▒▓

        • Adriana Waite

          When I looked at the draft of 8369 dollars, I accept that my friend’s brother was like really creating cash in his free time with his PC. . His aunt’s neighbor has done this for only 9 months and by now repaid the loan on their home and bought a new Car . Look here for details.

          CLICK Here For Details

          ty…

        • Thank you for sharing! I’d have happily read more 🙂

    • My coworkers and I talk about food a lot because it’s an easy, safe topic. But it’s more about cuisine or favorite foods (I’m Polish, my boss is Moldavian, and a colleague has Italian and Southern parents.) We discuss the cultural, historical, and economic aspect of food a lot. We also trade stories about what we didn’t have and what we experienced as new immigrants. (There’s still some American snack food smells that make me dry heave)

      But I’ll add that I’m conscious of preventing our conversations in going in the diet/binging territory.

    • Ashli Molina

      Ooh, will add to my book list. My goal was to not be in love with food the way I was, then to not see it as an evil.

    • El

      I second this book – it’s awesome!

    • ReinaG

      This book sounds amazing.

      I too have a hard time with co workers and friends and THEIR relationship with food. Maybe because its unlike my own? or because i’d rather talk about other ways I’ve been “bad” (#flirtqueen)

      Comments like “I’m being good” “ooh no i CANT have that” “I had so much bread today.” I follow a mostly raw diet because I have a committed relationship with Donuts. I’m often bummed out when no one will split one with me and also annoyed when they tell me why…worse if they split it with guilt. I’ll add that at times I feel uncomfortable when people comment on how well I do eat. It feels sort of violating that I’m being watched or that anyone has taken notice and formed an opinion about it.

      I myself think about food often because I’m a neat/organized freak. I think about wether I have enough groceries and the right foods to take to work (because if I don’t I have to order out which is an unexpected task to add to the day) what ill have for dinner so I can have time to work out and read and surf the web. I will probably give this book a read. I’d love to enjoy my meals again!

  • Kayla Tanenbaum

    I’ve canceled plans more times than I care to admit because I felt fat. Though intellectually, I know that I am decidedly not fat, I felt (and feel, because this still happens) a deep sense of shame that I’m not as thin as models, or as this as I “could” be, or some version of thin where I’m more pointy than round (why do I want to be more pointy!?) And the most fucked up part is I’m not a “foodie.” I don’t really get any pleasure from eating decadent food vs. “healthy” food — side note: can we distinguish between low-calorie and healthy in the media more? — I eat when I feel bored/and stressed, and I eat when I want to punish myself for not eating the way that I want. I’ve also seen a therapist for binge eating. I used to joke I wish I would complete the cycle, binge and then purge. I never purge, and part of me wants to have the impulse to purge.

    That was probably a bit TMI but it felt really good to just fuckin’ say it.

    All this is to say, as usual, your candor is refreshing and moreover, necessary. Thank da lawd for MR.

    • no such thing as TMI on good ole MR

    • Although you said it might be TMI, I’m really glad you shared about (jokingly) wishing to be able to purge. When I was really in the depths of my anorexia I sometimes would break down and have binges and I was always SO angry that I wouldn’t/couldn’t purge…. It’s so fucked up but I’ve never heard someone share similar feelings so thanks.

    • meme

      I used to purge and I wished to “have the discipline” to restrain myself, I kind of admired people with anorexia. I get what you are saying, it’s hard to talk about it.

    • Leandra Medine

      It’s your candor, too, regular contributor Tanenbaum

    • A

      this was the most refreshingly real thing I have ever read … thank you

  • To answer the question in short- how much time do I spend thinking about it? I would take a line from RENT and say approximately 525,600 minutes. I would say half of it is because I love the art of cooking so reading menus and recipes is genuinely interesting to me (sometimes I just look at random restaurant websites maybe in the same way someone would browse the ‘net for new shoes). The other half is because I love to eat. To eat less takes a lot more effort than I would like to admit. It’s a constant struggle. I’m usually pretty good monday-thurs, but the weekends are terrible. Sometimes I do wonder if the food passion is less of a passion and more of a problem? Or a beautiful combo of the 2? My family members love to comment on appearance so I texted my mother this year the day before thanksgiving saying UGH I don’t want to go and have everyone call me fat. She responded with “f**K the haters. you have a beautiful heart”, which was nice to hear instead of the usual “you need to cut back”. I GUESS IT’S GOOD TO HEAR BOTH SOMETIMES THOUGH IDK!!!

  • Lucia

    Thank you so much for your honesty, both of you. And for publishing this and asking the right questions. I have lived with an eating disorder for most of my adult life. I’m well now but, as you say, food is everywhere and so are feelings, which means that it’s a daily job for me to stay well and not take it for granted. For me, I passed the threshold of classic-ish food concern to full blown eating disorder when it completely took over my life. I remember once being grateful because I realised I had not thought about food for circa 5 minutes. Trust me, however great are your external achievements, that is not a life. For years I was eating so much, then trying and failing to restrict and I had no idea what being hungry felt like. Food, my body, what people thought or what I thought they saw me as were all that mattered. From a stranger point of view I was beautiful thin successful and had the right clothes. Nothing was never enough and I was utterly miserable. For me it becomes a serious problem where food is a thing you use (one way or another) because it is the only thing you have left to manage feelings and relationships. You can’t get out of that on your own. That being said I would not dismiss the fact that food-thinking / obsession can be very painful at a smaller scale. No need for the full-blown addiction to be legitimate in asking what’s normal and what helps. I have no pretentions to the right answers or the solution. I just want to share some experience from someone who’s been through food-induced hell and back. Today I am completely free from food obsession most of the time I have learnt a new way of looking at food but really it’s a new way of looking at life and feelings and relationships. Because let’s be frank, when you want to eat your weight in cake because you are emotionally or physically strained, it’s really not about the food. Finally, if any one here is looking for a solution here’s the one I used: it’s called Overeaters Anonymous (the name is bad, it’s actually for all eating disorders), it’s a 12 steps fellowship with over 100,000 members and meetings literally all over the world in over 70 languages. People don’t know it because food is less sexy than alcohol or drugs, but this is the 3rd bigger fellowship after AA and NA. I hope some of this helps. (PS I am French. Trust me they get fat too.)

    • Amelia Diamond

      Thank you so much for sharing all of this. It’s really special that all of you find this to be a safe place to speak and think and share.

  • I spend much time thinking about food, too, and I love it.

    After my last diet (I was 18) I decided never to diet again, because I found it so humiliating and also because I could: moving away meant there was noone telling me I was fat, so I could just do about my weight as I pleased. I hate it when other people try to decide these issues for me and I don’t give a damn whether they find me attractive or not – I wasn’t conceived to please them and it is not my job.

    So after that I was left to eating whatever my body wanted to and needed for me to study, do all the jobs necessary to study and of course party. It wanted no meat, it decided to stay very thin during a particularly stressful period and chubby when I got married and settled down – no big change in eating, just different stress levels. And we needed new wedding rings after 5 years of marriage because I got married when still thin 🙂 and needed a bigger ring afterwards.

    Nowadays, my body requires more and more veggies as I grow older and doesn’t want me to eat much sugar, I have lost weight after taking on a serious workout regime – for the sheer pleasure of it, but would still never ever have any success as a fashion blogger :-). My “career” requires me to spend much time on topics other than me, myself and I, which is quite a blessing, to be honest. Really good.
    So I categorize food in “eat as little as you can because not good for you, but do eat it once in a while”, “don’t, you don’t like it”, “don’t think too much about it, just eat it” and “eat whenever you feel like”. I don’t think it is a shame thinking about food a lot, I love it – it is a pleasure not necessarily always connected to also eating that food. On the contrary. And: one can spend much time thinking about healthy food, too …

    • Being mindful of what our bodies want, as well as when and why, and then following through and changing patterns if they become mindless or harmful–I think that’s the key to achieving balance. That’s what I try to achieve in life overall, but especially in regards to food. I don’t diet. It’s not sustainable. And it has never ever worked for me in terms of achieving weight loss. It only succeeds in making me feel deprived and punished. Generally, I eat what I want, when I want it. That is the only way I can maintain balance: by listening to what my body wants and giving it what it wants. It’s smarter than I am. If I deny my body what it wants, I end up trying to fill the need with other things that are more harmful than just giving it what it wanted in the first place. This may not make me thin, but I don’t care.
      I didn’t have a very healthy relationship to food as an adolescent. I still sometimes use food to comfort myself or reward myself, and still sometimes eat more than necessary, but not nearly as much as I did when a teenager. And I never use deprivation as a punishment. For me, that just turns food into a weapon.

      • You know, I have simply introduced a category of things I’d love in life and when not talking I think about them a lot. That’s good and it hurts and it is life. Life I still enjoy a lot – also because it is the only one I’ll ever have.

  • Maxine Whitney

    I just recently joined the D1 rowing team at my college, which obviously made everyone around me think that I was going to lose tons of weight. However, the culture within the team is all about lifting enormous amounts of weight and then eating insane amounts of carbs to replenish our broken bodies. So in fact, I have not been losing much weight at all. I have been gaining in fact. While I thought that this kind of an environment would put my issues with food to rest, I think it some ways it has made them even worse. Now i feel like I can justify eating fat and carb heavy meals when in fact I am not doing enough work to really outweigh the negatives with positives. The fact that I’m conscious of this and I still find ways to justify myself is the really sad part.
    On another note, are you guys looking for summer interns yet? I would love to work with you!

    • Lindsay

      As a former D1 rower, I TOTALLY get this. I think group mentality has a lot to do with the way we eat, especially on a college campus.
      If you want any advice, take advantage of your school’s dietitian. It’s something I did at the end of my senior year and I really wish I would have met with her earlier.
      Also, enjoy rowing, it’s such a beautiful sport! I never felt as strong as I did when I was a rower.

    • You’re probably also gaining a ton of muscle.

  • Kelsey O’Donnell

    I would purge after eating for a long time in highschool and college – even just an apple. For me, it was also a form of controlling one part of my life when I felt out of control in other areas. Then I came to love the fealing of an empty stomach, and of course, the compliments that come with weight loss. When I saw a doctor about it – her being the first person I ever said to “I might have a problem with bulimia” – she said I wasn’t bulimic because I did not binge, and that was the end of that conversation. Talk about fucked up dialogue. It took a lot of mental strength and family/friend support, and just deciding I did not want to be 25, 30, 45 and purging to stop the behavior. I still struggle with a desire to eat just the right thing! to get me to skinny! but I’ve found I’m happiest when I just eat in moderation, eat primarily “whole” foods and don’t impose strict rules like no cheese! (cheese = heart eyes) I hope one day to get to the point where I can tune out the noise and not over-think, over-analyze, worry, stress stress stress about food, and instead just be and enjoy. Thanks for this outlet, and this post. It’s wonderful to have a community to share and engage with smart women.

    • wow, what a messed up doctor!!

  • Jessica H

    I would love to read you two expand on this term ‘diet culture’ that’s floating around lately, usually with a negative connotation. It’s been tested and and studied by scientists and nutritionists that diets DO NOT WORK. Often, people end up gaining weight back (plus some) and unhealthy habits after dieting. The mass of the population primarily in the US is obsessed with quick fixes and fad diets. The only thing that really works is a good hard look at your habits and lifestyle and an adjustment that doesn’t have an endgame or a weight loss goal but an overall healthier lifestyle.

    • Leandra Medine

      Super uneducated or studied opinion, but if I had to guess, the allure of the diet is similar to the allure of consumerism. We’re all looking for easy fixes that will change the course of the problems we make/find in our lives. “If I just had those shoes, I’d be able to get my dream job,” or “If I just lose 6 pounds, I’ll definitely get married” — they’re false promises that have been exploited and unfortunately accepted as fact by us and even through the realities starting to shed light on the conversation, there is a lot of unlearning that has to get done – and that’s the hardest part.

      • Jessica H

        That’s so true! I’ve had personal experience with this internal ultimatum as I’m sure a large percentage of people have. We are surrounded by false hopes and promises in the form of advertising and even looking at our instagram feeds. A huge piece of it is playing into our deepest insecurities and giving us the magical item-thing that will make it all go away. It’s true, a lot of unlearning is necessary, but at least people like you guys here on MR are starting the conversations. The hard part for me is I am totally aware of the reasons for these habits and insecurities but have serious difficulty implementing change. I still feel like I have to warn people of (what I perceive to be) my flaws and constantly apologize for them.

      • hear hear! the looking for happiness in external places. If this one thing happened to me, I will be happy! If my partner just washed the dishes once, then I wouldn’t nag! If I just had that $1,000 lawn ornament, everything will be perfect. If I had a nose job, everyone would think I was beautiful and I’d live happily ever after.

        Shit usually doesn’t work.

  • I definitely relate to this & I think it’s really hard because girls are crazy & so are our brains. I feel like it has become normalized to “have a weird relationship with food”, but there are so many sides to this story. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say…but I was a ballerina my whole life so as cliche as it sounds…friends & I have been through some f*cked up sh*t. Even with people who aren’t ballerinas…I still feel a pressure from them & think everyone is implying something about my weight or diet. That’s just what I’m used too & I don’t think it’s healthy. It’s really hard & I feel like people often can’t relate. I think that’s my own problem though. (Not sure if I have made sense at all)
    xx

  • meme

    Oh the things I could do if I used other ways the time I dedicate to thinking about food and my imperfect body.
    In the past years I have tried to just think about food with pleasure, like I did as a kid, and just enjoy my habbit of thinking about what to make for dinner in the middle of lunch, instead of fighting it. But no matter how better I get at it, there is always that voice that says if you lost x amount of kilos life would be perfect, and my mum’s voice saying “you have such a nice base, if you could just stop eating bread then you would be perfect”.
    I honestly think this is a feminist issue. As long as we feel like we don’t measure up, we’ll accept being underpaid, deprived of opportunities, forced to put up with violence, and so on.

  • Eleanor

    I feel like I totally oscillate between two extremes: for a week or a month or a couple of hours, even, I’ll be obsessed with being as healthy as possible, and then I’ll go the opposite direction. What made me think of this is yesterday I had nuts for breakfast and 3 cups of dandelion tea during the day and then ate 3 empanadas. It seems like it would be so much better to just have an even keel about things. The obsessions, like with green smoothies or buckwheat, are just unsustainable, and it seems like there are few middle of the road options.

  • Quinn Halman

    I have a very unhealthy relationship with food and I never like to talk about it, but I love when articles like this get published. Here’s the thing with food; it is the only thing you have full control over. When your life is spiralling out of control or a major change is going on and everything feels different, you’re going to have to eat. Food also is a major influence on so much of our day to day life. When I wake up in the morning and hope to see my ribs/collar bones/ab line and don’t- food is the solution to seeing them. Besides the fact we need to eat to survive, we can’t escape food. Food network, commercials, 25 kitchen tools you didn’t know you needed, and those God forsaken diet pill ads. I hate those ads so much not because I’ve fallen for them (I have not) but they implant the idea that you can fast-track weight loss and everyone is used to and craves instant gratification. Once this notion is implanted it’s so dangerous because suddenly you feel inadequate and take to harmful measures in an attempt to make like Karen and drop 4 sizes in 6 months! Well, fuck you, Karen.
    I hate how I think about food and I hate the person I become when I obsess over it. I’ll sit at a meal and compare what’s on my plate to my friends and I very clearly remember an instant where it felt like I was that stock character of a friend that was always eating. And it just continued and I gotta go now because going down this hole again is not going to result in a healthy outcome- just a frustrated human

    • doublecurl

      I feel this so much but from your tiny lil picture you look so beautiful and perfect!

      • Quinn Halman

        who are you and please be my friend

  • Thank you for sharing this important conversation. I’ve suffered from disordered eating- and never really talked about it or dealt with it. I was never so bad that I needed to be hospitalized, but it was being noticed and commented on. So- was the problem really a “PROBLEM?” I didn’t think so/ I liked the way I looked. Even if maybe I knew how I got there was “wrong.” This post has been a refreshing place to process my thoughts on the matter and share them. Unfortunately, I would venture to say most women I know are in this “weird food relationship” boat without a paddle. Where is the line between “she has a serious problem,” and “oh, she’s just super healthy” (which leads to the discussion of Orthorexia)? We don’t know. And then there are the people who suffered publicly and then comment publicly on having “beat” their disordered eating…do you ever *really* beat it? I’m not sure I believe that. Anyway, bravo. You ladies never fail to address the conversations others are too uncomfortable (or too lacking in self awareness) to breach.

  • alezohn

    Thank you for your honesty and courage. I’m a health coach and I specialize in our relationship with food. As you said, we all have a personal relationship with food, and what we find (or not find) in our plates, isn’t just a result of what’s offered in a menu or a buffet, but a product of where we are regarding our career/finances, with our relationships, our spirituality, our physical activity, the composition of our gut bacteria, and our own relationship with our body, who is a living being that sometimes we don’t listen to and that we often hold grudges against. Food is a doorway. The actual food, the thought of it, or our behavior towards it is a reflection of how we are feeling physically and emotionally. It’s good to learn to separate the mind, the body and the food and to try to ask ourselves what’s going on. Many of us tend to crave sugar when we need a hug or some comfort (biochemically it makes sense), some of us ignore our body and forget to ask him/her what he/she needs, check in with he/she constantly during a meal, and we also forget to praise our body for the everyday miracles he/she does for us every single day despite its size.
    Our relationship with food gives us information about our lives, it requires a lot of courage to open that doorway and walk in, it can be painful and difficult, but it’s worth it, in order to heal that relationship.
    If you are eating something delicious just because it’s special, crafted with care in an artisanal manner, is very different from eating something you can’t stop yourself because you are thinking “I’ve been bad, to heck with it, I’ll just go all in. I’ll be hat anyways” One gives yourself the gift of pleasure, while the other one punishes you.
    It’s all about finding enough pleasure in life to satiate us, so we look at food just for what it’s capable of giving us, not more.

  • Lindsay

    Thanks MR, this is such a great topic!

    I think our thoughts around food can feel so alienating because we want to appear like its natural and no work was involved. As someone with a former (…is it ever former?) eating disorder, we can be shamed into ever thinking of ourselves as “fat” and treating our bodies that way. Then in turn that shame makes us sweep those feelings under the rug, never really addressing our issues. I’m still struggling to find out the difference between my body’s cues of needing food and my mind’s cues of wanting food.

    Leandra is right, we need to teach everyone much earlier in life that “comparison is a fast track to misery”. I’m also starting to realize, the people that I care the most about, I never look at them and analyze their weight, I just see the person I love and want them to be happy, which in turn means people see this about me, at least the ones that mean the most, so why then do we always feel like they are judging us. And if they are judging us, doesn’t that say more about them than it does me?

    Last point: I’d be curious to hear what the men out there think in terms of their relationship to food…

    I have lots of thoughts without one cohesive message, but thanks for getting the ball rolling!

  • SAR

    I can relate so much to making “rules” to control outside situations. Even though it is textbook to control eating when other parts of your life seem out of control, its textbook for a reason. I often will wake up and declare that sugar is dead to me, or gluten can never enter my body again. Then get in the cyclical effect of negativity when you break the rule that only you knew about. You beat yourself up, declare it again, break it again and beat yourself up again.

    My therapist often asks what percentage of my time/brain power I think about food. Its high. Which is unpleasant, but also not enough to internally decide I am going to stop. It is so complex. Within ourselves but also within our culture.

    For me, its also something that makes me stand out, even though its only me that knows that. I find myself getting annoyed when other people talk about cutting things out to loose weight or feeling fat. Like its MY thing (both of my parents are shrinks, clearly they had to mess me up somehow). For some reason I don’t like to hear my close friends having the same thoughts. It minimizes something to me. But then the other side to that is that I get annoyed when it is insinuated that I think about food so differently than other people. My sister told me that I eat to live, and I snapped back. My brain can’t win!

    These are interesting discussions in a safe arena. I am curious if for others reading this article it did in fact bring up/ trigger or re-trigger what you could classify as disordered thoughts around eating. It did for me, but in a way that seemed positive. That makes zero sense.

  • Samantha s

    I started seeing a therapist for this reason exactly…so I am so thrilled to know I’m not alone! (Yes, I’m actually seeing a therapist) I truly feel I’m addicted to food. Food is just so good, and sometimes when life is hard, it seems like the only good part of your day. I think about it, read about it and eat it constantly. This is made worse by Pinterest, Instagram, foodie friends (who are great, but enablers all the same), and I would argue, improvement in food options overall in certain parts of the US. It is so hard to escape food. It’s in front of you constantly. Also, science has shown that sugar (which is pervasive in our modern diet) is addictive, which makes it very, very hard to say no to my favorite Maple cream filled donut. I think it’s important to recognize that the food industry is in OPPOSITION to the fashion industry, they work against each other, from a marketing perspective. I often feel you can’t live in both worlds–if you eat a lot, you can’t live be a fashionista (define as you wish), because you won’t look good in the clothes you desire . If you are a fashionista, you can’t eat a lot, so you can’t fully appreciate good food. No, this is not 100% true, but it feels that way so it’s my reality.

  • I can’t say exactly how much time I think about food but it’s a fair amount.
    I’ve always been small/slim but as a teenager I was so afraid of gaining weight because I would see classmates who started gaining weight and also some of my family members are a bit bigger. I don’t know, I guess I thought being skinny was part of my identity and I just couldn’t stand the thought of gaining weight.
    Then I started learning more about nutrition and healthy eating and started to focus on that instead of eating tiny portions. It was a step in the right direction but I would still get super obsessive about eating good or bad foods.
    I started getting a more relaxed attitude towards food when I started dating my boyfriend, who is super tall and skinny no matter what he eats. He’d offer me sweets and junk food and I couldn’t bring myself to say no. I realized that I wasn’t gaining weight and that it’s ok to indulge every once in a while. On the contrary he started watching me eat my salads and got more interested in healthy eating. I think now we’ve both reached a good point where it’s more about our health than our weight. We generally eat healthy but we don’t feel guilty if we have an ice cream night. It’s taken a while to get to this point though.

  • Ashli Molina

    A deep email thread turned into a meaningful article. Mind blown. I honestly haven’t finished reading it because I’m at work and shouldn’t be procrastinating, so I’m writing this comment to later remember that I wrote this comment promising myself to finish reading this.

    I know I go through phases. Most of the year, though, I have a difficult relationship with food—a “live to eat” kind of phase—and I purposely justify my habits by making fun of myself. Now I’m in a good place. I’ve always loved food, but I used to it love it for the wrong reasons. I appreciate a good meal for what comes with it: saving time to sit down and savor the taste, the cultural aspect, and the conversations that take place over a meal, My mom, an amazing Hispanic woman always pushed me to be super skinny. She says I look more beautiful that way; I know she means well. However, her constant criticism and reminder to be skinny (not to be healthy) led to my previous obsessive ways because I wanted to piss her off since she hurt me multiple times. A person’s attitude toward food can change everything. So much to say about this- I’ll be back when I read the entire article!

  • Andrea Raymer

    My relationship with food is super weird and always has been. I don’t really know how to talk about it without people making fun of my for it. there is definitely a whole mess of problems.

    When I was younger I was definitely a binge eater both emotionally and in a “Cool Girl tries to keep up with the boys” kind of way. I have 10 male cousins in my very tight knit extended family so there was a lot of pressure to be that person. But I have also always struggled with my weight. My mom was one of the “skinny moms” when i was younger, so almost as soon as i hit puberty i was bigger than her. Rather than me wearing her hand-me-downs, she wore mine.

    I always tried to be a really active kid, but i just sucked at it and it made me feel pretty crappy in a big family full of athletes. When I got to high school i got sick of being self conscious all the time and probably only ate about 1 meal a day for a couple of years other than when I would binge and get really angry with myself, but I could never purge even though I tried. There was a period of 5 or 6 years where I literally could not throw up even if i had a stomach virus or the flu. I always attributed it to God giving me what I needed even if I didn’t want it. Even at the smallest I ever was, I was still probably a size 10.

    The weirdest part of my eating problems is probably my food phobias. Ever since i was probably in middle school I had a growing list of foods that I found offensive. Condiments (particularly white ones), Pickles, Garlic, Olives, tomatoes, Gravy, Onions, Beans, Yogurt. I always found something wrong with them and they made me really uncomfortable. Some of them I can still eat, but not touch with my hands, others I couldn’t even look at.

  • Kelly O

    I feel like this relates so much to the puritanical shame that is baked into American culture. Weight is such a visual measure of how much we’re able to deprive ourselves of pleasure. If you’re very thin, that means you’ve been successful at controlling your desires. Additional weight feels like a very public failure.

    My relationship with food is complicated in that I have always naturally been thin, but I still feel like I should feel guilty for enjoying food or for eating anything other than small quantities of healthy food. I feel weird about eating in public alone (like at work) because I feel so vulnerable. I do enjoy food and my husband and I cook every evening together. But somehow if it’s not communal, it just feels like so much of an indulgence.

  • Natty

    Our obsession with “health” is extreme: we spend $34 on SoulCycle classes (which we attend in fancy athleisure wear), we drink nothing but juice for a week and call it a detox (isn’t that just starvation?) and restaurants are increasingly offering designated Paleo/gluten free/vegan dishes. We have cloaked our desire to be thin with culturally acceptable (celebrated?) behaviors.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few pounds/get in shape and I wish we could be honest about our goals instead of hiding behind a green juice or a new-found food allergy. And I am not judging in the slightest – despite knowing better, I am guilty on all counts, and can’t break the habit. Why??

    This article is a great read and discusses the complexities of the “health” fad better than I ever could…
    http://observer.com/2015/06/what-the-new-health-food-industry-delivers-may-be-more-than-we-can-stomach/

  • Tess

    Interesting point to consider: at what point do we draw the line from celebrating different types of bodies to glorifying unhealthy habits/lifestyles. I was talking to my friend yesterday about this. We both support the body acceptance movement; it’s about time we expand societies myopic definition of beauty, but at the same time obesity is a huge problem for the nation and is it really okay that we’re telling people that this unhealthy lifestyle is acceptable?

  • Wonderfully candid & honest post. As someone who struggled with binge/bulimia for 10+ years during which my relationship with food literally encompassed my every decision, affected my mood, relationships & was constantly on my mind, I can say that while I am recovered, it never truly leaves you. For me it was about control, or lack thereof.

    It no longer has the crippling grasp on me that it once did, but it is still always lurking on my mind. It’s a cycle and some days are easier than others, but I do think this is a topic that is more common than people talk about. For me, bringing my deep, dark secret to light was so hard because I felt like everyone would be disappointed or disgusted, but ultimately telling of my struggles is what saved me and I am grateful to you for also bringing up this incredibly important topic and speaking from the heart.

  • Aubrey Green

    I think about food all the time, “what are we going to eat and where” – I have to eat every 3, 5 hours tops or I get sick/feel sick. I eat pretty healthy, but I also will eat Pizza, Cake, etc. when I want, BUT, I can’t eat a lot of bread – can’t really digest it – I’m also lactose intolerant and can’t eat a lot of Dairy, unless I take medicine – so, what type of food can I eat, is always on my mind, “how will this make my stomach feel?” As for thinking “will I get fat if I eat this?” – I don’t worry too much about that, but I still have that thought process here and there. I also know that it’s not going to happen, unless I eat a box of pizza everyday. I have hypothyroidism and granted I have the opposite effect of most people and I do not easily gain weight, I am kind of more aware do to that – maybe my metabolism will change soon, etc. and that I am 33, not 21…

  • lena

    I have been hospitalized for my eating disorder in the past and the one thing that sickened me was people’s view of what was “underweight” or unhealthy and what wasn’t. It had to take me getting to a bmi of 13/14 for people to get concerned about me, while when I was still underweight, I just got compliments and my disordered habits were ignored. I think the biggest thing about disordered eating is that people tend to judge those behaviours based on ones body type instead of the particular action. If i was skipping meals, but was clinically overweight people would say “Im being good” (????) but if I was underweight it was suddenly a problem. Our bodies shouldn’t be a validating factor of whether our struggle exists or not. Thats why I loved this post, because disordered habits get worse if they’re internalized and not talked about enough,and they become habits, and if anyone loves a good routine, it gets really hard to stop.

  • samhallie

    I spend a lot of time thinking about food, moreso now that I work at a food focused company. It’s totally changed the way I eat, to the point that I feel judgment from longtime friends for my change in habits. I feel inundated by food news and it has me in this constant state of dietary adjustment. The thing is, I kind of love it. I really believe that food is such a natural healer for the body – it’s so important. It’s so cool that we can tinker with the latest research to our benefit. I used to scoff at people who didn’t eat gluten because I thought it was silly to do if you didn’t have Celiac disease. Now that I’ve done my research, experimented without it, and experienced such a great change in my emotional state, I get it (yet still occasionally feel judged for it). I feel empowered by my hippie eating choices.

    I’m like you Amelia – Monday through Friday I am a friggin’ healthy food saint, but on the weekends I totally allow myself to consume more of the sugary, fatty foods that I love. But hey, the majority of the time we are eating healthy – that’s pretty good in my book. Before I go out to eat with friends, I am sometimes tempted to eat something healthy beforehand so that A. I won’t overeat or B. I won’t be judged for my dietary choices by friends. I think my biggest fear is judgment, I can be so regimented during the week that my coworkers will make comments sometimes. I don’t think that’s okay. I’ll admit that I never want to weigh more than a certain weight, but I definitely allow for leeway there – which could totally be perceived as unhealthy or not. I appreciate the topic – I think it’s really relevant for most women and it was nice to think more about it for a little. I think we all need to be easier with ourselves in general.

  • Jenny

    Depriving ourselves with fad diets and going “hard” at the gym, for example–doing things that have no basis in sport or leisure is all part of the way that our culture makes health a commodity. There is SO much to this conversation but I think the branding of health fads, gyms, exercise classes etc. is an extension of the way we want to promote ourselves, brand ourselves and show people that we have the willpower to slurp down that nasty green drink, before our skim milk lattes, after our body breaking, cartilage grating, gym sessions because we think thats what health looks like. We all want to be the brand extension of Soul Cycle, of Juice Generation etc. We parade these routines in front of our friends because what we really want to do is prove it to ourselves. If that’s what we’re doing why do we all feel so unfulfilled and out of control? I feel that I take control of my health, and that I have a relationship with food on my terms when I hang up my spin shoes and ask my friends to kick around a soccer ball in Central Park every once in a while. These things are actually good for the SOUL and the Burrata cheese plate we all shared afterwards wasn’t picked around the edges by self conscious women trying not to indulge in that cheesy goodness. And it rocked.

  • As an 18-year-old college student, I feel like I’ve just entered the real world in terms of making my own decisions regarding my health. It’s my decision what I eat everyday and when or if I make time to work out. I know that I feel the best after a good workout and that has helped get myself up and to the gym every morning. But in terms of food, I often feel stuck in the same gray area where I try and limit myself in terms of food and meals to the point where I question whether or not is healthy. It’s never come to an extreme, but it’s true that theres a gray area that no one talks about. I also haven’t decided which are the best people to surround yourself with: the ones who are just as concerned about their eating, or the ones who don’t give much thought to food to begin with. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Paige

    Thank you for talking honestly about this topic. As someone who has struggled with what you would call disordered eating, I understand how confusing our relationship with food can be. The thing is, when I was following a raw food diet or any other restrictive diet in the name of health, I did not think that it was disordered because of the the things that I was led to believe by our body-centered culture and health-fad advocates on the Internet. When I lost my period, I dismissed it, not connecting it to being underweight or having an unbalanced diet. But when I was clinically diagnosed with anorexia, it was shocking, because I didn’t identify with that label at all; I was merely trying to attain a certain physical ideal that was labeled as “healthy”. I had to completely redefine my irrational ideas about food and what it means to healthy and beautiful. Gaining back all of the weight was a wonderful relief for the most part, but the emotional struggle with body image often obscured the positive aspects of regaining health and strength. That said, there are many misleading messages out there, and the sad thing is that they work! I am so glad that this conversation is happening, because honesty and awareness can be an antidote to that awful feeling of deflation that comes from not meeting that specific (and pretty unrealistic) standard of beauty in our society.

  • Kate

    Thank you for so candidly opening up a pertinent discussion Leandra & Amelia. A few tidbits on an issue I probably waste too much thought on (… although far less when I’m both busy and relatively content):
    – The virtue and morality our society tends to attach to thinness and weight loss.
    – The ever increasing food choices we are exposed to through the growth in dining culture and food brands (not to mention the additional effects of media and social media coverage of all things food-related)… Does this contribute to disordered relationships? Was disordered eating less common in our grandmother’s generation when food and dining choices were more limited?
    – What is “normal” and can it genuinely be re-found/learnt once one has stepped a little too far along the spectrum of normal vs. disordered eating?

  • Corinne

    As a freshman in college I definitely noticed that my relationship with food has changed significantly. For the first time in my life I have been self conscience of what I’m eating and about skipping meals; whereas before I was self aware of what I was eating (especially after a doctor prescribed diet of no sugar dairy or gluten for a different medical issue) and I think there is a huge difference between being self conscience and self aware. One is destructive behavior and causes anxiety, as well as what you would call a cycle. Especially because again, for the first time in my life I’m completely surrounded by hundreds of girls who are obsessing over food and exercise and being “thin” as opposed to being healthy. But who is to blame? Culture or should we blame ourselves for buying into the “freshman fifteen”? My mindset has changed in the three months that I’ve been here and I find that I’m constantly having to remind myself that healthy and skinny are not the same thing. I’m surrounded by so much bargaining: “If I run x miles and eat a salad for dinner instead of such and such a meal then I can have this one scoop of ice-cream. I just want to be that person who comes back from school over winter break and looks better than I did when I left” and then I look down at my plate and push my food around and wonder which one of us has the problem.
    Any way, I found this article to be intriguing and helpful for evaluating my relationship with food. Thanks for being real

  • Niki

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I YES’ed so many times while reading. Over a decade of diet-related restriction on food has caused me to OBSESS over it. I think about it constantly… What should I be eating? What should I NOT be eating? How many calories? 1500 a day? 1200 a day? Even less? Less carbs? More carbs? More fat? Less fat? Ugh, it’s maddening! All because I feel like a failure, like I’m unworthy because I’m a few pounds overweight.

    I’m still working through healing my relationship with food. I’ve read all the books, tried all the diets—even ”intuitive eating”—but the two sources helping the most are The Fuck-It Diet (how great is that fucking name?!) and Isabel Foxen Duke, especially her “How Not to Eat Cake” guide. They are both so sensible, body positive, and wonderfully supportive. Highly recommend!

  • Whether I like it or not I definitely don’t have a neutral relationship with food. I can’t avoid the fear of being a fat-ass, being a female in a first world country. Except I don’t listen to the thoughts. I want to work on myself, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

    And most females I meet have a similar relationship with food, feeling guilty any time they eat something deep fried or sweet but not caring enough to actually deprive themselves.

    But every now and then I meet a woman who is obsessed. And I’m almost mad at them I think because I fear they’re judging me for not being so discriminating. Or rather, verbally discriminating because they end up stress eating ALL THE BAD THINGS CARBS CARBS CARBS ICE CREAM since they completely swear them off. But really, I should feel bad for them because they’re actually just scarred by an insecure mother who projected her own issues on her daughter.

    Seriously though, it’s exhausting hearing them gripe about food and being fat every other hour (as opposed to like, every two weeks). It takes so much brain space when you could be happy or you could be creating something!

    GIRLS! Don’t listen to any women older than you that tries to project their own issues on you! You are not fat! (unless you’re fat–which isn’t even a big deal…just do something about it if you want to)

    It’s scary when I’m babysitting 3 year olds and when they’re angry they call you fat and ugly because someone taught them that’s the worst possible thing you could say to someone. Or when a five year old looks at her pole-thin thigh and laments the way it spreads when she’s sitting down.

    Enough!

  • Tigg

    Leandra, I do not want to patronize you, but I just want to encourage you to see a therapist. You need your period back, and you need to be strong to be the great mom you are going to be. If you have doubts about this grey zone, it is time to see someone. And I just can tell you that I have been there, and I know how good it feels when food is not the center of your life (eating disorders when I was 21 to 26, then therapy for few months, then happiness for the next 20 years – it means enjoying food, having a reasonable weight and feeling happy with my body…)

  • Loved this article- it really resonates with me because I’ve struggled with an ED and as I am coming to terms with ‘healthy’ eating. Other people’s perception of my health and weight and eating habits influence me more than I’d like to admit. When I am with certain friends I am either health-saint or frat bro.
    I hope this sin’t inappropiate but: All the best for conceiving Leandra, keeping my fingers crossed for you and sending good vibes!

  • l:ly

    i love food but i fear it. it’s embarrassing

  • Emma

    When I was 14 I had a seriously messed up relationship with food. I would go to the gym and not eat for days, then faint at school, eat a lot for a week and start over. Now I’m 16 and I still find myself making shopping list with healthy ingredients, planning crazy low-calorie diets and make myself a way too demanding training schedule at night. But when I wake up in the morning, I realize, how little it’s worth it. I still haven’t found a healthy relationship with food, but at least I have experience now telling my, how much energy it will demand and how much misery it will at to my life.
    I’m very thankful for this post, realizing that some of the people i look up to, feel this way too. So thank you for throwing light at a way to hidden problem.

  • Caro

    First, I’m having issues with the fact that this discussion is listed under humor. That you dove into serious thoughts pertaining to disorders in your relationship to food is not funny. I think this discussion has much more serious and damaging undertones that should be addressed and not in a way that is meant to normalize a heartbreaking behavior pattern. Although eating disorders are common, they should not be normalized so much as to be seen as appropriate or healthy behaviors.
    I really value the “me too” idea, the frankness of the material, the willingness to share our truly vulnerable times but I really think this article is trying to say, “this behavior is fine right? I don’t need to address this in a serious professional environment because so many deal with this?” I’m truly put off by the fact that this is a personal discussion the writers have been having for years – I remember Leander talking about this in her book- about being sixteen and not wanting to eat the orange cake. But to be here, nearly 10 years later and seemingly trying to pass off an unhealthy behavior and what looks like all-consuming thoughts about food as okay and something you’re just going to live with or accept is a real bummer. To me, it appears that this behavior is affecting you so much so that you will write a “humorous” article about something that is really affecting you seriously, it is like you are avoiding the real consequences or thoughts about this. Leandra, I admire you for your candor and your willingness to say “here i am! Flaws and all!” But this discussion looks like a real coverup and I cant get down with it.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hey! First: it being filed under humor is a back-end oversight. Has been filed to brain massage now which is where we log our more thinkier pieces.

      As to your point that this post is a way to say: “this behavior is fine right? I don’t need to address this in a serious professional environment because so many deal with this?” — it was not (I apologize that you perceived it this way!) but more of a “this behavior is not discussed because it’s uncomfortable but clearly important, i’m not sure WHAT is ‘fine’ or ‘normal’ in this case, who gets to say so, etc” type-convo.) We are both people who frequently analyze our emotions and thoughts…we over-analyze everything, really (plight of a writer?) and this is one area that we felt we still can’t put our finger on.

      ALL of that said: we’re working on bringing in an eating disorder specialist to have another conversation on man repeller and address a lot of things in this comments section.

  • El

    wow, what an awesome discussion! Part of the reason food is such an issue is because conventional food is highly engineered to be addictive. So ours heads are f*@ked with from the get-go. Choosing to perhaps pay a little extra in time and money to eat only whole, unprocessed foods pays for itself in healthy headspace relating to food.

  • Karina

    the answers is super simple: we’re so obsessed about food because we are obsessed about our bodies

  • Olivia

    I find it interesting that everyone who has commented and relates with the issues discussed here is someone who has recovered from an eating disorder. That’s telling of how your relationships with food come across (whether or not that is correct).
    Speaking so honestly about this is very important, however I worry this is just normalizing disordered behaviours. Health issues as a result of fear of weight gain is not ‘normal’ or healthy and I hope readers aren’t feeling that they are A OK if they’re in the same position. I’m actually shocked that your medical team hasn’t told you to gain weight and is giving you with hormones and other therapies despite this one criteria (having a period) not being filled. If there are other underlying health issues that I’m not aware of I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions and being insensitive, but the issues around eating disorders in this area (media/fashion/beauty) are real and prevalent. Normalizing eating disorders isn’t cool.
    Talking extensively and obsessing about food actually is pretty common place in todays society, not that I really thing it’s a great idea. Relationships are complicated and relationships with food are even more so but there is a line between what is a healthy interest in food and what is an unhealthy obsession.

    I’m a long time fan and reader but I was pretty upset by the overall tone of this article. I hope you can come to terms with your food related issues and get better. Sincerely wishing you luck health and babies.

  • christel

    we all felt like that !

  • Jade

    Thanks for publishing this exchange– this is a topic that merits a greater conversation if we’re going to effectively brainstorm solutions to this problem.

    Sometimes I find my tendency to overthink my eating habits and the way they’ll impact my body to be anti-feminist, and this makes me simultaneously angry and anxious. Am I a hypocrite? Like, I talk all about how women should be valued for more then their bodies, and I really believe it, but when it comes to myself, I can’t help but obsess over my body. Because I can’t convince myself my weight doesn’t matter, because the media so aggressively exclaims “IT’S ALL THAT MATTERS,” because we’ve all experienced the difference in the way people treat us when we’re down a few pounds, a tad more “beautiful.” I think the solution to the neuroses is twofold: 1) the world needs to stop telling women that the way they look is the most important thing about them; 2) women need to believe it, and then relax about their weight. Weight obsession is its own subcategory of anxiety that disproportionately attacks women (though plenty of men deal with body image issues as well) and should be understood as such and treated accordingly.

  • Kirsten

    We have restaurants serve dishes with enough calories & nutrients (if you want to call them that) for what a person should be taking in for an entire day and then some. On the other hand we have controlled portion farm-to-table meals coming out of local restaurants — both food scenes are advocated for and both are advocated against for various reasons, but it seems like American culture has so many mixed feelings towards it’s relationship with food, it’s no wonder all of us living within it do too. If I had to guess I’d say majority of people have a weird relationship with food and if my guess is in the ballpark of being true, that many people are ‘abnormal’ when it comes to food, doesn’t that abnormality become the norm?
    My 6:55AM thought that stems from personal experience is that the weirdness we all feel towards food in our own unique way doesn’t become the norm for us because we are too busy creating this idea of what a normal relationship with food looks like based on what we perceive to be abnormalities or weird in our actual eating habits.

    I think Medine hits the nail on the head with this whole idea of ‘moderation’ and I don’t think we need to ‘overcome’ our weirdness with food, we need to embrace it. I also think her advice to her fictional daughter is spot-on parenting.

  • I love what you said, LM, about how you’d answer the question to a young daughter. I am going to memorize it but hope I never have to say it to my daughter one day.

  • Marion Raynal

    You don’t go in a circle at all. In fact this vincersation is very relevant. I had eating disorder, I still have issues with food and I think I always will. What you said about our relationship with food, the way we see ourselves, the pressure of society… It’s true and it’s unfortunate that we are unable to enjoy what we consume. Some food are so delicious , but then we feel guilty about eating them. We should enjoy the products nature gives us, and feel content about giving our body good stuff. Anyway, I really loved this article, you touched an important point, there are so many people struggling with that … Thank you for publishing such intelligent articles, it changes from what we can see on the web.

  • Barbara

    I live in Venezuela, in what I think you call “food uncertainty” situation; the lights/gas/water are in shortage but quite affordable all the same, so my one daily concern is keeping me and my household fed. This involves mostly lentils, eggs, oats, potato, tomato, rice, cornmeal and what US refers to as “queso fresco”. Now I live in the “pageant queen factory” so fitness and beauty are as integral to our culture as our flag or our music. Being able to be on a diet, the kind that includes avocado and quinoa, estevia and kale are status symbols, those that deprive themselves food because they /can/, not because they have to. I myself identify with a lot that’s being said here oddly enough, because when I see a sweet or soda or something else indulgent and unhealthy I’ll reprimand myself about how I can’t afford it, how I should buy a kilo of rice instead to have some buffer in the pantry, but inside I know it’s because I want to be healthy (skinny) 

  • Cat

    I just want to say, as kindly as possible, that not eating enough and maintaining a low weight is probably the most important cause of not getting periods and infertility. We can’t have everything, and I know this is hard to hear/accept, but in this case we must sometimes let go of the attachment to a particular weight or diet regimen in order to get the thing that is ultimately so much more important: fertility.