The Fab Five: Examining the main causes of Food Relationships
If someone asked you who you are in relation to food, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you get a mental image of your favorite food to cook or to eat? Or do you think of the way it affects you? Maybe you even think of the way it is incorporated into your social life. I instantly think of the way it affects my body. I’m not skinny. Why do I let it get to me? I know that I’m smart, confident, and beautiful, but I still struggle with looking in the mirror and thinking I’m disgusting. When it comes down to it, it’s not just me. Thousands of young girls and even boys every day struggle with food choices, eating in front of others, and even just the thought of food. As a young adult in the eye of the storm, I knew that this age old topic needed to be seen in a new light. It’s no longer interesting to just blame the media and talk about anorexia. It’s no longer good enough to just talk about it, either. That’s what drove me to research our food relationships, or why we eat what we do. It’s important to understand food relationships because then we can all understand why we eat the way we do and if needed, we can make better choices. Food relationships may seem shallow and random, but they are actually cause and effect processes based on each person’s unique combination of a few main factors.
From the time of birth, you are given a role as a boy or a girl and expected to learn how to act. As you grow up, sports, schools, and eventually even jobs only reinforce your role. For instance, in my high school cafeteria, they sold individual slices of pizza. If a boy only bought one slice, his friends would always question him about why he was eating so little. If a girl bought two slices, the other girls would give her dirty looks. I observed from an early age that boys and girls are not supposed to only act differently, but eat differently. As one of my sources of primary research, I conducted four interviews in which I asked four different subjects questions about their relationship with food. I interviewed a Vegan, and athlete, a girl with a recovered eating disorder, and someone with a “normal” relationship with food. In two of these interviews, the concept of masculine vs. feminine foods was brought up. Completely separately, both participants mentioned steak and potatoes as a masculine food (Warnke and Verdieck). According to Michael Oakes and Carole Slotterback in their study “Gender Differences in Perceptions of Healthiness of Foods”, the reason this could be is because women tend to view foods with a higher fat content as less healthy. They also support the notion that women are less interested in nutrient levels and tend to emphasize fat content more. Another way to think of this is that guys eat “stronger” (Verdieck). All three of the females interviewed said that the media had a significant impact on their food relationship because they felt there was more pressure for girls to eat daintily and be thin. Danielle Warnke stated that she watches what she eats because “I’m a girl and I’m not that into guy food.” Camille Lieurance said that she felt pressure from the media because it was targeted toward “skinny white girls in their twenties” which happens to be the exact demographic that subject is in. I also surveyed 24 kids (12 males and 12 females) on their food relationship. 100% of males surveyed said that they choose what and how much to eat simply on what looks good and what smells good, compared to only 42% of females. The other 58% said that they chose what to eat based on how it would affect their body. There has always been an immense amount of pressure on girls to be thin and dainty, and I think it’s especially relevant today with the saturation of mass media in our modern lives.
Culture and gender also go hand in hand. In his book, Why Do Men Barbeque: Recipes for Cultural Psychology, Richard Shweder defines culture by “Culture...
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