Last week The Cut published an excerpt from Cazzie David’s book, No One Asked For This. David — largely known for being the daughter of professional neurotic and Seinfeld creator Larry David — spends the entirety of the excerpt detailing how often she eats to the point of being too full to fuck.
The excerpt was met with criticism ranging from David’s complete misunderstanding of anatomy (ie, her insistence that she simply doesn’t have enough room in her stomach to accommodate a penis) to the fact that most of David’s success thus far is largely due to nepotism.
The main thing that struck me, however, was that I was being asked — once again — to read about a thin white woman self-loath-bragging about how much food she puts into her body while knowing all the while that someone my size would be ridiculed with revulsion for doing the same.
This phenomenon isn’t new.
Pop culture regularly exalts women who maintain thin bodies while promoting eating habits that would be condemned in larger people. The expectations placed on women about how we look and behave are endless and ubiquitous, but to me, the strangest of those is the idea that a woman should be able to maintain a svelte figure while constantly binging on junk food. That this gluttony is somehow endearing and quirky when you’re little, but repugnant when you’re big.
This archetype has shown up repeatedly in pop culture. Shows like Will & Grace, Gilmore Girls, Happy Endings, and 30 Rock all feature thin white women whose main hobbies revolve around eating foods in quantities that would make the average person sick. In one episode of 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon begins to fold a meat lovers pizza and shove it into her mouth after saying that she’s going to “shotgun it.”
In an early episode of Gilmore Girls, mother and daughter Lorelei and Rory have a movie night with a snack list that reads like a Wonka-induced, candy-laden fever dream. In addition to a pizza with everything, their movie night binge includes microwave popcorn, spray cheese, potato chips, corn chips, Cheetos, marshmallows, jellybeans, Red Vines, Lik-a-Stix, cookie dough, peanut butter, M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, and Caramello bars.
Maybe it’s because I spent my teen years sneaking rice cakes into movie theatres as I desperately tried to avoid the much-dreaded calories of the buttered popcorn (which I was reminded about in virtually every women’s magazine I read and every Weight Watchers meeting I attended), but reading that candy-laden list irks me for two distinct reasons: the first is that despite my size, I actually don’t eat all that much. Sure I’ve packed away some big meals here and there but I’ve never binged the way it’s shown on TV (i.e. an entire large pizza and a whole bag of cookies) or even the way influencers show off their four-plate brunch spreads.
The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve learned to listen to my body and stop eating when I am comfortably full as opposed to attempting to take one more slice or one more helping. I don’t begrudge people who can eat large quantities of food, but I do get frustrated at the assumption that I must be constantly stuffing my face because of my size. That I have some kind of moral deficiency that compels me to eat too much.
The strange and cruel irony that my body couldn’t possibly eat as much as Liz Lemon or Grace Adler or Cazzie David and yet I live in a body marked by the trappings of overeating is not lost on me.
If I ate like this and celebrated it with snark and supposed self-effacing hilarity, I would be raked over the coals for “promoting obesity and unhealthy eating habits.” While I don’t want to speculate about Cazzie David’s eating history, she hints at having disordered eating patterns, wherein she talks about no longer being afraid of food. yet David’s current eating habits are equally worrisome; she writes about ordering two dinners for herself and regularly trying to see how much she can eat without throwing up.
How is it that in a thin woman this is played off as zany and “blisteringly honest” while someone my size would be told to get professional help?
We already know this, but the difference in attitudes towards women’s eating habits all comes down to fatphobia. No one actually cares about my health; they care about my size. Fat people regularly have their medical concerns ignored by doctors who would rather prescribe weight loss than do a thorough examination. And while my thin friends are free to have the occasional binge and even frame it as a form of empowerment, my food choices will always be under society’s microscope.
Food will never be freedom for me.
I’m reminded of a scene from the TV show My Mad Fat Diary in which the main character explains, “I just can't eat in front of people. If I eat unhealthy food, then people will think 'Oh, look at that fat cow. No wonder she got to that size.' And if I eat healthy food, then they'll think 'Who're you trying to kid, love? You didn't get to that size by eating salads.’”
For many fat women, something as simple as eating lunch in public can be panic-inducing as we know that every bite we take is scrutinized by the people around us.
I hope that at some point the rest of society will catch up to those of us who have made peace with food and realize that eating is not a moral action. Food serves so many different roles; sure, it biologically fuels us, but it also nourishes us, keeps family and cultural traditions alive, and yes, is often a reliable source of comfort.
So whether a fat woman like me wants to eat in Cazzie David proportions or is just grabbing a snack to keep herself going through the day, maybe we can accept that eating habits are not a moral failing but rather just another part of what makes us human. And in the meantime, it would be great if thin women could stop pretending that binge-eating is part of their quirky persona.