The other day I was listening to two people discuss the benefit of smaller apples because the bigger ones are difficult to finish. I gave what has become my usual response to such conversations, “not being able to finish my food is really never a problem for me.”
Which caused me to realize, much to my delight, that I am no longer ashamed of my appetite.
I’ve written before about how admitting to any hunger whatsoever, let alone the substantial size of mine, has caused me great shame and embarrassment throughout childhood and young adulthood, persisting even into last year. Although it's true that a big appetite in women is sometimes considered sexy, it is only so if the woman in question is also very slender and/or athletic. If it's a bigger girl with an appetite she's just gluttonous/lazy/undisciplined, etc. I'm still trying to figure out the cultural thought process going on behind that one. When I was younger, even saying the word ‘hungry’ caused me embarrassment and I hid away in private to eat my lunch at school. Despite still not fitting the body type for sexy women with big appetites the shame over having one has gone away.
I don’t know if it’s being a grown up that did it (ie. old enough not to care so much what other people think), or if it happened through desensitization. Whenever I’m in a conversation with someone who is elaborating about their tiny, delicate appetite (I’ve only ever met women who do this, but I would imagine there are men who do too) I’m always quick to point out that my appetite would probably be more appropriate for an NFL linebacker than an average woman, but it is what it is. It’s what I was born with and what I’m working with. I certainly didn’t choose it, so being ashamed of it is very silly.
I think I reiterate this to other people so often because I want both them and particularly myself to embrace the idea that having an appetite, being hungry, and even (gasp!) eating are okay things for us to be and do. The sense of morality that’s been assigned to food choices and eating in our culture is both ridiculous and incredibly harmful. Although I’ve conquered my shame over possessing a big appetite and feeling hunger, I still suffer from awful feelings of self-hatred and failure when I tip over eating 2,000 calories per day. If I eat 1,200 I feel virtuous and triumphant and if I eat over 2,000 I feel like a horrible person. If I fall somewhere in between (which I usually do) I’m morally neutral that day. That is incredibly messed up. I can see it going on intellectually and get how stupid it is, and yet I’m still helpless to keep that tidal wave of shame from washing over me at the end of a day when I’ve succumbed to a binge.
I guess I just have to keep repeating these things to myself over and over until I get them to sink in too.
And hot dang… I’ve managed to lose 75 lbs. while dealing with the voracious appetite of an NFL linebacker on a daily basis. It doesn’t make me more moral or virtuous than the next person, but it is a pretty awesome accomplishment.