Let’s talk about food—my favourite and most hated topic to discuss. As a woman, I feel like my relationship with food has been strained since a very young age, especially when going through puberty. My body changed significantly and quickly, not giving me much time to entirely understand what I was going to look like from then on. Transitioning from a child’s body to one that will soon be ready for reproduction isn’t something your family tells you about right away; it’s something you learn as you get older and realize why we, as women, are shaped the way we are.
I can easily sit here and say that the fashion industry has extravagantly changed the way we perceive femininity and female bodies (which I agree with), but the entirety of the blame can’t be put on something that we, as viewers, listeners, consumers, all stand by in one way or another. We buy the clothes, idolize the models who, in some cases, go to extreme measures to look like that themselves, and shame others who don’t fit the look you saw in a magazine somewhere. What I am trying to say is that we are as much to blame for these misconstructions of society as the media is. So, we have as much power in changing these ideologies as the designers at Chanel do.
I may be getting a bit off topic, but I felt like I needed to preface my thoughts before I delve into the meat (pun!) of the issue. Food is fantastic. It’s what gives us life, energy and excitement multiple times a day. That being said, the fact that we encounter food all day, every day is where a lot of my issues with it stem from and why I feel like our concept of food has changed dramatically through the years. It is almost impossible for me to sit down for a meal without feeling some sort of emotion towards it other than hunger. Sometimes it’s excitement at being able to eat something that is generally unhealthy, or guilt for the exact same reason. Other times it’ll be that I’m not that hungry, but feel like eating something sweet to curb a craving. Occasionally it’ll be as a form of rebellion towards people who would say I shouldn’t eat that.
Now, with the explosion of blogs, Instagram and Twitter, food has become a way to share an experience, even if you don’t end up eating the food you take a picture of. Most of the time these pictures are a form of ‘food porn’, used to get likes or elicit a bit of interest in your account. The term ‘food porn’ itself suggests that there is something loathsome and shameful about eating this food. That’s not because I think regular porn is loathsome or shameful, but because many people do and that mentality resonates when applying it to something we all have to do to survive. When looking at a picture of a deliciously prepared meal or dessert, you’re first instinct isn’t that the picture is a great piece of art, but rather a satisfaction at viewing something so indulgent because you can’t experience it yourself. A picture has no calories.
I am an avid YouTube watcher and almost always watch a video by a beauty guru or vlogger who will, at some point, exclaim that the food they’re eating is unhealthy, or that they need to get back on their healthy eating habits, or that they’re going to have a ‘cheat day’ today. I almost never hear the same exclamations coming from a guy and can’t help but feel that food is a first world feminist issue. After a while, it feels like all food is an indulgence and a luxury. Eating only salads is praised in songs by Drake as a form of success and wholesomeness in a woman. Quinoa and avocados have dominated the internet in multiple posts about how to make it “fun” in daily meals to avoid getting bored from eating healthy and when we start eating out of boredom from our constantly calculated meals, the cycle begins again. Back to hot yoga and watching, measuring, dividing, counting everything I eat just to avoid latching on to any fat even though that’s what female bodies do.
My boyfriend is always shocked when I tell him it’s a hassle to eat because his concern is about putting on weight, not losing it. He has no limitations when it comes to food and his body image and so does not view food as a privilege or a treat for working out that day. He eats because he needs to and is devoid of any unnecessary emotions when he does it. Oh how wonderful that must be! I see that as the true luxury and plan on changing my mind frame to match his a bit more. The fact that we associated thinness to less food and not to more fitness, healthier food, less stressful situations, or more exciting work lives is why I feel like body image is such a struggle. Anyone can stop eating, but with all the decadent images of food thrown at us as constructs of relaxation and happiness, it’s almost harder to eat in moderation without attaching any external significance to it. However, that’s not to say these views express every woman’s views. Of course, we are all different, which in itself somewhat expresses my point more. We are all different, so why are we made to feel the same? Why are we made to react to certain things like a Pavlovian dog. I have picture of donuts as my twitter header...why?! These are all questions that plague my mind on rainy days in or when a good rant is long overdue.
Have you experienced this when it comes to food and body image? Let me know if there are any questions you have about how certain things are portrayed despite having a different meaning.