Why Are Women So Weird Around Food?

I’ve always wondered this, partially because I, myself, am “weird” around food (and working on it!), but Anne at Elastic Waist made a good point about this today, after a strange dining situation she’d had with some women.

We all know eating is a human function, required for survival and longevity. Like water, clothing and shelter, food is a basic need — not something we can “choose” to go without. If we don’t eat, we die.

We fuel our body with nutrients so, like a car, we run smoothly. Many men and women who are dieting play games with this, trying to see how little they can eat and still lose, but the truth is, without adequate food, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

In fact, taken to extremes (as with anorexia nervosa, which tends to be more about control than food), women can lose their periods, experience hair loss, bone loss, the inability to conceive and a host of other side affects, most tragic of all being death.

In the end, we really do need food.

Sometimes we eat too much and feel bad after. Sometimes we don’t eat enough and then binge the next day. But for the most part, even those of us struggling with disordered eating issues know that we need food to live.

Some view it as an enemy, and some as a crutch. Yet we need it, regardless.

Have you ever eaten when a friend was hungry even if you weren’t, or felt pressured to share an appetizer at happy hour or dessert with friends? (Couldn’t you have sat there like Anne did?)

Or have you ever gone hungry because you were out with friends/family and they weren’t hungry? (Couldn’t you have had a snack, or suggested stopping for a food break?)

Why are we so darn weird about food?!

Is it a crime to indulge in a second helping of pasta or a slice of your mom’s famous carrot cake that you have once a year?!

Why do we need to explain ourselves to the waiter?! Justify ourselves to our friends?!

(i.e.,: “Well, I didn’t have a big breakfast so I’m going to order the soup and the steak but maybe I should have chicken, and the fries, no the baked potato is healthier … “)


I don’t know about you, but, contrary to what it might appear (being “weird” around food and all), I don’t really care what other people order or why they order it.

Sure, I notice (usually because what other people are ordering sounds good to me — or just the opposite) but I definitely don’t judge them for their choices (and, in fact, usually admire them for ordering whatever their little heart desires versus hemming and hawing about it and feeling deprived for not getting what I really wanted and then bingeing at home anyway!)

That skinny girl in the corner devouring a hunk of cheesecake with a whipped mocha … well, that might have been her whole meal for the day. Or maybe it was her splurge day.

Who cares?

Sadly, I’d venture to say most of us food-obsessors (myself included) would eye her up, wondering. Because so many of us women are “weird” around food.

Most ironic of all is that most guys I know (my husband and brother included) love to see a woman eating and enjoying food. It shows she enjoys life, savors it.

(Funny, but I used to be that girl. Before I knew what a calorie or point was. I’d share things with my husband or my family, without a second guess. No bun was left uneaten, no Snapple left unsipped. All that changed when my eyes were opened to the world of weight loss and “dieting.”)

This isn’t to say that they want a woman that doesn’t care at all what she puts into her body, but rather one who is comfortable enough to say, “I’d like seconds,” or “Yes, please,” to dessert.

Why are we so afraid to show that darn it, we want to eat or are craving food? It’s as though we’ve been taught it’s “not good” to show a healthy appetite. To enjoy it.

Who the hell taught me this mentality?

Surely not my parents; food’s been an integral part of our family’s close-knit culture for as long as I’ve been alive. My only guess would be society, and how it “shuns” women who eat. Celebrity photos gawking at so-and-so enjoying a burger. Questioning an actress if she’s pregnant when in fact she just ate lunch. So sad.

Anne’s piece was a good wake-up call, a good reminder that women — regardless of size or sense of self … still seem to struggle with acceptance when it comes to what we put on our plates and how we’re viewed by others.


How about you? Do you notice women are “weird” around food too? How can you change that?

10 thoughts on “Why Are Women So Weird Around Food?

  1. I’m totally “weird” around food. I eat things because I deserve them, want them, earned them… I’m trying to get back to a place where I eat because I NEED to.

  2. DITTO, Mara. Tonight I was a little hungry and had some cereal. Only 2 pts, but still — perhaps I’d have gone to bed and tossed and turned, but I need to feel that hunger again … like I did the day I fasted. There’s something to be said for that — a little deprivation.

  3. I used to hang out occasionally with a (skinny) group of women that were always obsessed about what they ate, how many points or fat grams or calories were in something…they would only bring low-fat or non-fat snacks to parties (something I find almost criminal – I mean, if you’re going to a PARTY, then I say LIVE IT UP A LITTLE. Maybe that’s not the best attitude to have about it, but oh well.), and I found myself “sneaking” bites here and there so as not to be noticed.

    After awhile, it became terribly BORING to spend time with them when that was the only subject of conversation, and frankly, I got tired of always feeling like I was a sinner because if I’m gonna eat carrot sticks then I’d like to have rich, creamy, full-fat ranch dressing to dip them in (that’s right, I said it!).

    The thing is that ALL of us were displaying “weird” behavior about food – them for being obsessive about every bite, and me for feeling shamed for eating what I wanted because I weighed more than any of them.

    BUT…I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’ve come more to a place where I’m able to really eat what I want most of the time when I’m with other people. When I’m not eating alone, I feel a little more accountable but not in such a judgmental way, if that makes any sense! And if I want dessert or a second helping of something, I have it – and sometimes I don’t even eat all of it! I still have plenty of issues when I’m eating alone (which happens often because I live by myself), but it has been liberating to feel this way in some situations.

    Didn’t mean to ramble on for so long!! Now I’m gonna go read Anne’s linked post 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience, Auntie — I can imagine how boring that would be!! No one wants to hear about that stuff all the time; I call it a “personal journey” for that very reason!

    Good for you — it sounds like you’re in a wonderful place. Kudos!!! You’re an inspiration and I hope all of us can get there, too. Do you know what changed? You said you didn’t know how it happened … was there a trigger?

  5. I think a lot of it has been making myself be aware of it – hard to get in the habit, but after awhile I start to remember. Also, having people in my life that truly don’t care what I eat or how much has made a big difference. The friends I have now rarely talk about all the counting and weighing, and I know my family loves me no matter what I eat or don’t eat or how much I weigh. And I think my boyfriend is probably MORE attracted me to when I’m eating chocolate because he loves it too!

  6. That’s awesome, Auntie. Making myself aware is part of it, too. The odd thing is for me, no one but me has ever cared about what I eat … but still, I did.

  7. We need food to sustain and nourish us. We want to save the environment, and we need to sustain and nourish it. We want to save the ocean, well we need to sustain and nourish it. Same with the rainforest. Our bodies come first. If we do not take care of our own bodies, WHO WILL? Honestly?!!!! This is such a good point.

    Being in recovery from anorexia, I have made it my mission to make friends with girls who are NOT weird around food, who are HAPPY to eat and do not make it a big deal if they “slip”. if and when they do make a point about how much they consumed, how hungry they are for junk, or if they feel they’ve gained, i do not believe it is consuming their thoughts, it is just passing and very rare of them to follow through and diet. I am happy around girls who have a healthy attitude towards food: it is contagious!!

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