A few days ago, my boss purchased a fun little candy dispenser from Costco. We’ve been trying to make our office more welcoming for teachers to come work. So when she came across this awesome little candy machine, she went for it. We filled it to the brim with Peanut M&M’s and mini Hershey bars and placed it by our door.
Now overall, this office has been a million more times open minded than anywhere I’ve worked. I genuinely enjoy the company of everyone who comes by my office, and I am always impressed by how healthy the environment this. However. A trend is forming that I’ve seen almost everywhere, from the most corporate hedge funds down to the most liberal middle school. We’re terrified of snacks. We think that if we don’t hide them in secret drawers behind the receptionist, that they will force themselves into our stomachs, making a b-line for our thighs!
Ever since we put out these candy dispensers, I’ve had a range of comments:
“That’s so dangerous!”
“No!! Terrible! I can’t even be NEAR chocolate.”
“I saw that, did you see that? Where did it come from?”
Yes, I know these are playful comments, I’m not trying to be uptight here. But let’s back it up a bit. When I worked at a similar school in the city, the tension between my coworkers and sweets became an outright war. Someone would buy cupcakes for someone’s birthday and with each bite the room would scream, “Oh I shouldn’t! Oh this is awful! Why am I do this?!” For Christ’s sake eat the cupcake. Now on top of the processed sugar, that yes, it not excellent when eaten in giant quantities, you are stressed. So now your body is not only working to break down the sugar, but also releasing all sorts of angry stress chemicals. All over a birthday cupcake. If you have chosen to cut back on sweets, or simply don’t like them, that is totally fine. A simple “No, thank you” will suffice.
The Skinny Myth
Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve gotten passive aggressive comments about being thin. I didn’t break 110 pounds until I was about 18. I got a lot of, “Oh be quiet, you can eat whatever you want.” But did being thin make me healthy? I think I drank 2 glasses of coke with each meal until high school. I went through my teenage years making an ice cream sundae a night. No, I do not have some super-human ability to expel all that sugar from my body, it just didn’t hang around as fat yet. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t negatively affect my body. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I became more in touch with my actual hunger and started eating better that I reached a healthy weight (by gaining some).
But I am literally sitting here eating a brownie as I write this, and happily. I will not spend the whole day guzzling soda or beer and will not have five more brownies after this. I am just enjoying the damn brownie. The problem about these casual comments is the dread and body shaming that lie underneath them.
Awareness vs. Body shaming
The sweets in an office are “dangerous” because eating them (apparently against our own control) will lead to something “terrible”, like weight gain. Heavens forbid! My “beach body” will apparently not be up to par with those only drinking milk shakes this month. Our relationship with food often seems like a direct relationship with our physical awareness. If we took the energy we put into fighting back the evils of chocolate and the need to complete a certain amount of squats in a day, and used it instead to figure out what our body actually needs and how it works, then we may be able to stop fearing everything we consume. We may even figure out why we eat and what we truly want to eat.
If there is one main theme I have learned from studying Alexander Technique, it’s that our body knows how to take care of itself if we get out of its way. Once you do, you will know when you need cardio, or to eat some protein, or to stretch. Forcing a regimen on yourself that is perfect for someone else is like buying a size 10 shoe when you’re a size 7, just because you liked how that specific shoe looked on someone else. It doesn’t work.
So I will say now, with complete respect to my Beach Body friend representatives, please stop sending me Beach Body invitations. Without realizing it, you are inferring that I need to alter my body to go to the beach. And frankly, I am doing plenty to try and get in touch with my best diet and exercise patterns, but I am not going to do them in the name of a bathing suit. I am not going to go for a run and check my calves when I get home. I am not going to chart out my calories every time I take a bite. I am going to continue educating myself on how my specific body responds to sugars and chemicals, and I will continue to find the best way to keep my energy high and fabulous through whatever exercise I damn well please. But that is up to me, and it is a timely process to find the balance. So please cool it.
Let’s begin by cutting back the snack shaming. Saying that something is “dangerous” infers that no one else around you should eat it either. And that isn’t your business. The snacks can exist in your presence, and if you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat them. So until you find that happy place and know what your body needs to feel good, cut down on the accusations. That poor plate of brownies did nothing wrong, and neither did you by eating one of them.