Just Because I'm 'Fat' Doesn't Mean I Want Praise When I Eat a Damn Salad

Sarah Hudson photography

Sarah Hudson photography

It was hour four at the Houston airport. I was going home after a week of work travel and my flight had just been delayed again. I was hungry and tired, so I grabbed a Diet Coke and Cobb salad from a restaurant near my gate. I had just stuffed a bite of hard-boiled egg in my mouth when a super buff 20-something guy approached me. He said hello with a big smile on his face and then gave me a thumbs up. I wasn’t sure what I had done to merit the thumbs up, especially since I’d never seen him before in my life. I didn’t figure out what was happening until he said “Great job on the lunch choice!” as he grabbed his suitcase and walked away.

  • It was a public fat shaming, disguised as a compliment.

    Wendy Robinson

    It took me a second to process what was happening. Clearly he saw me, a plus-sized person, eating a salad and decided that I needed to be praised for eating some vegetables. He seemed sincere and friendly, and yet it was such a condescending and patronizing thing to do.

    As he walked away, my first inclination was to try to catch up with him. Part of me wanted to tell him off. Part of me just wanted to run him over with my suitcase. Ultimately, I settled for muttering “jackass” under my breath and returning to my salad. The salad was satisfying because I love a good Cobb salad. Not satisfying? Missing out on the chance to tell him that I don’t need or want his approval on my lunch choices.

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  • Here’s the thing: As a fat person I NEVER want or need anyone’s approval of my food choices.

    Wendy Robinson

    I recently turned 40 and have found that one of the pleasant side effects of getting older is that I no longer have extra f*cks to give about what other people think of me. So, I'm going to eat that Chicago dog when I've traveling or that ice cream cone when I'm out with my kids. But that wasn’t always the case and I can’t help but think about how a comment like that would have been devastating to me when I was in my 20s.

    When I was younger (and, interestingly enough, thinner), I was always self-conscious about eating in public. I was always careful to never eat more than anyone else, and I never ate things like candy or cake in public. If I got something tasty like French fries or greasy pizza, I made sure to say something about how I’d skipped lunch or I was going to have to work it off at the gym later. I wanted to make sure I was a good fatty -- someone who knew she was fat and was trying to change it.

  • I lived in fear of people judging my food choices.

    Wendy Robinson

    What I was really afraid of was people judging me. When you are a plus-sized person, it can be really easy to feel like you are taking up too much space in the world and that everyone can see your weaknesses just by looking at your body. In the past, I think I was shy about people seeing me eat because I was apologetic for my failure to be thin. I was even nervous about dressing as an M&M for Halloween, in case people thought all I ate was candy. 

     But I’ve come to realize that my body isn’t for public consumption and comment. I don’t owe anyone an explanation, apology, or rationalization for being my size. The only person I feel an obligation to is my daughter. I owe her the chance to grow up with a mother who is confident, who loves herself, and who eats some damn cake out in public when it is her birthday.

  • So please don’t compliment my salad.

    Sarah Hudson Photography

    I want to send out a plea to everyone who has been tempted to food police the women in their lives. Can we please make a new social rule that we don’t give people unasked-for feedback on their food choices? Don’t tell the thin woman to “Go eat a sandwich.” Don’t side-eye the curvy woman for enjoying an ice cream cone.

    Can we agree that for the sake of the next generation of girls, we’ll let women eat whatever they want to and not act like it is any of our business? Our daughters deserve to enjoy the carefree feeling of knowing that their bodies are their business, including what they choose to eat. I deserve to know that feeling too, whether there is salad or cake on my plate. 

body positivity body image self esteem