When I was eight, my first public humiliation for eating was at a family reunion picnic in the park. After playing all day with other children, I raced to the table eager to find out what my cousins brought and ate a heaping plate of arroz con pollo.
As the fork was about to touch my lips, I heard my Abuelita behind me yelling, “Who taught you how to eat like that? Eating like that will get you fat and no one wants that.” I turned to see my plus-size mother hiding her own shame behind me, but she said nothing.
You are now 11. I’m in a bathroom stall with my lunch tray, hovering my knees above the toilet to perfectly balance my meal of 2% milk, carrots and chicken nuggets. My heart rate is racing as I watch for anyone who might be entering. I’m frantic as I put each of the five pieces of chicken into my mouth as quickly as possible. If they don’t see me eating the “unhealthy food,” it doesn’t really count.
As a kid, I sensed that the world was constantly looking at me and made it hard to enjoy a meal. This shame was a constant companion throughout my life, so it became difficult for me to eat when another person was around.
A recent sighting of a sturgeon I was captivated. article in The Daily Mail shaming Tess Holliday simply for eating an ice cream bar at Disney World, my immediate thoughts were, “Oh wow, it must have been a slow news day.” I wasn’t surprised to see a picture depicting a fat woman eating in a negative light. Everyone who lives in marginalized bodies knows that the Vultures just want anything they can use to promote their messages or sell more of their subscriptions.
Holliday’s Instagram caption points out that Holliday walked miles to the theme park, and enjoyed a happy day with her family. But, Holliday only published photos when she was enjoying food.
It’s amazing that we live in a society that can take a supermodel simply nourishing herself and turn it into a discussion of personal health and wellness. However, it is possible to increase body shame, food dysmorphia, fatphobia, and body shame. billion-dollar businessBusiness is booming because of honey and honey.
I didn’t realize I had developed an eating disorder until the age of 25. My life revolved around the latest fad diets and I became so used to it that I believed that everyone lives that way. My Fitness Pal was my best friend. My boyfriend was everything I could eat with less than 200 calories. My No. 1 goal was to find the best diet and lifestyle products. I want to be smaller.
My heart would fill with joy every time I ate a salad at a cafe, checking every minute to see if anyone was watching the fat girl “get healthy.” My shame knew no bounds as I secretly ate a McDonald’s burger from the safety of my car and away from those prying eyes.
Today I’m a vocal fat influencer and content creator with a large social media presenceAnd after years of struggling can say I’m not only in a happy place within my body but proudly a diet culture dropout.
I uploaded a picture of myself a while back. on InstagramIn brightly-colored clothing, I eat a cheeseburger at a local eatery. To put it frankly, I look absolutely adorable in this photo and I’m also eating something that can be deemed quote-unquote unhealthy.
The impact that it might have on the world was something I didn’t think about. It was just a photo that I saw and it struck me how beautiful the food looked. This photo was taken in the early days Instagram. People were sharing photos. It was just a coincidence that I included myself in this photo.
Retrospectively, I see this photo as a direct example of how my body and relationships with food changed. This was me displaying my eating habits to the world. I also ate food that I had previously hidden from myself. The world was seeing me tell them that I will eat foods that nourish my body and make me happy.
It hit me hard, and people from my neighborhood flooded me with thanks for taking the picture.
At the time, I didn’t think of it as a revolutionary act. It was. I was a fat woman not only sharing herself consuming food, but also showing the joy behind the plate ― the joy of eating and eating well.
Since that initial photo I felt inspired to keep sharing my own food adventures and my love for travel, fashion, and style.
The industry remains very fatphobic, to put it simply. I’ve struggled to gain any recognition for my work in the food industry, because we simply aren’t what they want or are looking for. I don’t see many fat bodies on the feeds of Michelin-starred restaurants, on the covers of Bon Appetit, or being asked to create food content for the masses to enjoy.
Years later, I still find my joy in food imagery and content. It leads me to the thing that makes me most happy: receiving a message from someone struggling with diet culture letting me know that my content had made a difference in their lives.
Relearning your diet isn’t an easy task. To make a change you must be actively interested in it.
If you’re not personally out of toxic diet culture I’m here to tell you that’s OK. My journey was not a linear one and it personally took years of unlearning, therapy, and exiting a diet-positive household to finally come close to being OK with myself and my body, and to enjoy food to its fullest.
Food is one the most indulgent and simple experiences you can have in life. It is the foundation of our relationships, how we share and create memories, and how we connect with each other. You must eat to survive.
Everyone who lives in a body that is too fat has an embarrassing story to tell about the time when they tried to eat in public. Fighting the stigma is crucial and advocating for fat people to have everyday pleasures are important. It is because of this that advocating for a greater representation of large bodies in the food industry will help to eliminate the prejudices we all live with every day.
A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that creating work that centered on my body and pleasure and food would be the pinnacle of my career and my success but here we are.
My greatest joy is creating content that inspires people to live openly and publicly. If simply being glamorous and eating different foods allows someone to be more at ease with their own skin, it’s my honor and duty to keep doing so. It is my hope that it will inspire you to eat healthy.
Megan Ixim is on Twitter on Instagram