Why do we do this?

Last night I went out with a friend and our kids. We went for a run, and stopped at an ice cream shop in the middle of our run. Originally, only the kids got ice cream. My friend asked me if I was having, and I said I wasn’t. The conversation went like this (condensed):

Her: Aren’t you having ice cream?
Me: No, I don’t feel like it.
Her: Don’t you want to treat yourself for the run?
Me: No. I never eat after dinner, except on weekends when I’m socializing. You don’t see me much during the week (we get together weekends often) but I am pretty disciplined with my eating during the week

Later, after she got ice cream:

Her: I couldn’t resist. I just ran. I’ll run home after and get it off.
Me: It’s okay. You don’t have to explain. I had chocolate peanut butter frozen yogurt after dinner.

It got me thinking about something that’s been bothering me a lot lately. Every time I go out with other women for a meal or snack, one of two things happen. Either a woman orders quite healthy, and says that she is being “good” tonight. Or, the woman orders a little little bit less healthily (basically, anything but salad) and makes excuses for it; how she exercised that day, or skipped lunch that day, or it’s okay because it is a special occasion, or something like that.

Why do we do this? It is like we feel like we need to have an excuse for eating something fattening, or make sure everyone notices that we are being “good” when we aren’t.

Men don’t do that, men don’t justify to anyone why or what they are eating or not eating. But as women, we do it all the time. Not only that…but we judge ourselves (and each other) by how the women around us are eating. When the women around us are eating something healthier than us, we feel badly about ourselves and like we have to let them know why we haven’t made the lightest choice. When women around us are eating something less healthy than us, we feel like we need to make them feel better about it…or bring to their attention that we have made a better choice, or both. I can definitely admit that last night there was a bit of both for me. I was proud of myself for resisting the ice cream…even though it had not been difficult and I didn’t even want ice cream. But I also felt the need to explain to my friend why I was not having ice cream, both that I tend to be very disciplined about what I eat at night…which is testament to myself…and also to make her feel better and know that I had already had a “treat” earlier.

I have been really trying hard to not participate in this anymore. Last night I did, I am not perfect, and fall back into old habits sometimes. But seriously, it is absolutely ridiculous the way us women feel the need to explain what we are eating. What it really is, is an extension of women feeling like we need to explain our bodies. We need to tell other women why we were eating what we are eating, as if to explain why our bodies look the way they look.

I am hoping, eventually, some of the women in my life will pick up on my (usual) silence regarding this topic, and notice that I order whatever I want, don’t order whatever I don’t want to order, I give no excuses or explanations for why I make those choices. I hope other women will start to do the same.

By the way, that is not to say I don’t think about what I eat. I have the same thoughts that these other women express. I think about what I ate that day and in recent days, how much I’ve exercised recently, Where are my hormones are and what the scale is saying and whether or not I am feeling bloated. But I don’t feel like I should have to explain these thoughts to anybody else, I don’t feel like it is anybody else’s business why I am choosing to have salad, or steak, or dessert, or no dessert. Nor is it my business why anyone else is making these decisions.

I hope my daughters grow up to a different adult world. One where women are not always apologizing for their bodies, or explaining their bodies, or defending their bodies…or what they put in them.

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2 thoughts on “Why do we do this?

  1. i must have the only husband in the world who eats more healthily than i do!! he never orders fries or if he does i end up eating more of them than he does!!
    i have been trying lately not to make such a big deal about what i eat- especially in front of my kids. i don’t want them growing up thinking they can’t eat because it will make them fat- i want them to know that they can eat foods that aren’t that healthy as long as they know that is is treat and not for every day. having a daughter who is on the heavier side isn’t easy but i have been trying to teach her to make healthy choices and she is actually catching on. Now she usually choses fruit for dessert instead of cake or takes smaller portions of the fatty foods.
    as for justifying to others what one eats…. i don’t feel it is neccessary but i do catch myself doing that. i will make a conscience effort not to as really it’s nobody’s business what i choose to eat!!

    • Can you imagine men sitting around for a guys night saying things like “I’ll be good and have the salad tonight” or “I’m gonna get a steak! I skipped lunch today so I could enjoy dinner with you guys”?? Even men who are interested in eating well would never say those things!!! Women do all the time though!!!

      Kids are different. Of course I discuss my choices (and theirs) with my kids…though I too try to focus on health instead of what is fattening or not. Since my kids are both petite and small eaters, it is sometimes hard not to just let them eat whatever they will, but healthy eating is still important…and metabolisms can change!

      But with other grown women? We all know what is healthy and not! We are not responsible for each others upbringing, we are all adults who can make our own choices about what to eat without explaining or defending them to each other!

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