This week at work has been on the crazed side, but I’ve been trying to carve out enough time to lunch with colleagues in the cafeteria — just for the sake of some conversation and to get a bit of a break. Yesterday, however, that streak ended and I found myself eating at my desk. My traditional bring-from-home lunch: a Lean Cuisine frozen entree.
Let me say that again: Lean effing Cuisine. Food designed and marketed to help one lose weight.
I’ve been eating these for lunch at work for years. I can’t recall what I did during the grad school/teaching years, but by the time I was in the office environment with lunchrooms and microwaves, my transition from skinny kid to fat adult had commenced and I started buying the frozen entrees as something quick and convenient and that also would help me “get thin again.”
Now, I consciously decided to stop dieting somewhere in 2008, when I chose to embrace the ideals of FA for myself. And yet I’ve been buying diet meals for office lunches for all of those intervening months.
And I didn’t even really notice that weird contradiction until yesterday.
I’m trying to imagine what rationales have been going on in my head for me to simultaneously eschew dieting and to buy diet lunches for myself. Is it another twist on the good fattie/bad fattie pressure I talked about two days ago? My symbolic gesture that yes, I am eating healthy so if I’m fat then it truly is about genetics and not about me eating “too much” or “the wrong things”? Is it that notion of “this fat but no fatter” that was so insightfully discussed* on Shapely Prose recently? My way of trying to “hold the line” so my body stays at this current weight?
Either of those possibilities seem reasonable — and by that I mean “reasonably likely,” not really reasonable.
But I can’t help wondering if there’s something both more innocent and sinister at work here.
On the one side, there’s the innocence of it being an unconscious choice. In a life that can sometimes feel over-full, I find comfort in having some routines. And this choice for bring-from-home lunches is such an easy choice for me to make. (Which definitely says a lot about my class privilege and the fact that I can be so cavalier about the cost factor.) There’s a narrow little shelf in the freezer that perfectly holds 6 Lean Cuisines, and Matt and I know exactly which are my favorite flavors, so we can easily restock that shelf on each trip to the grocery store.
On the sinister side, is the way that this is such an easy choice to make. The miasma of body-shaming in society kind of makes it easier to be on a diet than not to be. Lo-fat, no-fat — and Lean Cuisines — are practically configured to be the default food choice for a woman to make. I think it’s the power of that miasma that helped me not only to continue the Lean Cuisine habit, but to do it so very unconsciously. To not even notice that I was buying diet food. I was just buying my “normal lunch.”
Powerful messages to try and resist. And I’m feeling tonight that I’ve got a long way to go in that.
Especially because when I did the grocery shopping today, I bought 3 more Lean Cuisines to restock the freezer shelf. I just didn’t have the mental energy to figure out how to reinvent my lunch habit, or to reinvent my mornings to make time for more preparation-intensive lunch choices.
At least this time it was a conscious choice. That at least gives me more of an option to choose differently, once I have the energy to do so.
* Too tired to find link; will do so tomorrow.