The Eating Issue

Last week, it was Oprah. Now, it’s Rachel Zoe.

Oprah has gone public with her weight gain, revealing that she’s addicted to food.   I certainly sympathize with Oprah; I feel that inside the Slim Me, is a Fat me, who will take over if I’m not vigilant. I’ve never been fat, but I know that fatness is a state to be avoided at all costs. In our society, prejudice against fat people is so deep-rooted that even those seen pictured with fat people are judged more harshly, ‘according to studies.’

Poor Oprah can’t keep anything secret, so she might as well use her own weight problem as a means of connecting with her audience. But is she an addict, do you think?

Everyone has an opinion on Oprah. Some New Agey woman wrote a piece about Oprah’s weight gain at, explaining to us that Oprah’s eating stems from “shame.” She even went on to point out to Oprah which chakra was messed up.

Which chakra of Rachel Zoe’s is messed up? She insists that she’s thin by nature, but surely no one can look at her and see anything normal. This woman is starving, but she doesn’t believe it. When she looks in a mirror, she probably sees the weight she still needs to lose. Rachel Zoe has probably struggled with anorexia all her life. Is she addicted to not eating?

I’ve only known two or three women who didn’t have a screwed up relationship with food, and one of them was probably lying. Food is our enemy, much of the time. At best, it’s an enemy we’ve called a truce with. I don’t believe that eating too much is an addiction, although it is clearly a compulsion for many people. Food equals comfort, and eating helps to stuff down feelings we don’t want to experience. Oprah could stop eating without undergoing withdrawal. She could eat less if she decided to!   Just eat less, Oprah!

Rachel Zoe is another story. She is so afraid of ending up like Oprah that she’s developed a pathology. She probably won’t be able to help herself. She needs clinical care but she will resist getting it. I’ve seen girls who are perilously thin but still terrified of eating an apple. Nothing gets through to them; their brains aren’t processing correctly.

When I was a kid, my father would point out overweight women and express his contempt for them. I knew early on that I didn’t want to be fat. Being fat meant being unlovable.

Eating is a loaded issue for women, more so than for men. To simplify: Our loveability is linked to our physical appeal. For men, it’s linked to their achievements.   If you had a daughter, how would you help her avoid a conflicted relationship with food? And who do you most identify with, Oprah or Rachel Zoe?

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21 Responses to The Eating Issue

  1. Skye says:

    I don’t really identify with either of them – I think I fall into that teeny weeny miniscule number of non-food conflicted women. My mother is many things, but conflicted about food is not one of them, and she passed that on to me. How? Not really sure, other than she always ate and prepared healthy food with gusto and pleasure. Her mother was a lifelong anorexic (probably on the “functional” Rachel Zoe model) so I don’t know how my mother managed to dodge the anorexia bullet either.

    My mother-in-law on the other hand is a whole other story…

  2. WendyB says:

    All I know is that I have to keep a sharp eye on my weight because with the amount of junk food I consume/desire to consume, I’d be gigantic if I wasn’t blessed with a relatively quick metabolism. Must.Cut.Back.on.Cadbury.

  3. Anna says:

    I do not have a daughter, but I have a son, and I think that boys/men may well be facing being judged upon appearances too, if we do not watch out, so how to deal with eating issues is still an important question for me. As Skye above, I grew up with a mother without eating issues. She’s a good cook, and meals has always been a pleasure in my house. THat lays an excellent ground, I think. On the other hand, society is everywhere, so of course I have had my share of worrying too much about food (Oprah-style, rather than Rachel).

    With our son, both my husband and I are careful never to say bad things about ourselves (like “oh, I look so fat in this” or “can’t wear that, I look awful” etc). Further, we try not to nag him about food, but to point out that you eat for your own wellbeing, not to please anyone. But that one is tricky, when he, like now, is in a phase where it feels like he eats half a carrot everyday and nothing else!

    We also try very hard not to focus on his looks/what he achieves, but that is really hard, it comes automatcally “oh, you look lovely!” or “oh, you did so well!”. I try and neutralise by pointing out that it does not matter whether he comes in first or last or what he looks like, but it is hard. Future will show how we managed.

    (I am not English, so sorry for language mistakes. Just ask if it doesn’t make sense!)

  4. K-Line says:

    “I’ve only known two or three women who didn’t have a screwed up relationship with food, and one of them was probably lying.” Funny cuz it’s true.

    I do have a young daughter and it’s a challenge parking my own feelings about weight at the door. What’s interesting in my relationship with my kid is that she is naturally extremely slim, strong and proportioned. She loves being active and athletic. It’s like she hit the jackpot. I, on the other hand, was always a sturdy tot. My adult body is not skinny – I have large breasts and I’m curvy. I almost can’t relate to my daughter’s shape / metabolism.

    I wonder if I’ve promoted it in (un)conscious ways. I limit her exposure to junk food. I am very active / don’t have a car and encourage fitness as fun. And she knows I watch myself. That I keep a food diary (have done for years) and that I try to stay within reasonable limits.

    Please note, however, while I’ve certainly struggled to love the way I look, I am pretty happy with myself. I do think there is beauty in my shape as well as hers (and in many others). And I love food and cooking and having great times in the context of eating well.

    I did have a very bad moment recently – I don’t know how it happened and I’m loathe even to discuss it. My daughter wanted a 4th cookie and I advised that, on eating it, she would have consumed 250 calories without nutrition. Whereupon she reminded me that she’s a kid and kids don’t count calories, even if they are junk food. I apologized, agreed with her and told her my attitude was restrictive and that she should have the cookie and enjoy it. But it made me realize that, on some level, I am watching carefully what she consumes.

  5. Edith Purdy says:

    Like Skye I don’t identify with either. I am slim (I put this down to good genes) yet soft (I put this down to lazyiness). I think I could potentially become fat, especially now I am no spring chicken, but I eat what I want in moderation and this seems to work for me.

    My mam always encouraged me to eat well and not to worry about treats, and I think as a result of that I have a healthly relationship with food. Sometimes I am surprised by this, especially as my mam suffered from anorexia as a teenager. However, she never showed any obvious signs of this as I grew up (or even now thought to be honest). I only know because she told me.

    I once had a girl come and do work experience with me and she was severely anorexic. It was very upsetting and I’m not afraid to say that I had no idea how to handle it. She would go the whole day without eating or drinking anything. I broached the subject with her as diplomatically as possible, trying to be as understanding, supportive, and as kind as a complete stranger could possibly be. It didn’t go particually well and I sometimes wonder if I did the right thing. I didn’t want her to think that having an eating disorder was normal / acceptable within fashion media, because it’s not. I often wonder how she is geting on.

  6. Guy perspective: We are judged a whole lot less on it, but we don’t get off scot-free either. That’s society however. I’m more interested in the wiring that gets scrambled, because I think that can happen to both sexes (again more so girls than boys, but not exclusively). To expel your undigested food is to rebel against every animal instinct within you. It’s broke-down circuitry that defies the most obvious explanations. I hear what K-Line’s saying and it makes perfect sense to me at a rational level, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about with your kid because of that. We’re a long way off understanding whatever the hell this insidious disease is. Peer pressure? Check. Media stereotypes? Check. Unstable home life? Check. But then there are the others, the bizarrely normal kids, who live within stable relationships, aren’t put under performance stress at school, have level-headed kids for friends and yet, and yet… they can succumb in a matter of months to this cadaverous demon that wants to pull them body from soul. I know a couple of them.

    It scares me, frankly. A lot more than dark alleyways do.

  7. I’m lucky in one sense my mother and father are good eaters of healthy food although my dad adn I have a crisp problem because after swimming club we were always so hungry we’d stuff a packet of crips down us! I love them so steer clear as they are bad fro your arteries.
    I do watch what I eat and want to stay slim for health and acceptance reasons. You are right get fat and you luck out. I have two maxims never have fat ugly friends – they cause trouble and always have issues with how you look – my retort is I work at it. And my other maxim is never go out with a man whos thighs are thinner or whos breast are bigger!

  8. lisadom says:

    Hi Sis, Hammie here, too lazy to sign in and out of work blog as I still have a post to do!

    Because of Autism; we have a weird relationship with food in our house.
    Bratty is food fussy to the point of starvation; she takes medication “Rispiradol” that should cause a weight gain, and it just makes her on the slender side of normal, but she is robustly healthy and seems to get over colds and flus at least a week faster than the rest of us.
    She has just gone to sleep without dinner as she didnt like the choices available; and she does that a LOT! (we cannot have Freshly cooked home made Chilli Con Carne every night)

    Boo has to be reminded to eat, but will eat a few more convenience foods so we can make more options available when he doesnt like what we are having for dinner. Frozen Pizza, Noodles, Toast and Vegemite etc. I just keep offering it all day.

    My own relationship with food is a little unhealthy I guess. Worry and anxiety would make food taste like cardboard, so I would eat a donut or something fatty early; before things went wrong.
    Bratty having tantrums every night as we sit down to eat affects appetite too. Maybe Oprah should pay us to let Bratty sit on her lap and scream in her ear; Hey A New Diet! The Anxiety Eating Plan; it will be on Oprah!!

    However, when things are going well, and my clavicles fill out; I gotta watch it to find the right balance between looking well, and needing new pants. There is a little fat girl inside me and she cannot fit into my favourite thrifted designer pretties; but as long as I stay vaguely person shaped; I am happy enough. And I can always buy bigger pants.

    One of our Angels has anorexia. it is heart breaking. I think if I had the choice I would always go with encouraging my kids to eat more; just make sure the food was healthy most of the time. Better bones, better skin. More graceful ageing. please god.

  9. Juri says:

    11:30 pm and I just finished the rest of the chili con carne I made today. I don’t think I’d make a very good Rachel Zoe so I must identify with Oprah on this one, although we’re not in the habbit of getting fat in my family.

    If I had daughters I’d tell them to have another plate with dad, and a beer or two if they were over the age of ten. Then we’d watch inspector Frost solve another crime on tv. I’d also tell them boys really aren’t as picky as they pretend to be. To prove my point I’d ask them to take a look at daddy’s recent dates. Obviously, they’d have to agree.

    Oh what a great father the world loses in me.

  10. This is such a complicated issue. I feel like I’ve been Oprah AND Rachel Zoe, having battled eating disorders of one kind and another for most of 20 years. I have only two female friends with completely non-conflicted attitudes about food and neither is American, which may have something to do with it.
    Raising a young daughter who is naturally underweight (at least for now), makes me hyper-aware of what message I’m sending her about food and weight. I make a concerted effort never to denigrate myself or comment on my size, positive or negative, in her presence, but I’m sure there is an effect on her. Not to mention the fashion magazines full of emaciated women that are all over the house, sending the subtle message that extreme thinness is the only standard of beauty (and which I have a hard time disagreeing with). Even in 1st grade, some of the girls talk of dieting and “fattening” foods. It’s really sad.

  11. annemarie says:

    My mother was a lousy cook and i didn’t have any interest at all in food as a kid. I lived on chocolate and apples until i was about 20. I was very athletic and miraculously never got sick. I often heard comments being made about my appearance and insinuations of a possible eating disorder. It really fucking bothered me.

    To this day, when i hear people snipe about skinny people I just want to stamp my feet and tell them to fuck themselves. Anorexia is a psychiatric problem. It’s very fucking rude to insinuate that someone has a problem like that just because they’re on the thin side, ESPECIALLY when they are a teenager. I remember going to people’s houses and feeling like I should put on a show of eating. I would gorge myself in front of them to prove to the mothers that I didn’t have anorexia. It took me literally YEARS to reconfigure myself out of that habit and to learn to listen to body again.

    (Though it still happens when I go to my mother-in-law’s. In fact one time when I was there the mother-in-law watched like a hawk as I ate her homemade pizza and proclaimed to the table: “Oh I just love watching her eat! It’s so funny! You would think she never eats anything!” I was enraged. Imagine saying something like that to a fat person?)

    (And I am not even that thin by the way. Maybe just by midwest standards.)

    Anyway, fast forward a few years. I became really depressed when i was 23 and put on weight. It wasn’t much– I come from a family of greyhounds– but fifteen pounds is enough to make you feel uncomfortable in your clothes and need new pants. I have no idea how this happened because I was eating and moving around the same as before. I joined a gym and started looking at what i ate, but i still couldn’t figure it out and the weight stayed.

    After about a year and a half of trying to get control of the thing and go back to the way I was– because even though many people thought it was no harm to have gained those pounds, I sort of “felt” heavier, had less energy etc…didn’t like it in short– i just gave up and just bought the new pants. The weight had plateaued anyway.

    But then! I became happy again and….the weight just fell off! Again, i know not how this happened. I eat more than most men do.

    Maybe this is unusual, but I have come to believe that weight has nothing to do with food or exercise. It’s all about emotions. In my case this has been true anyway. Maybe it’s not the case for everyone.

    I also think that everyone has their own personal optimal weight. I have many friends who feel like shit and think they look dreadful when they accidentally lose a few pounds, even though the common aesthetic standard would say they look better.

    I also think that because of the way our bodies work, women are more sensitive to changes like occasionally feeling bloated, heavy etc. Everyone has fat days, even skinny people.

    I think you are dead right that most women have issues about food. I don’t think i have many issues, but just look at the saga I have recounted! Moi? No. No issues at all.

  12. Sister Wolf says:

    Skye -You probably already know how blessed you are.

    WendyB -Chocolate is my true love as well!

    Anna -Your son is lucky to have such aware parents.

    K-line -It sounds like you are doing a GREAT job. I salute you!

    Edith Purdy -It’s hard to see someone in that state…it’s natural to want to save them. And to worry.

    Nick -You’re right about the wiring. Anorexa does appear to run in families, so there’s a genetic factor. “Nature loads the gun; environment pulls the trigger.”

  13. Sister Wolf says:

    Make do -I had a boyf who always borrowed my jeans. NEVER AGAIN.

    Lisa -I can relate to every single thing. I have said that stress is my ‘beauty secret’ since it has been so unrelenting!

    Juri -Could you be my dad??

    Iheartfashion -Yep, me too. I do think America somehow breeds the worst eating problems. The idea of children trying to diet is heartbreaking!

    annemarie – thanks for reminding that weight and body image are complicated….so many elements can be involved.

  14. those studies are so true, I know when I hang out with Xmastime (big guy) during fashion week the derision headed my way is palpable. He could care less about fashion people, but he struggles to lose weight and can’t get laid (i’m not selling him out here, he speaks openly about this on his blog).This is tragic! And i know from years of see-sawing and my ancient modeling days that the more you get shit on, the more you want to eat.
    I used to eat junk food as comfort food till I met my husband, who through the years has weaned me off a lot of crap because he eats so well. Nothing like a poor starving artist diet – lots of beans and salads.

  15. Sal says:

    I dunno, Sister … Oprah’s got all the money and all the power. If she can’t stay thin with resources galore – including trainers, chefs, stylists and the lot of them – her weight gain may be based on addictive tendencies. We’ll never truly know.

    Obviously, I’m more with Oprah than RZ, here. Though, hells bells, I feel for and worry about them both.

  16. Bex says:

    Man that photo’s just sad..I’m just thankful I never had any weight issues.

  17. Mark says:

    Zoe’s influence on her clients’ weight has been questioned by the media; in response, Zoe said, “I don’t think it’s fair to say that I’m responsible because I’m a thin person, that because I’m influencing their style I’m influencing what they eat. There was this crazy rumour that I was getting diet pills from Mexico and distributing them. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve never even tried cocaine. I don’t do drugs – I’m too much of a control freak.”

  18. Danielle says:

    Uggh. I suppose I identify more with Oprah? As a sorta SIF (secret Internet fatty, hahaha), I’ve always grappled with weight. It was exacerbated as a child (I’ve had issues for a LONG time) when my mom would buy me workout videos and make me do them…I was probably no older than 8 or 9. And it continued through high school and college. And then both parents inadvertently making me believe that I couldn’t be loved or adored or pretty because I hadn’t lost the weight yet. I’m only now coming to grips with it. Damn.

    Sorry, you probably didn’t need to know all that.

  19. arline says:

    I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for over 20 years, and I was in several hospitals for it. It is a hell to live in most certainly. I would not wish that on anyone.

    What you say is true and really, weight and food is an issue that most women in society face, even if they don’t admit it.

    I am healthy now, and I take care good care of my self, but I am still really weird about eating. I often wonder if I will ever be comfortable with food, and I envy those who seem to eat without abandon. I have a naturally lean body, and I don’t have to try to loose weight. it happens if I miss a couple of meals. I love to exercise, and I have made my way to yoga, which has helped me tremendously. Even still, my mind can be quite pejorative around my image despite all the work I have done in my recovery.

    Recovery is a process, and it is something that takes constant vigilance, self love and awareness.

    I don’t have children, but I have nieces, and my sister seems to be doing a good job of not making food an issue at her house, and the girls eat guilt free (at least now they do). I hope it stays that way.

    I don’t know how a parent does this, but helping the child see how precious and beautiful she is, no matter what may be the key.

    As Opra goes, she exudes confidence and power, and self love, yet she is “addicted” to food. Only Opra can know what and why she is, and there is no pat reason for anyones neurosis. We either deal with them, or we live in denial, or we acknowledge them and be in our neurosis by choice.

    I don’t know much about Rachael Zoe, but she is awfully thin, and she does not look happy. Who wants that???

    Thank you for your post.

  20. Sister Wolf says:

    fashion herald -Can your husband stop me from eating ice cream and chocolate?

    Sal – Maybe Oprah’s body just WANTS to be fat, know what I mean? Is that possible?

    Bex -Yep, you are in the minority.

    Mark – Ha!

    Danielle – I DID need to know that. It is horrifying! You are perfect, whatever you weigh. xo

    arline – Wow. You have come a long way. I weighed 98 lbs when I was a teenager, so I know what you’re saying. xo

  21. erin lynne says:

    zoe. i understand the desire to have control, to be ‘perfect’.

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