Growing up as a plus-sized woman, one of the many critiques you receive is what’s on your plate. Whether it’s during school lunch, dinner with your family or at a restaurant, there is always a person ready to comment on your food or talk about their diets with you, as if you would understand or be interested. And somehow, the conversations and topics only become worse once the holidays are around.
One year my family hosted Thanksgiving, and it was the only Thanksgiving dinner we ever hosted. I remember seeing turkey, mashed potatoes and all of the vegetables on everyone’s plates. Meanwhile, I was content with my small bowl of brown rice.
Everyone stared at my bowl in disbelief and asked if I would have any food on the table. When I said no, they all started claiming how ungrateful I was and how there are starving people around the world who would love to have a feast like this. They even motioned to my parents, mentioning how hard they worked to cook the meal yet I only wanted brown rice.
I retreated to the bathroom for the rest of dinner and occasionally peeked out, waiting for the meal to finish. Some people tried calling me back to the table or asked if I was okay, but I never returned until I heard dishes being washed.
It was one of the many incidents where I learned I could not enjoy my body and the food I liked, or even exist in the body I was in. I pretended to ignore the comments, but I internalized every single one of them.
Even as I grew older, the shaming never stopped but grew worse in relation to my appearance. Year-round, there was no escape, and it was especially present during the holidays.
One of my least favorite parts of the holidays was, and sometimes still is, sitting down and eating dinner. I am told there are too many carbs on my plate because I have two starches instead of a starch and a vegetable side.
Everyone glances at my plate full of Christmas cookies for dessert. I’m even warned to not eat all of my chocolate in one day on Valentine’s Day and Easter.
If I was skinny and ordered a 12-ounce steak at a restaurant, everyone would praise how good I looked despite my eating habits. But because I am plus-sized and I enjoy eating, everyone silently assumes that is why I am my size.
This makes me lose my appetite even to this day. If everyone only asks about my food, why am I at the table?
When you’re plus-sized, you’re either completely in the spotlight or you’re completely invisible. When people do notice you, it’s to ridicule your body, almost questioning why you weigh so much.
During the holidays, people won’t make direct comments toward you, but conversations still cultivate shame. These conversations revolve around everyone’s diets and exercise routines.
Someone is following a strict diet and will only eat turkey. Someone else refuses to eat sugar, so they only serve sugar-free pies if they host.
The other person will announce they are having a quarter slice of a pie, not even half of a slice. Someone else humblebrags about how sore they are from their fitness classes.
Meanwhile, you’re eating as much as you like and quietly listening because you have nothing to offer in the conversation. It leaves you in a weird position where you respect how other people nourish their bodies, but you start doubting yourself.
This is how diet culture wants a plus-sized person to feel, like you don’t belong and you should be insecure about your weight. You should prioritize exercise above all else and eat the cleanest meals no matter what.
But, diet culture ignores someone’s mental health and misrepresents physical health because such a mindset only cares about money. You will feel like you’re worthy because you’re “working toward bettering yourself.” In reality, you’re just draining your bank account into a lifestyle that feeds on your insecurities.
I know my worth and my value, and I do not need to follow diet culture to award myself. I award myself through daily self-care and celebrations, and the holidays are the biggest celebrations of the year.
Regardless of what anyone says, I will happily have seconds and thirds because I deserve to feed and celebrate myself. No one can convince me otherwise.