That Ugly Monster, Food Shame

I served a particular woman today at the café that I work at. (Note, the delicious salad that I made myself on my break- so much goodness. Lots of cheese, sauerkraut, kale and ham under that gooey egg).

She came up and ordered a chicken schnitzel sandwich. That sandwich comes with a large piece of battered, deep-fried chicken, lettuce, butter, and herbed mayo. A simple sandwich, but, you know, still satisfying and totally yummy.

She ordered it on brown bread, before quickly adding, “and can I get that with added cheese, tomato and bacon please?” She had thought this through.

“Sure,” I said, thinking, it must be for her boyfriend or something… as she was petite, slight, and wearing a Cue-style work dress that was shaped to her small figure, topping off the look with heels and a neat up-do. Looked to be about mid-30s. Not the type to load on the protein and carbs, I thought. More like a salad girl. <– Can I just say, that right there was me judging her by her appearance. NO props to me, but I want to be transparent, and I am glad this instance make me analyse this in myself.
“So, that’s a chicken schnitzel sandwich on brown bread with tomato, cheese and bacon…”
“Oh actually!” she interjected, “Can I add extra chicken please?”
I’d literally never heard that done before, honest. If you can picture the size of the schnitzel, two of them, plus cheese, tomato and 4 rashers of bacon would dwarf the thick-cut bread we serve it on.
“Ok, like you want two schnitzels on your sandwich?” I said, trying to hide my surprise, thinking, this is one hell of a sandwich, but also still thinking it must be for her man.

“Yeah”, she said, smiling sheepishly, “I know, I’m such a pig, this is ridiculous, but yes please.”

Oh. It’s totally for herself. My heart immediately went out to her. I wished I could have hid my surprise better. Wish I hadn’t judged her choice without thinking. Hoped I wasn’t as transparent as I felt.

“No, absolutely not, that’s awesome, it sounds like an amazing sandwich! I love it!” I quickly gushed, smiling warmly.

But she continued to talk herself down.

“It’s so much, I know. So embarrassing. I know it’s a lot…”

Like, she just kept going. As if she was trying to purge herself of her shame. I realised this wasn’t about me- she had these thoughts stewing in her head from the get-go, just waiting to be vocalised. I tried to reassure her again, feeling like I couldn’t find the right words to say to her to make her feel okay, and then asked for her name so I could place the order.

“Ashley.”

“Thanks Ashley, I’ll pass this through. Hey, guys,” I said, addressing the sandwich makers to my right (we didn’t have an option in the computer for another schnitzel, so I was forced to explain), “This sandwich for Ashley has two schnitzels on it, not just the one.”

Ashley was almost cowering by this time, and she came out with the self-deprecating statement that shocked me a little, “More like two schnitzels for the pig, not Ashley…”

Just like that.

Who? Who taught you to think this way? To talk this way!?

We all kind of know the answer to that. Cultural ideals, sexism, women’s objectification, family, friends, boyfriends, bosses, et cetera. So many influences that come together to make someone think that shaming themselves that harshly is not only acceptable- it’s called for.

I wish I could have told her she doesn’t have to justify her food choices to anyone- least of all, a cashier at a sandwich café.

I didn’t know her situation; I didn’t know her story. She may have been sick for the past 3 weeks, lost weight, got better, and suddenly has an appetite for dense, body-nourishing food. Maybe she was treating herself for some reason, and instead of eating a pint of ice cream, she opted for savoury. Whatever, sandwiches are the best! Maybe she was pregnant. MAYBE SHE WASN’T EVEN THAT HUNGRY BUT SHE JUST REALLY LIKES CHICKEN SCHNITZELS. There were so many things that could have been the case, and all of them needed NO moral justification whatsoever.
When she initially told me it was for her, aside from being saddened at her shame, I was glad! Yes, girl, you ORDER that double schnitzel, cheesy bacon thick-cut sandwich!! You go out there and kick some ass with that empowering fuel you’re honouring your body with! No apologies necessary, you’ve got a life to live, and I’m not going to stand in your way judging your food choices like there’s a moral attached to the calorie intake in a single meal!

Hell, a typical dude would be PROUD of polishing off a sandwich like that. So why not a woman?

I just wish she hadn’t shamed herself. I mean, if you’re going to order a bangin’ sandwich, ENJOY IT. OWN IT.

And then I thought, you know, I do this in my head some days to myself. Sometimes constantly. My thought patterns might be no better than hers, but I keep my shame to myself rather than vocalising it.

 

I feel could have expressed myself so much more eloquently in this post, but I digress.

 

I just… so many feels from that encounter.

 

 

…What do you think? What thoughts or emotions does this invoke in you?