So, on the one hand, you have the fat fetishizers, and on the other hand, you have people who have some bizarre idea that fat people are somehow different from thin people. For example, this recent post demonstrates a classic instance of making fun of a fat woman for making schizophrenic food choices: she orders 2 dozen donuts, a couple of savory breakfast items, and then asks for Equal in her coffee. My lord, why bother with the chemical sweetener when you're going to be consuming thousands of calories in breakfast foods?
*yawn* This observation is hardly a newsflash. Welcome to eating in America. Of course, it's hard to eat in the US without running up against crazy ideas. One of my very, very smart friends in college once told me that she wasn't drinking milk because it has too many calories. She went on to tell me that she liked yogurt, but she didn't eat it because she prefers it with jam, which "takes out all the nutritional content." This was a smart, fit woman who had probably been told by some adult when she was little that putting sweetener in yogurt made it not as good for you, and she just never examined her interpretation of it to realize that adding sugar to yogurt might add calories but it certainly wouldn't remove nutrients. I'm sure we can all point to similar crazy ideas we have. I, for example, have spent years getting over the idea that tastier food is automatically worse for you. Ugh.
And it's not even new for the superior observation of someone else's food choices to be wrapped up with unexamined fat-bashing, either. The woman in question isn't just a woman, nor simply a large woman, but "a very large woman". When the story is about a very large man, as dbang pointed out in a conversation last night, he's usually ordering a stack of burgers, or maybe a pizza piled high with meaty toppings, and then decides to wash it down with a light beer.
Let's examine what's happening here:
First, there's an idea that someone's large size should somehow disqualify him or her from eating high calorie foods. This is a completely bizarre idea, but one that is extraordinarily common.
Next, there's an implication that what fat people eat is somehow open to public comment. I haven't had this experience, I'm happy to say, but I certainly have fat friends and acquaintances who have had complete strangers comment to their faces on their food choices. What would make someone think that's okay? In what way is this your business? So, I haven't had the experience of having that happen to me in the moment, but I have had the experience, as above, of friends and acquaintances telling me about someone else's food choices, conveying to me the message that they a) pay attention to what fat people eat and b) think that it's reasonable for them to pass judgement on the food choices of said fat people.
Another thing that's going on here is the embedded assumption that all fat people want to be thin. After all, if you're not trying to lose weight, you're likely to pay less attention to every last calorie that enters your body. But since fat people have some kind of obligation always to be trying to trim down, we should never eat a donut or a burger or a pizza or a bag of M&Ms, because obviously there are a lot of calories in those items and obviously, if I'm fat, I must be a) trying to slim down and b) too dumb to realize that these foods have a lot of calories.
A common protest from people who tell this kind of story is that the size of the person in the story isn't important so much as the strange choice to eat high calorie foods while getting a diet drink. However, if the size weren't important, it would not be embedded in the story. It's easy to tell onesself that it's just about commenting on the crazy way people eat in the US, but that misses an opportunity to look at how social mores get coded into the way we observe and talk about other people and their choices.
Yes, we are all exposed to completely wacked out ideas about food and what is the right way to eat. No question. And, yes, choosing to consume a chemical rather than sugar is something that more people could probably use to consider more thoroughly than they have. But why does this have to come as part of a moral lecture about the appropriate food choices of fat people? Is it that thin people never get a bag of fries and a diet soda? No, but no one thinks that thin people ought to be counting their energy intake to the last calorie. Give me a break. And, believe it or not (it seems alien to me, but I know it's true), some people prefer diet sodas. Meanwhile, others are carefully counting calories and have prioritized donuts over sugar in their coffee. And, wait, what are you doing counting someone else's calories, anyway?
Finally, there's some strange conception in all this that seeing 2 minutes of someone's food choices tells you everything you need to know. This woman is ordering a pile of fattening foods and a coffee with Equal, so that means she always does this. I mean, she's fat, isn't she? That means she always eats crap. And it's my business to be pointing this out.
For crying out loud.
I'm fat, and I sure hope that if this ever came up, I'd have a thoughtful response for anyone who thought it was right to butt into my food choices. I don't try to lose weight and I continue to be tired of people who think I ought to. I eat and enjoy high calorie foods like ice cream and donuts. I also eat and enjoy more nutritious and healthful choices like fish and spinach. And anyone who sees me ordering an ice cream, maybe with hot fudge, because, yum! hot fudge! is only seeing a moment of my food choices. And it's still not your job to police what I eat.
And if you tell a story like the above, don't think that you're somehow above all these implications because all you really meant was that it's silly to order a diet soda when you're eating pizza. I've often been surprised to find my own biases embedded in the stories I tell, but I rarely learn from it when I kneejerk defensively.