I ended the work day today sitting at my desk talking with one of the student office assistants about comfort foods. It was a stressful day; I was tired; and I was basically at the end of my rope, completely out of spoons and ready to just turn in to a giant puddle of salt water at any given moment. I mentioned needing to stop and get litter and cat food on the way home and she said something about me stopping at Safeway. I responded with, “naw, I’ll probably go to the pet store because if I go to the grocery store I’ll buy potato chips which I probably don’t need.” I don’t often talk about foods I don’t need and in that moment I caught myself moralizing potato chips (see, totally hard day). She perked up and said something like “oh…potato chips, wait aren’t those chips on your desk?” And yes, they were. Maple Bacon, an ill-conceived purchase from the week prior which managed to make their way to the office just in case I was working late and needed “something” to snack on. I gave the bag to her, she tried one and declared it “good” so I told her to take them home with her adding, I guess I probably will stop by the grocery store and get me some chips tonight. Then she started talking about wanting to go get a candy bar, a Butterfinger and I mentioned how my dad had brought me a Butterfinger when I was in the hospital in the fourth grade and tears welled up in my eyes and the conversation turned to the subject of crying and how the best place to cry for a long period of time is in the shower because then you avoid the red puffiness that accompanies prolonged crying, and so on and such matter….
While sitting there I was observing how this conversation essentially about comfort foods was likely made more comfortable between us by the prior weeks panel discussion on the Politics of Size which both the student office assistants attended. I’ve been reading reflection papers written by students who attended and one of the recurring themes is how many of these students never thought about how they talked about food as moralizing it or how stigmatizing it can be for a fat person to eat food in front of a room of other people. Also, I recently had a conversation with a dear friend where we talked about the craving of comfort foods in reaction to a hurtful interaction about weight with a parent. So the moralizing of food has been on my mind lately.
I really do not like to go grocery shopping, partially because its one of those tedious tasks that you end up repeating week after week and its easy to get in a boring routine around food, eating the same things over and over again. Also, grocery stores are full of concern trolls and food police with looks of “you really think you need to buy that?” and looking down ones nose at the contents of my cart. For concern trolls, its bad enough that I might think about wanting to buy a bag of potato chips because I’ve had a bad day, let alone actually do it.
I was kind of excited that this conversation with students was so positive around the types of foods we were talking about eating, even though they were being associated with what other’s might refer to as emotional eating. On the drive home and physically hungry, I started thinking about the kind of foods I could purchase that would feed my need for nutrients as well as my need for emotional solace, i.e. comfort foods. I walked out of the store with litter and cat food, a loaf of white bread, cheeses slices, dill pickles and potato chips. Tonight’s dinner would be tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich and pickles. The chips would probably wait ’til tomorrow or maybe the weekend to be eaten.
I’ve seen people physically cringe when a person of size starts talking about comfort foods or eating because they “feel” a certain way. I know there is a lot of moral judgment and stigma around the kind of food people eat in relation to the size/shape of their body. I write a lot about food and cooking, I post pictures of my meals on FB and IG. It’s probably not surprising to know that I think it’s perfectly ok for a fatty (person of size) to not only talk about comfort foods, but to eat them.
First, because well, I am the boss of my underpants. Second, because all food brings us comfort in one way or another. We all have different views on what we think a “comfort food” might be, but food brings comfort to our bodies: sustenance to fuel our movement and thinking, fluids to keep us lubricated. Without food, we would be uncomfortable. All of us would be, not just the fatties of the world. So if I talk about eating particular foods because I like them more than others when my body is in need of either emotional or physical solace, there’s nothing wrong with that.
So says my underpants and me…