We've all been there. We wake up after a fun night with friends and immediately notice the slight puffiness around our eyes, a little bloating on our stomach, or a pimple that has emerged during our slumber. Maybe you quickly reprimand yourself and promise to "do better" next time. Maybe you calculate your eating for the day to "get back on track." Maybe you call your mom and ask how magical lemon water actually is.
One way or the other, you feel guilty about the choices you made because of how they impacted your body in the teeny, tiniest way.
That puffiness and bloating and pimple will all go away in a matter of days, if not hours. A slice of pizza at 2 a.m. will not sabotage your health journey and send you spiraling backward. But the way you think about the "consequences" of food may do just that — it may lead to an overwhelming need to control, calculate, and worry about every calorie that you consume.
It may lead to an eating disorder.
It may lead to anxiety over eating in front of people.
Or it may simply lead to a relationship with food that leaves you paranoid, taking joyful moments out of your life and replacing them with unnecessary regret.
A survey found that 25% of women think about food every half hour.
The survey went on to describe these thoughts as fearful, controversial, and negative. Women are not dreaming about the chocolate chip cookie they're going to have after work — they're debating on if it will be "OK." They aren't listing restaurants for their vacation next week — they're strategizing how to stick to their macros while still enjoying the trip. They aren't looking forward to the sad green juice they'll gulp down for lunch, they're hoping it won't leave them hungry. Women are thinking about food in a way that isn't a temporary mindset, but one that lasts and worms its way into every element of their day.
This "consequential mindset" is a one-size-fits-all dilemma — you can be size 00 or size 24 and still think about how that mozzarella stick will stick to your thigh tomorrow. It doesn't matter if you're a marathon runner or a Netflix binger, how you look at food and the way it may impact your body can plague anyone's mind, quickly overwhelming their thoughts and causing them to inspect every part of themselves in a mirror.
In what could be considered the most iconic scene in an already iconic classic, "Eat, Pray, Love," Julia Roberts' character says:
"I'm so tired of saying 'no,' and waking up in the morning to think about every single thing I ate the day before."
As we should all know by now, Julia Roberts is rarely wrong. While "Eat, Pray, Love" came out in 2010, the message still breeds truth today.
The thing is, we don't even know we're doing this. Dieting, "good foods," sharing how much weight we've lost...it's all so ingrained in society as part of "girl talk" that we naturally share anything and everything. We complain about one thing and discuss a cleanse, a food group to cut out, and ingredients to "be aware of," only to go about our day with a body positivity sign raised high.
We don't know we're doing it, but we do know our gal pal has an eating disorder.
We don't know we're doing it, but we do know our roommate is self-conscious about her stomach.
We don't know we're doing it, but we do know our coworker might have second thoughts about her dinner plans.
75% of American women show behaviors that are associated with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or an unhealthy relationship with food.
53% of women on diets are at a medically healthy weight but are still trying to lose more.
27% of women said they would be "extremely upset" if they gained even five pounds.
You can bet that our constant, negative chatter about what food will do to our arm flab is not doing anything to help these statistics go down. Complaining to your friends about that breakout, that pound, or that "step back" in your week isn't making ANYONE feel empowered or good about food. It's bringing the attention back to that problematic mindset we've all grown tired of.
In other words, shut up.
Women empowering women is about making moves to lower stats about unhealthy relationships with food, starting from the discussions you have and how YOU talk about it. Don't tell your friends that they look great while reprimanding yourself for the ice cream you had last night. Go with your gut, recognize food as the fuel your body needs to conquer the world, and then spend your newfound free time doing just that.