Saturday, February 14, 2009

On the Street: Calorie Counting Edition

Surprise! A Valentine's Day cupcake to give you pleasure, guilt, and social anxiety.

So, here's a question. Should be it be socially acceptable to, in the middle of a work gathering at which everyone is eating food, whip out your iPhone and start recording your food consumption in an application called Lose It!? In front of one co-worker who struggles seriously with her weight, and myriad others who may or may not have a history of eating disorders, body image issues, food-related guilt, and other human phenomena?

I'm going to go with no. I guess it's an example of thin privilege that you can publicly discuss your new calorie-counting, exercise-recording, weight-loss software, but you'd better not overeat in public if you're fat.

Delicious image courtesty of


Jamie said...

I'm going to go with "yes."

You really have no idea why a person is recording their nutritional intake. They may be diabetic and need to monitor their diet, they may be trying to pinpoint a food allergy, they may deal with OCD and feel driven to count every calorie, they may need to track how a medicine interacts with food.

Or, heaven forbid, they might be trying to lose weight. But that could be for a "good" reason. Maybe they are a recreational athlete who competes better at a certain weight and is trying to get there before a meet. Maybe they have a fancy event, can't afford a new outfit, and can't quite fit into the one they wore last year.

You really have no idea why anyone would count calories in public. All you know is the assumption you make that "someone like that probably does it because..."

You can't control what anyone else does. You can't understand their motivations and needs. All you can do is control yourself. If seeing someone count carbs, calories, or mg of iron in public bothers you, that is your problem, not theirs.

I lost almost 60 pounds on WW seven years ago. It took a huge amount of courage for me to get over the fear of writing my food down in public. I felt so ashamed to pull out my books where anyone else could see. It was a huge turning point for me to be able to be proud about taking a step that I needed to get off of blood pressure medicine and pain pills for my knees.

If I gain two pounds, I whip out the books again. It was a victory for me to put my health before what other people thought of me.

ln said...

I definitely hear what you're saying on this. I'm close to several friends and family members who need/want to count calories to help them lose weight or for some of the other reasons you've mentioned.

I guess, in my effort to preserve the anonymity of the situation, I wasn't able to articulate the interpersonal dynamics that (I thought) made the calorie counting in appropriate. You've made a good case for why every individual has a right to count their calories out loud, in social situations. But I still believe there's a case for the innocent bystanders who might have their own food issues triggered by this sight.

Also, for context, we're talking about a very thin woman counting her calories while sitting next to a woman who is probably considered obese. It just rubbed me the wrong way.