By Jen Pastiloff
As I was standing in line at Trader Joe’s yesterday, minding my own sweet business, I opened a package of dried seaweed (the new wasabi kind which is very, very spicy). An older (very much older, like born in the 1800’s older) man in line in front of me starts staring at my breasts first, then proceeds to look me up and down. With what sounded like a Russian accent comes, “You sure like to eat!!”
What the what?
“I am not sure how to take that,” my reply.
(Why I dignified him with even so much as a word is beyond me.)
Russian accent, “You’ll put on weight if you keep eating.”
Then he walks away.
Off to offer his sage wisdom to another unsuspecting seaweed eating stranger, I suppose.
I felt the old need to yell, “But it’s just seaweed! But I am a yoga teacher! But! But! But!
Are you calling me fat?”
Then I got angry at myself. Jennifer, you know better! I think I said this out loud but the people that work at Trader Joe’s are totally cool (I hear it’s not a bad place to work, you get good benefits) and my cashier didn’t even acknowledge it, but rather says “You look great.”
Again, besides the point. Nothing needs defending here. This creepy old fart, all of a sudden, has taken my power away, and, like magic, everyone, on cue seemingly, needs to make excuses and defend and justify the very, very evil: FOOD. As well as commenting on my figure and it’s curves or lack thereof.
(And side note: food is NOT evil. I have had some very literal-minded folks read this and write me how food is not evil. Yea. I got that. It’s so exhausting how much we can be at war with it though, isn’t it? The other day in the car my friend goes, “It’s not the issue you know, Jen. It’s how you respond to the issue that’s the issue.” So, it’s kind of like that with the food/evil thing. It’s not the food, it’s our fucked up beliefs and past and childhoods and things people said and heartbreaks and losses and weird behaviors and stories about our bodies and self-worth but whatever. Another blog post. Another day. Another pack of seaweed.)
But, it’s a fitting statement on our weight/food obsessed culture, isn’t it. That even from an old nosy man, I am getting flack for being too fat or too skinny or eating too much or not enough.
The day before, I had just published this article on Fear and overcoming an eating disorder.
Here is an excerpt from that article:
I had a fear that people would stop asking me “Are you ill? ” It made me feel like I stood out. Like I was special. When someone told me I looked “healthy,” I panicked. (I know that this is hard to believe for the people who know me now. I am so at ease with my self
Okay, some days.)
Had the COF (Creepy Old Fart) said this to me ten years ago, I would have gotten back into my car and had a full blown panic attack. I would have decided that he was right and I eat too much so I would stop eating and lose weight and why was I such a loser and why and why and Oh My God and I can’t breathe and I am a pig and Oh My God and I will just exercise for 4 hours tomorrow and I do like to eat, he’s right, I am bad….
(The pleasant imitation of said panic attack.)
So many things ran through my blood besides ice after this incident with Mr. Nosy.
Incidentally, he was buying 3 frozen dinners and a case of water. That can be analyzed later. (Of course I peeked. You would have too.)
The way he said ” You like to eat!” as an accusation, like I should be burned alive at the stake. I realize a lot of women live like this (I’m sure men as well). I used to. Still do at times. When I am depressed or under tremendous stress. This notion that eating is something to be ashamed of or forgiven for. I cannot believe the thought crossed my mind to defend myself with it’s just seaweed.
Forgive me Sir, It is just seaweed with a little wasabi. It’s not much? I am so sorry. So sorry. So sorry. So sorry. So sorry.
And so what if someone gains weight? So what? Then what? You are no longer you? You will no longer have your job or your kids or your thoughts or memories? No one will love you?
I suppose that’s it. Equating our beloved self worth with our oh-so very temporary bodies.
I wish I had dug into my car for my Salt & Vinegar Chips, which I would have done had I been able to reach them.
And just a side note which I would like to make very public: YES I LIKE TO EAT! I LOVE TO EAT!
All of Jen Pastiloff’s upcoming events listed here, including her two Tuscany retreats.
I would love to hear your thoughts, an open dialogue of sorts on this incident and the feelings it triggers.
Yup, I’m right there with you JP. I’ve spent SO many years wondering what “they” were going to think of me…(here comes the scandalous word…) eating. Like someone was going to see me eat and yell “Hey you, fat girl, why are you eating, you don’t need that, put it down”. I now know that all that time spent making myself wrong for being voLUMPtuous rather than spending that time affirming the fact that I FIT, FIRM, SEXY & STRONG was a waste of time that only attracted more things that also felt bad to me. The moment I learned to love me, I began to make choices that made me feel good, and my body became something I loved that also made me feel good.
I am sure that yucky, oblivious old man (who reminds me of my grandfather, by the way) would have sent me off on an obsessive exercising/dieting rage a few years ago, too. I’m proud of you for catching yourself before you did, Jen, reminding yourself that YOU ARE AN INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL WOMAN, an absolutely perfect human being who gives so much to others by being and sharing Your Essential Self.
With so much love and appreciation for all you are and do…
Allyn Cioban, RYT
Yoga Teacher, creator of Affirmation Flow Yoga & Your Essential Self (YES) Workshop
Me too! That’s why I didn’t want to model even though I was blessed with the genes of a six foot tall giant! Our nourishment should never be vilified.
Loved the status update and the blog it inspired. So happy I have met you.
Jen- so beautifully expressed! Thank you for being so articulate about a topic that so many women resonate with. You continue to be an inspiration and make my heart smile.
Thanks for keeping it real, Jen! I needed this support today. Intertwining issues of weight and self worth have been my reality for as long as I can remember. I have been told since I was about 6 that my body was fat and unacceptable, and have found there is always some kind of pop culture diet you can do, a smaller size you can reach, a harder exercise regime that will cleanse you of all your transgressions and make you a good person.
But, this I have found to be constant: if you love yourself, love your choices, and celebrate your own happiness, haters disappear.
And if the odd ones slip through the cracks and seek to tell me my body is doesn’t match their standards of acceptable female beauty, they are met with a hearty “go fuck yourself.
Great article! Love all aspects of it. It [food, money, fear, anger] is so interesting and how base and defining they are. It is something that we can all relate to and sheds a lot of light on our social upbringing (family, school, friends, survival). The fact that you are speaking about it with the nuisances to your own issues clearly illustrates your will to be happy and free! Really nice. Keep eating and being full physically and spiritually!!
Thank You, Universe – that we live with such abundance that we CAN and DO have enough to eat!!!!
And so what if there’s some FAT??? (OMG!!! She’s OK with FAT????) Yup, curves are sexy – boobs, butt & hips are just fat deposits in the ‘right’ place!!
Poor old guy was just reflecting his own stuff. It has NOTHING to do with reality. But YOU know THAT!! <3
Love this Jen. Love that you rose above it and not drown in it as before. Love you. Speaking of people who comment. Reminds me of when Rachel was in the supermarket with Blaise as a baby and a woman came up to her and said “what do you feed that kid he is so fat” or something like that. Tortured your sister. This person did not know at the time that Blaise was gaining weight everyday due to Prader Willi Syndrome and at that time we knew something was wrong but could not get a diagnosis. People should really think twice before they speak. You never know how it will affect someone’s spirit or maybe that someone has an incurable genetic disorder like our little guy does.
You have more self control than I do. I spent from age 9-32 being obsenely skinny…I couldn’t gain weight and wanted to because I was always getting accused of having an eating disorder. I was bullied in school. 🙁 Then I had my dd at age 31 breastfed and then *POOOOF* my metabolism slowed down. I am now 41 and need to lose 30 pounds…I have already lost 15. The sad thing is inbetween being horribly skinny to now “fluffy;) and curvy there was never a time I was satisfied with my weight. After turning 40 though I have achieved a happiness/peace about my body. I just want to be a better role model for my ds with PWS. I feel bad controlling his diet when I am not in total control of my own eating.
This is so interesting to me and in good timing. My first thought was, what is bothering this man so much? Not so much what you’r eating…but what’s eating him??!! (I hear that’s a good book btw) your post comes at just the right time for me, as I have just joined Overeaters Anonymous in an attempt to keep at bay a reoccurring history of bulimia. (not sure if I’m all on board with the program but I will do as a friend suggested, ” take what you need and leave the rest.”) I suppose I am not so much interested in what or why the man said this, but what it exposed. I’m assuming you being someone with a history of an eating disorder you can completely understand that. I think the best line from this is, “I gave away my power”. (I would like to add before I go any further that I am writing this to help me with my inventory, and I would be lieing if I said i was not attempting to deliver a message as well) The connection between society, weight, food, fat, skinny, healthy, fit, and a whole other slew of words is simply that: words. They have no power until you give them power. I believe this with my WHOLE being. His words are not the issue. Societies view on food and health is not the issue. Liking to eat is not the issue. The issue is, can I take a brutally honest look at myself and find it? What has this comment brought to surface? I know the views, comments, ideas, and judgements of others have NOTHING to do with me, so why the anger? Why the ice in the veins?!! ( Please believe me when I say his comment raised my hair…no doubt!!) And now will I go home and eat over it? No. No I won’t!! Dammit I don’t want to anymore!! I am tired of giving away my power and agreeing to others suggestions. This is the issue….self doubt. Allowing it to shake me. I wonder what this man has experienced in his life that made him say that? What battle has he fought with himself or others that has left him wounded? If I can know with all of my soul (and I do) that his words to me are a reflection of his pain, then I can have compassion for him. I do have compassion for him. Not that I should assume, but I bet his years in communist Russia were hell. I bet he was hungry and wanted to have yhe luxury to stand in line with an open bag of chips instead of scavaging for crumbs. He must have despised the healthy….the plump…the fat. They represented everything he did not have. He felt powerless….and now i will give him the power. Not today sir!! Not! Today!!
The only connection to what the world thinks of you is what you truly think of yourself.
Thank you for writing about this! I had a similar experience about six months ago when I was leaving a farmer’s market. I had two bags full of fresh fruits and veggies. A woman walked by me with her husband and commented, “Does she think she has enough?” I felt so shamed and embarrassed. I didn’t even know at the time how to respond. It was probably better I said nothing because I believe people who feel the need to judge others so harshly must live in their own prisons—a place I don’t want to be after recovering from an eating disorder. If someone chooses to judge me, it is really about them. I am just as worthy as I have always been.
I am sorry you had this experience, but appreciate you sharing because it happens more than we realize.
I loved this post. I’ve put on a few pounds since our wedding 7 months ago and was feeling bad about it today. But this post reminded me to let it go….that’s life! Who gives a shit. Moving on! PS…I love to eat, drink wine with friends, enjoy new flavors and nourish my body. There is no shame in that! Screw the five extra pounds:) Sorry you had such a strange experience. What an ass! Love you!
My experience yesterday when a random person totally took my power away wasn’t about food or eating, but I felt the need to defend myself and it’s still bothering me today so I’m going to write it here. I volunteer at a very busy museum in a town with a lot of tourists. I am a museum ambassador and I love it – it is often the highlight of my week, and when I’m done for the day, my face hurts from smiling so much. It was especially busy yesterday and I was scanning tickets at the entrance alone, as well as doing hand stamps. I was bending down to stamp some little kids hands when a grown man (in his 60’s maybe) piped up from about 6 people back and said “how much extra do we have to pay for a smile”. I smiled at him and said, they’re free, sir! I kept scanning and stamping and he said it two more times. Finally I said, well, you might check at the ticket counter, but I’m pretty sure they will let you smile for free. He said in an icy tone – I’m talking about YOU. I was mortified. Now I know I smiled at HIM each time he spoke, but suddenly I was worried that I might not have been smiling when I was engrossed in scanning and stamping and I felt not only embarrassed, but was questioning myself, when I KNOW I smile plenty. I mumbled something about being super busy and just wanted him gone. As he approached me and handed me his ticket, he kept eye contact directly at me and kept it by turning his head as he and his wife walked by me. He completely ruined my day. What the HELL? Now, I know I smile plenty and this guy was a jerk, but as a teenager, my dad always picked at me for not smiling enough and looking “mad”, and this guy brought all that back on me. I hated my dad saying that so much that I have spent my whole life making sure I smile a lot and don’t look “mad”. At first I gave this guy the benefit of the doubt since I thought he might be teasing, but no, he was serious, and he made sure he made his point in front of everyone in line and he wanted to get to me. And he did. Thanks for letting me share.