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.