Almost every time I go to the grocery store, I get the most inappropriate comments on my food choices at the checkout. When I’m buying binge foods, I already feel ashamed enough, so I don’t need to hear, “Don’t eat all this at once!” My eating disorder already tells me not to eat anyway, so I really don’t need another human being telling me the same thing and making it worse.
I have struggled with an eating disorder for ten years, and when I go buy food, I want to be invisible. So when someone comments on the food I’m buying, I have their critic in my head, as well as my own. Even if the bagger or cashier is genuinely intrigued by something I’m purchasing, it makes me feel like I’m being watched, and that is uncomfortable.
The employees at my local grocery store think they know my story without ever even talking with me. They snicker and laugh after making a comment about my junk food choices. This doesn’t stop me from buying binge foods though. As much as I hate binging and purging, I don’t have control over it. And no matter how much anyone else tries to stop me, it won’t work I’m starving.
I know I am a very thin young lady. So it doesn’t help that when I go to buy groceries, I buy food to binge and purge on. I am ashamed to admit this because, in our society, binging and purging are seen as moral weaknesses and a lack of willpower. However, for me, it has been the only way to escape from internal anguish from a childhood of sexual abuse, and chronic stomach pain and nausea from a genetic disorder.
What you don’t know is that I cannot eat food orally.
I have a genetic condition that has caused my stomach and intestines to become paralyzed and they do not move food through my body like a normal person’s. Therefore, to stay alive, I am tube fed. This just compounds the eating disorder because my body literally won’t accept the food when I do try to eat. And with my intestines not working great, I have malabsorption issues, so I am always in a state of hunger.
People at the checkout line don’t know that I fight the natural human instinct to eat food orally all day long. So by the end of the day, I am so hungry I can’t control myself. You don’t know that when I check out at the grocery, I am already in a binge/purge cycle. That makes me feel as if there’s a spotlight on me and my “badness” because of what I’m about to do.
There are so many reasons people might not want others to comment on their food choices. Some people — like myself — are trying to recover from the outpour of self-destructive messages from society, telling us to restrict, be thin, and not have needs — like hunger. Some people are undergoing chemotherapy, or taking other medications and can only eat certain things without getting sick. Others are pregnant and they are eating for two human beings, and they might have strange cravings. And yet another group of people — like me again — struggle to absorb nutrients. Just because someone is abnormally thin or morbidly obese doesn’t give you permission to comment on their food choices or body size. Your judgements are a reflection of you, not about the person you are checking out of line.
There are so many other small talk topics safer and less charged than my eating habits.
The weather, someone’s clothes, jewelry, what’s going on in the world, the pandemic, the holidays coming, or honestly just a friendly hello and then silence is okay too. I don’t need a conversation. I just want to get out of the grocery store without feeling worse about myself than I already do for my addictive behaviors.
Everyone is fighting a battle nobody else knows about. But what we do know is that food choices are charged and can trigger many people. Talking about someone’s food choices is similar to talking about their body — that’s how it feels to me, at least.
So please, tell me about your nephew who was just born. Tell me about the dog you rescued three years ago. Tell me about your upcoming holiday plans. Or tell me how frustrated you are that the pandemic is still way out of control. Talk to me about your love for the snow… Tell me anything, but please do not comment on my food choices. Let me come and shop in peace and checkout without more shame than when I entered these doors.