“There’s this incredible little bakery in my town,” my client tells me.
“The other day, I went and bought myself a cupcake. I was walking down the street, eating my cupcake, and then I hear a car pull up beside me,” she continues.
“I look and I see that it’s my friend. I wave hello. She rolls down her window and starts laughing and hollering at me, ‘I caught you! I caught you red-handed! Ooh, I caught you!’ At first I was totally confused, but then I realized… she’s pointing at my cupcake.”
Oh, watch out. It’s the cupcake police.
Does this type of thing ever happen to you?
Do your friends talk about eating pizza like it’s a felony?
When a coworker notices you eating a cookie, does she wink knowingly, like you’re co-conspirators in a bank heist?
Does your mom use words like “naughty” and “sooo bad” to describe her favorite pasta?
This type of food-talk is everywhere. You hear it at restaurants, among friends, around the dinner table at home. Millions of people talk about food in this way. I used to do it, too. Back in the day, I would talk about cheesy enchiladas like I was delivering a hellfire and brimstone church sermon to anyone within earshot. “So evil! Satan’s guacamole! Just one more bite. Lord, save me!”
As women, we are brainwashed to believe that foods have moral qualities—good and bad, virtuous and evil. We praise ourselves for “eating clean.” We punish ourselves for indulging in “those sinful brownies.” And then we promise ourselves we’ll “be better next week.”
This never-ending preoccupation with food absorbs so much of our time and energy. It’s like an invisible part-time job that offers no pay and no benefits—just exhaustion, anxiety, and spirals of shame.
We need to stop the madness.
It’s time to break out the dictionary and look up the word “criminal,” because we’ve got it majorly twisted. Arson is a crime. Burglary is a crime. Enjoying a cupcake is not a crime. Neither is eating a salad, a cookie, a quinoa bowl, or a plate of nachos. There is literally no meal or snack that is a crime. (Unless you’re a zombie feasting on human flesh like in Drew Barrymore’s new TV show. OK, that might be considered a crime.)
When it comes to your body, and your food, choose your words carefully. Don’t choose words that contribute to a culture of food-guilt and body-shame. Choose to believe and say something different—like, “Yay, this is delicious!” instead of “Oh, this is just wrrrooooong.”
Words matter. You can talk to yourself like a police officer, like a hyper-judgmental religious zealot, or like a kind, supportive friend. Your body can feel the difference.