So at my workplace, we have a cafeteria that features all sorts of delightful things, from a well-appointed salad bar to freshly made sandwiches and whatnot. The selection is goodly-sized and it’s a nice perk to have. I was in said cafeteria recently to get breakfast, as I am known to do, and I decided to have a flatbread sandwich-esque thing that involved cheddar cheese, egg, sausage, and mushrooms. While I was awaiting my treat, two employees that I know in that “I see you frequently and will say ‘good morning’ to you but we don’t work in the same area” kind of way came into the cafeteria and proceeded to circle around the assorted offerings (fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, bagels, toast, and items from the grill) and loudly discuss what they “could” and “couldn’t” have. Then, they proceeded to stand behind me (a little too closely behind me) to observe what I was having for breakfast. They bemoaned their inability to have something like I was having – not because they didn’t have enough money to pay for it or lacked vocal cords to tell the grill cook what they wanted or were unable to hold the plate in their mitts. No, they couldn’t have it because they were on diets. Ahhhh. But I guess standing practically up my snapper in order to verbally mourn items they “couldn’t” have somehow made up for it.
It’s not unusual behavior in the workplace (or society in general) to have that segment of people groaning and moaning about what they are not “allowed” to have because of whatever diets they happen to be on that that given moment. They loudly celebrate being “good” because they chose not to have a brownie and flagellate themselves when they are “bad” and have a brownie or “jokingly” hiss at the co-worker who dared to bring in those brownies or candy or whatever about how said co-worker is trying to make them “fat” – oh wait, *I* would be that co-worker who brought in that candy! I was under the impression that having a treat available in our high-stress unit would be a nice thing, but apparently I’m trying to make my co-workers “fat”. To which I said, “come join me” with arms widespread. (No really, I did.)
People on diets at any given time, it’s not my problem that you “can’t” have whatever it is I choose to be eating, whether it’s a flatbread with egg and whatnot or a brownie or any number of things on the assorted lists of “bad” things. It’s not my problem that you’ve bought into the horseshit pumped out there about how you have no “willpower” or “self-control”. When you prattle on about how “bad” you are for eating something that involves fat or sugar or white flour or chocolate, I’m not going to comfort you and tell you you’re okay and you can work it off on the treadmill or just have salads for the next 30 days in order to atone for your behavior. I’m sorry that you’ve become terrified of food, but it’s not my problem. I won’t stand over you and shove whatever evil foodstuff you’re avoiding into your face, and I would appreciate it if you could manage to shut your yap – I mean, maintain a polite silence – when I’m enjoying whatever I’ve chosen to enjoy. I’d love it if you could manage to have a meal or a conversation or whatever that doesn’t ultimately turn into a conversation about your diet and workout plan and how you’ve been “good” or “bad” in any given week. You're more than welcome to do what you like with your body and your food intake, but perhaps you might want to find someone else to discuss it with.
Meanwhile, over at Roger Ebert's reviews, he reviews a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” which is a doc in the vein of Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me” where he ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month and, like, turned into the Grimace or some shit. Never mind that a vast majority of humanity doesn’t eat McDonald’s for every meal, but whatever. “Forks Over Knives” is about how animal protein is wrong and everyone should eat a plant-based diet and four people with assorted illnesses are magically transformed into healthy (read: virtuous and good) human beings because they ate fruits and vegetables and shunned the evil animal proteins and dairy and sugar. I’m quite sure that the doc doesn’t touch on concepts like privilege or access or that sort of thing because so often the “you’re an asshole if you don’t eat perfectly” movement doesn’t go anywhere near realizing that not everyone is a middle-class white person. But what bothered me was Roger Ebert’s belief that he was “weak and lazy” back in his fat days and the underlying tone that because he didn’t eat “correctly”, he brought his illness (the cancer that took his jaw) upon himself.
I’m fat. I’m neither weak nor lazy. I eat fast food perhaps once a month, I avoid processed stuff because it makes me feel shitacular, I love the shit out of vegetables (which torments my vegetable-loathing boyfriend beyond belief) and fish and all sorts of things that fall both on those vaunted “good food” lists and “bad naughty evil awful food” lists. I didn’t think Roger was weak or lazy when he was fat, and he’s not weak or lazy now, and he sure as motherfucking hell didn’t bring his cancer on himself. I adore the shit out of Roger Ebert. One of my most nerdliest of nerdy moments came years ago when I emailed him a question about a movie and OH. MY. GOD. HE. REPLIED. BACK. TO. ME. FOR. REAL. He sent my mom a nice note after he wrote a column in the Sun-Times about being a recovering alcoholic and she wrote him a note of admiration for his candor (she was working as a nurse at a rehab center at that time). I can't help but shake my head and feel sad for a moment that after all these years, he seems to be so strongly bothered by his years as a fat man. After everything he’s accomplished, will the one thing he points to as the most important achievement of his life be losing 70 pounds and no longer being “weak and lazy”? How many people who aren’t Pulitzer Prize-winning critics keep holding onto that notion that life can only be worthwhile if they fit into the approved definition of what “healthy” is (thin)?
Anyway. It's Friday, goddammit, it's been a hell of a week at the Evil Empire (picture me running around as if my head was on fire and only being able to put it out in a large bucket at about 2:40 p.m. today). One of these weeks I'll write a post that doesn't involve opening up the Lecture Loft, I swear. That is, if I'm not dead from the butter and animal protein and box of donuts I eat every hour on the hour, even in my sleep. Let me tell you, my pillow smells delicious.