“Leaving the tradition of a woman” Coming to Terms with Food During a Pandemic

I’ve always tried very hard not to judge myself about my body weight. I’m not fat, but I’m also not skinny. I’ve always been told that I’m a perfectly healthy weight for my height and body build. I’m not someone who enjoys working out, but I know it’s good for me, and I also try to eat food that is good for me as often as possible. However, over quarantine, I became more conscious about my weight because I was not as active as I had been while at school. Looking back on it now, I only gained maybe 4 pounds, which is really not that much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s interesting how distressed it made me.

This semester taking Professor Farrell’s fat studies class has really opened my eyes to how much I criticized myself about my body and my weight gain over quarantine and how I used to exercise because I wanted to look in shape rather than feel healthy and strong. Taking the class also made me think about how often I would feel guilty about eating something that I knew wasn’t necessarily healthy but was something I wanted to eat.

Reading the poem, “Kitchen” by Susan Stinson really spoke to me about this guilt that I had when eating certain foods. The last stanza where she writes, “Leaving the tradition of a woman/in the body of a cat,/we become whales,/all mouths,/all surface,/all grace” (Stinson 18), caught my eye. I love the idea behind “Leaving the tradition of a woman/in the body of a cat.” I took this to mean that a woman’s tradition is to question what she eats and be hard on herself about what she eats, so women should give this tradition up place it on the body of a cat to free herself from that constant nagging.

It has still been hard for me not to judge what I eat even now that I’m back at school and moving around a lot more than I did when I was at home. However, thinking about these feelings in terms of this poem makes me realize how I shouldn’t be ashamed of what I eat and should leave that embarrassment and pressure and give it to a cat. I feel like the poem is telling us to, in a way, be a cat because a cat could care less what they eat, and we should try to do the same.

3 thoughts on ““Leaving the tradition of a woman” Coming to Terms with Food During a Pandemic”

  1. This quarantine has definitely been a time where people have been reassessing their health, eating habits, and body image. Susan Stinson’s poetry brings to our attention how ingrained the habit of questioning our eating habits is in our experience as females. I’ve had similar experiences where I question my body and say negative things about what I look like. But as you point out, it is important for us to be aware of our internalized judgments. We should not be ashamed of who we are or what we look because that is just how we exist in the world.

  2. Hi Sophie,

    I struggled with the same thing once the pandemic began. With nothing to focus on but Chloe Ting workouts and “the quarantine fifteen”, I couldn’t help but make by weight a primary focus in my life. I also feel there is a pressure to have a “quarantine glow-up”- what does that even mean? It is such a vague yet pressuring term, but I am sure weight loss factors into it somehow. “Kitchen” is an enjoyable read because it urges women to free themselves from the looming fear of weight gain. It is especially during times like a pandemic where we recognize that weight gain is not the worst thing that can happen to us.

  3. I’ve had similar problems during quarantine with my weight. Perhaps even more, since I have actually gained about 15-20 pounds from where I was at pre-pandemic. Just like you, I’ve become more conscious about my weight because I have not been as active as I had been while I was at school before the pandemic hit. I felt guilty for not exercising and eating too much, despite it being so much more difficult to maintain the same healthy habits I had when things were more open and I could just go to the gym and exercise without having to go through a stringent process of registration, wear a mask while exercising, or get COVID-tests to do so. While I think some changes I’ve made to my diet have been necessary, I try to have less guilt about eating things I want to eat that might be bad for me and getting a little heavier because as long as I am doing enough to feel healthy, I feel like that’s enough for me. Therefore, I agree that we shouldn’t allow embarrassment and pressure to influence how we think about our own body, and I’m certainly of the opinion that if I’m happy with my body and my body is healthy, I’m doing exactly what I need to do.

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