• Mon, Oct 14 2013

On Salad Shaming

Salad shaming

I know we talk a lot about shaming of various sorts — slut shaming, fat shaming, ghost shaming, etcetera. In our office, given how often we discuss the idea of shaming, some of us have a long-running joke wherein any time somebody says something we deem critical, we just add “shaming” to the tail end. Examples: posture shaming, nail polish shaming, GIF shaming. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of awful salads via ordering online. Too much dressing, giant blocks of feta, avocado clumps, rubbery chicken — no me gusta, therefore we shame those salads. You know, because that works on inanimate objects just as well as it does on actual human beings (i.e. not remotely).

But now, I would like to discuss a different kind of salad shaming, even though you had not heard of any kind of salad shaming until this very moment. One that does not make me sound quite so much like an absolute crazy person. Or maybe it will, but at least it won’t involve feta. In light of “fat shaming week,” I felt like discussing a very strange side effect of diet culture and its critics.

Some time ago, I went out with a guy to dinner. He was friendly, intelligent, sweet, polite, flattering, and he had reached out to me to have dinner — basically, I had zero reason to believe I was being judged negatively for my eating habits. We got a couple of drinks, I checked out the menu and I recommended a few things. He said they sounded good, but right before we could order, I realized my stomach wasn’t doing wonderfully and that I really wanted a crisp salad. But I didn’t, because I felt like he would judge me and assume I was on a diet, as happens constantly whenever I mention that I want a salad at dinner.

I didn’t want to eat a bunch of crap because my stomach felt uneasy and my acid reflux was going crazy, but I ordered pulled steak tartare, ceviche, mac & cheese, and a couple cocktails for us regardless. Despite the fact that salads can have tons of calories, fat, sugar and all the other content that isn’t necessarily good for us, I still felt that weird obligation to “prove” I wasn’t “one of those girls.”

Salad face

You know, people who eat the recommended nutrients for their bodies.

As you may remember, I am that particular brand of insecure that involves feeling like I literally do not deserve to be in other humans’ presences when I am looking rough, but an interesting and very unintentional effect of having a deep divot in my personality where my confidence should lie is that I am also hyper aware of others’ efforts to not upset me or other women, in general. Case in point: insisting that women eat more.

“You’re not one of those typical girls who, like, orders just a salad for dinner, are you?” I have heard on more than one occasion. (Additionally, there are some people who just assume I am not one of those women because I’m not skinny, then congratulate me on being “confident with my body regardless,” but that is a discussion for another day.) In large groups, there’s one douchebag who will call out the female who eats something other than a full rack of ribs. They’ll call her a “bird” for wanting vegetables, which is rather obnoxious. How are we birds if we want to eat something we are in the mood for? Plus, birds absolutely love animal style fries.

I’m not saying I don’t understand where the efforts come from — I think they are often the result of good intentions. People, particularly men, are often aware of (and even feel guilty about) how women’s figures and food choices are treated by the media and society as a whole. The female body is scrutinized to the nth degree. Case in point: #fatshamingweek and all its supporters. As a result of witnessing this ridiculousness from a predominantly bystander point of view, some men feel motivated to become active participants in fighting that attitude by not only encouraging female comfort around food, but insisting on it.

woman laughing at salad

“HOLY SHIT, KEVIN, THIS BURGER TASTES LIKE GARBAGE.”

The problem with this is that some women wind up feeling weird about eating specific foods in front of guys. There’s this constant nervousness in my head of being “that girl” who just orders a salad, even though sometimes I just want a f’ing salad because I’m hungover and grease sounds way too gnar. It’s that incredibly stupid, futile, offensive and arbitrary idea of being a “guy’s girl” who drinks beer and watches sports games and loves wings — all of which are things women actually love regardless of dudes, but have continuously been framed as “typical male activities,” so any woman who doesn’t fit perfectly into cultural norms winds up getting a ton of unnecessary focus on their personal likes and dislikes, both in good and bad ways.

Obviously, salad shaming is not the issue. I mean, it’s not even a real thing, and I realize the term “salad shaming” will never catch on because it is ridiculous, but I genuinely can’t think of any other term that works. And obviously, this is not nearly as damaging as fat shaming overall; it’s just one of those strange byproducts of our society’s perpetually dieting mindset and cultural viewpoint. And now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go order a salad.

Photo: rogerimp / Flickr, zeevveez / Flickr.

Share This Post:
  • Lisa

    Yes! Someone who understands! I have this problem all the time and it doesn’t help that I’m naturally tiny so everybody just gives me fucking hell for my food choices.

  • Mel

    Some time ago Iwas standing outside of class eating grapes when a girl casually told me ‘you know, those have a lot of calories!’ Like the only reason I could be eating fruit was trying to lose weight. I just fucking love grapes! Had I been eating a chocolate bar, nobody would have noticed!

    • bluesandgolds

      Grapes only have a lot of calories if you’re eating some starvation-level 800 calorie diet. Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

    • Nerdy Lucy

      My mom does this with fruit. “Fruit has a lot of sugar!” But she says it in a scolding tone.

      Seriously, if I eat birthday cake and ice cream, she says not a thing, yet fruit has too much sugar.

  • Mel

    Some time ago Iwas standing outside of class eating grapes when a girl casually told me ‘you know, those have a lot of calories!’ Like the only reason I could be eating fruit was trying to lose weight. I just fucking love grapes! Had I been eating a chocolate bar, nobody would have noticed!

  • Alexis Rhiannon

    STEAK TARTARE, CEVICHE, AND MAC AND CHEESE??? What kind of patchwork quilt restaurant were you eating at??

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      The best kind!

    • keanesian

      LIKE.

  • Tania

    Sometimes I just want a salad. Not usually when I’m eating out, though, but that is almost entirely because I just can’t make fries at home. So 90% of the time I am at a restaurant I order something with fries.

    The other 10% of the time is if they have steamed veggies. I don’t know why, but I LOVE steamed broccoli and cauliflower and carrots. LOVE them. I would eat them every day and be happy.

  • Muggle

    This is why I hate eating around people, period. I’ve actually been underweight, and every time I ate a vegetable I got this. It took me months to muster up the courage to go anywhere near the salad bar at my university’s dining hall. I don’t eat salad when I’m at certain people’s houses because they always have something shitty to say about it. Nothing to see here, just another “anorexic hoe” eating a salad…

  • Misskitty

    My sisters Ex-Husband really encouraged my sister to eat like him because she was “no fun” at eating (not reg eating but like pizzas at midnight), then he was shocked that she started gaining weight. Never mind she explained that he worked for the Coast Guard and worked out all the time, she had an office job thus needed to eat less. He was not happy with her when she “ate like a bird” but then was really unhappy when she gained a bunch of weight. Can’t have it both ways guys!
    (And yes a lot of times I like salad because it makes my stomach feel good as opposed to eating a hamburger, which kills my stomach. So that whole “salad has as many calories as a burger, so you might as well eat a burger” bugs me so much maybe I just want a F**ken salad!)

  • adamfox

    What’s the solution? Basically, everyone keep their opinions to themselves and eat whatever the hell you feel like! Even if a girl orders a salad and a guy thinks she’s only doing it because she’s worried about being attractive.. she’s still worried bro! And if eating the salad makes her feel better, then let her eat the damn salad! Instead of insisting on steak and making her feel shitty later. What he should really do is order the steak for himself if he wants and casually offer her some, but no biggie if she still doesn’t want.

  • adamfox

    What’s the solution? Basically, everyone keep their opinions to themselves and eat whatever the hell you feel like! Even if a girl orders a salad and a guy thinks she’s only doing it because she’s worried about being attractive.. she’s still worried bro! And if eating the salad makes her feel better, then let her eat the damn salad! Instead of insisting on steak and making her feel shitty later. What he should really do is order the steak for himself if he wants and casually offer her some, but no biggie if she still doesn’t want.

  • adamfox

    What’s the solution? Basically, everyone keep their opinions to themselves and eat whatever the hell you feel like! Even if a girl orders a salad and a guy thinks she’s only doing it because she’s worried about being attractive.. she’s still worried bro! And if eating the salad makes her feel better, then let her eat the damn salad! Instead of insisting on steak and making her feel shitty later. What he should really do is order the steak for himself if he wants and casually offer her some, but no biggie if she still doesn’t want.

  • adamfox

    What’s the solution? Basically, everyone keep their opinions to themselves and eat whatever the hell you feel like! Even if a girl orders a salad and a guy thinks she’s only doing it because she’s worried about being attractive.. she’s still worried bro! And if eating the salad makes her feel better, then let her eat the damn salad! Instead of insisting on steak and making her feel shitty later. What he should really do is order the steak for himself if he wants and casually offer her some, but no biggie if she still doesn’t want.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Solution: steak salad.

  • Cee

    I always got the opposite reaction. Right now, I fucking love salads. I have been on this fresh, cold, cheesy binge. So salads, fruit plates and crudites are the shit for me right now. But, every time I order it around people, I get a full body stare down and a little incredulous chuckle. Like “who are you trying to fool?”

  • Ollie_Cat

    I think salad-shaming should definitely be a real thing! I remember one story in particular, when I was in 8th grade (yes it does start that early!) I was a tall, skinny, skinny kid at thirteen, about 5’8″ and 115 pounds. I was at a cast party at TGI Friday’s for a school play, and I ordered a salad, because I just really like salad. And all my friends called me anorexic. Unbelievable.

  • Hailey

    Thanks for bringing this up. I had an eating disorder in my early teens, and ever since then people think that I’m relapsing when I say no thank you to dessert. Which is fucked up if you ask me because for a while I’d eat the goddamn cake so everyone could feel better. I’d make myself feel uncomfortable for days just to please others for a brief moment. To this very day, people try and make me feel bad for not eating birthday cake at a birthday party. But what these people don’t know is I’ve been bulimic for five years and one piece of birthday cake for a bulimic is like one can of beer for an alcoholic. Everyone should keep that in mind before trying to coerce someone into eating more. I also have a jewish family and they’re ALWAYS insisting I “eat up!” while simultaneously telling my cousin she’s going to get such a nice husband for being “so slim.” The moral of this story is you should never let anyone dictate what you do with your body because it’s YOUR’S!

    • Alfreda

      Oh how I needed to hear this. My husbands family is so bad for shaming people for what they eat, not only that but they are inconsistent. It depends if they are on a health kick or not. For the longest time my mother-in-law shamed me because I skip the cheese course, then she went on a diet and she doesn’t eat the cheese. She still disapproves of me not liking the stinky, soft cheeses because she loves it. Her husband will shame you if you don’t have cake, she will shame you if you have two pieces. It also depends on if you are fat are thin. With me if I say no cake, sometimes they will just accept it because they think I need to lose weight. If somebody else refused it would be pushed on them. If my husband notices I skipped a dish, especially if he knows I really hate it, he will loudly point it out to embarrass me and either try to pressure me into taking some or just put a large amount of it on my plate. His rational, I need to set a good example for the kids. I really just wish I could put a privacy zone over my whole plate and mouth so they had no idea what I was eating. Somebody should invent something like that.

  • Natalie

    Arghhhh. I went out to lunch today with a guy and got a salad because it was an incredible salad. Seriously, I basically only eat salads out because there is no way in hell I’m buying all the little weird things that they put in salads out plus the specialty lettuce. Anyway, so I got the salad and they also brought us an order of fries because the food took really long to come out. Since my date already had friends with his sandwich, I started eating them. He goes “what was the point of ordering a salad if you are going to eat these fries?” ….the point was the salad was INCREDIBLE and the fries were free? I was so annoyed. And I felt uncomfortable eating in front of him suddenly, which is sad and means that we will probably not go out again.

  • Angel Smith

    i cant believe the stories on here. how incredibly annoying!! im an adult and will eat what i want, when i want. geez!!