Food Shame

My family on a walk recently.  I think this is our best shadow portrait ever.  :)

My family on a walk recently. I think this is our best shadow portrait ever. 🙂

I was watching The Biggest Loser recently and Bob Harper, the trainer, started addressing the issue of shame around food. Dealing with my food shame was a really difficult thing. Even now, sometimes I find myself saying a blanket statement about how I process food so much differently that my husband, that my body seeks out fat and carbs when left to its own devices, so I need to be careful. Admitting things like that is a lot like talking about intimate money issues or sex. People look surprised that I earnestly and willingly share that ice cream is so yummy to me that I don’t have a lot of control around it!
Bob started talking about how we shouldn’t have shame about the foods we like, that we can still have them, we just need to figure out how they work into our diets. We shouldn’t hide what we eat because we shouldn’t have the shame. And to differentiate shame from guilt, I’ll turn to Brene Brown’s definition: Guilt- we feel guilty when we ate something bad. We feel shame when we think we are a bad person for eating a poor food choice.
Food has defined me for ages- shame was a frequent visitor in my childhood and young adulthood. After some reflection, I started thinking of all the times I’ve sneaked food. When I was a kid, I would stealthily sneak into the pantry, grab something without making it crinkle, then I’d dash up the stairs to consume it quickly in my room. Forget about Girlscout Cookie time, soccer candy bar sales, or any other fund raiser where I sold food. I would use my babysitting money to eat and eat and eat whatever I was selling, alone, up in my bedroom. It felt awful. When Bradley and I first moved in together, I would keep nuts and candy in my underwear drawer and when Bradley left the house, I would shove it in my mouth as fast as I could, both because I wanted to eat it and because I was ashamed of hoarding food, so I wanted to destroy the evidence that I had bought, hidden and eaten food that my husband would have been just fine with. But I felt deep shame. Weak. Untrustworthy.
I will admit, now, to a current fancy chocolate collection. It began as a transparent way to hoard food (just in case I had a chocolate emergency and needed to binge, I suppose) and now the collection has shrunk to only a beautiful golden star of chocolate and a giant Hershey’s kiss that reminds me of my late Grandma Johnson. I’ve let go of and eaten or shared my stash, and I haven’t been compelled to rebuild it. If I want chocolate I just go to the store and buy it.
Anyhow, that just triggered a lot of thoughts about food and shame and me. I’m glad to say that speaking my truth, reflecting and sharing my demons has made them lose most of their power over me. Openly admitting that I lurve (way more than love) fried foods is really hard. No one is supposed to like that stuff- we just eat it because it’s handy, right? (And delicious and crispy and moist and if there is a better way to make food deliciously crispy then please tell me what it is!) But we act like it’s just repulsive and we feel such repellant shame that most people who do, indeed, love Red Robin’s French fries, will talk down about fried foods because of the shame. I don’t think fried food is the culprit, serving sizes and frequency of intake is the problem. I believe that I can still eat the food I love, in this case, RR fries. I just need to limit it to that one or two times a year we go out to eat. And when I do, I need to moderate myself. No shame needed, right?
I guess, to make a long story short, one of my most powerful tools has been to admit that I have a problem with certain foods, to name the problem and then I make a plan for how I’m going to publicly incorporate them into my diet. That said, some things I had to leave behind for a while before I was able to eat them again.image

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *