Colleen Figg

'Eating again, are we?'

2008-05-23 09:18

Colleen Figg

The other day a chap she works with asked my cousin why she was "eating again" at the very moment she took her first bite of the piece of toast she eats every morning. He said this at the top of his lungs, in a crowded office and her first reaction was utter humiliation swiftly followed by anger.

She is not overweight at all, but even if she were, in what kind of society is it acceptable to publicly call into question another's eating habits?

Unfortunately it is very common for men (and other women) to criticise women for what they eat, when they eat, and how much they eat. Many men who do this are overweight themselves or are unhealthy eaters but nothing ever gets said to them.

They gleefully sit at their desks stuffing themselves with dagwood burgers, chips and coke while the woman who orders a toasted cheese (no chips and coke) is somehow expected to put up with derogatory remarks if they feel like making them.

I've seen people sniggering when the fattest woman in the company goes down to make her lunch, cruelly wondering aloud why she's eating again (there's that phrase once more). I've rarely heard people saying this about men who are fat, plump or even slightly chubby.

Most weight loss tips, tricks and programmes are firmly aimed at women and you can scarcely open a women's magazine that does not have something to say about weight loss, diet, controlled eating or other matters pertaining to keeping trim.

Pressure is on

As such the pressure is on women from a very young age to maintain a decent weight and to be seen to do so too; to the extent that many people I know no longer eat anything at work or if they do they scoff it down quickly before anyone sees them or actually leave the building to eat somewhere alone.

I've heard men remarking that they don't want wives who "look like the back of a barn door" as though said wives are their chattel, possessions that must meet certain standards or be cast out like inferior farm stock.

There is an almost casual kind of cruelty being perpetrated against larger people or people who may one day become larger (read: women) whereby people seem to feel quite happy about passing the most scathing insults based on a person's appearance.

I once worked for a man who said I should think about becoming less "broad in the beam" if I wanted to go out and see clients. Had I been more experienced then I would have had him severely taken to task, but at the time I was self conscious about my weight and for some reason felt he had the right to make such callous remarks.

But society does not teach or encourage us to stand up against such insults; we are actually expected to swallow them down whole with the sandwiches we should apparently not be eating and take them as our due.

Send your comments to Colleen.

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