You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

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One day, not too long ago, on a beautiful sunny day, I walked past a busy outdoor café. The tables were packed, chatter amongst friends was abundant, and at one of the tables closest to the sidewalk sat a woman in a larger body, laughing with her friends while they shared a bottle of rosé and a plate of fries. It looked glorious, and I looked enviously at both the fries and the rosé.

french fries on a wooden background with text overlay that says "you don't know what you don't know"

“I don’t think she needs any more fries” said the person I was with.

I knew what they were on about, but I pushed back. “Why not?” I asked.

“Well, look at her!” said the person I was with, which caused me to launch into a fairly inarticulate rant about fat shaming and health at every size.

The person I was with is hardly alone in their judgement, so I thought it might be helpful to write down some of what I was trying to say.

Here’s the thing: you don’t know what you don’t know. 

When you walk past a large body or a small body or a muscular body the one and only thing you know about that person is what they look like on the outside. You don’t know anything at all about their blood pressure, their insulin production, or their overall health status. You don’t know what else they’ve eaten that day, how much exercise they do or do not do, or what their dietary habits are like.

You don’t know whether or not that person struggles with disordered eating, how frequently they experience fat shaming, or whether sitting outside and eating a plate of french fries in public is a downright triumph for them.

You don’t know whether they’re healthy or whether they’re sick. You don’t know the frequency with which they eat french fries, or the frequency with which they eat salad or ice cream or anything else.

You don’t know what kind of a day they’ve had, whether those french fries are celebratory or commiserative or down right therapeutic. You don’t know whether they drove to the cafe or walked to get there.

You don’t know whether they’re practicing intuitive eating and are paying good attention to their hunger and fullness cues, and you don’t know how many french fries they need to eat in order to feel satisfied.

And you know what? None of that stuff is any of your business.

You don’t know what you don’t know. 

Since you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s not up to you to determine whether or not another person is worthy of indulgence. You can only do that for yourself.

In the spirit of body positivity, I implore you to push back against this kind of judgement and shaming this patio season, and in your every day life. Here’s some resources you might find helpful:

Health at Every Size 
10 Ways You Can Change the Way You Speak to be More Body Positive 
3 Ways I Achieved a Healthy Relationship with Food
How to Make Peace With Holiday Eating



 

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post. It is a great reminder!
    Let’s all be nicer to one another and to ourselves.
    History repeats itself and, personally, I cant wait for the day when “plus size” = feminine and sexy (as was the case during the Renaissance and Baroque era, the time of Marilyn, etc.) returns. When a little extra here and there is thought to be a sign of wealth AND health. Or, better yet, maybe a new era will emerge where everyone can just be themselves and physical appearances won’t be placed on such a high pedestal? My fingers are crossed.

    • I’m just waiting for the time when it’s accepted that size does not equal health, and people can move through the world free from judgement and shame. Dare to dream?

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