I was at an office morning tea last week and, being quite hungry, I chowed down on a piece of chocolate cake. Later on, a woman I didn’t know sat next to me and started on her own piece of cake. Because I do a fair bit of education work, people tend to know that I’m a dietitian, even if I haven’t the foggiest who they are.
“I suppose you didn’t have any cake,” the woman tossed at me accusingly. Well, nice to meet you, too, lady.
“Of course I had a piece of cake,” I stated bluntly. Considering I had just filled my tummy with chocolately goodness, perhaps I should have been in a better mood… but I hadn’t yet had my cup of tea so I don’t think politeness could reasonably be expected of me.
“REALLY?!” she exclaimed incredulously, her mouth hanging open as if I had just admitted that I liked to dance naked around a bonfire to worship the sugar devil.
“You don’t have to look at me like that,” I snapped. “I’m actually a normal person, you know.”
This was not explanation enough, apparently. “You must only have one piece and stop though. You would have very good self-control.”
“No. I don’t limit anything that I eat, actually.” Cue a great opportunity for a teachable moment, about diet culture being the pits, about intuitive eating, about mindful eating… But, I mean, I hadn’t even had my cup of tea. So, really, I just couldn’t be arsed.
A few seconds later, it dawned on me that I had made everyone in the immediate vicinity uncomfortable, so I salvaged my rudeness with a lame-ass joke. “Chocolate is it’s own food group anyway.” A few titters ensued and conversation went back to normal.
The thing is, I get this ALL. THE. TIME. If I eat the cake, I get shocked looks and comments. Possibly even worse though, is if I just don’t feel like cake and don’t eat it. Then I get the sideways looks like “The skinny dietitian would never partake in cake like us mere mortals” and all that crap.
I try to remind myself that it’s not the fault of the person, it’s the fact they have been brainwashed by diet culture to believe that the only way to be healthy is to be thin, and the only way to be thin is to practically starve yourself.
When the reality is neither is true.
Health and wellbeing is about way more than your BMI. BMI is bullshit anyway. And it’s about way more than just what you eat. It’s how you eat it. It’s who you eat it with. It’s how you sleep, it’s who you hang out with, it’s your sense of purpose and meaning in life… And much more.
So, to the lady in the office who thinks I couldn’t possibly enjoy a piece of cake, I get it. This is what the media and (sadly) health professionals have probably told you practically your whole life. Next time, I’ll try to engage in a meaningful conversation about why I eat cake when I feel like it, and why I don’t eat cake when I don’t want it. But, please, for the love of all that is holy, let me have my cup of tea first.