I went to a friend’s house last night for a semi-regular girls night out gathering, in which we drink wine and, well, mostly drink wine. One of our friends brought a couple of In Touch magazines and we reveled in the absurdity of celebrity gossip culture. (I also found out that three of my friends are walking encyclopedias of celebrity gossip information, and one of those friends doesn’t even have cable so I have no idea how she does it.) Somewhere within its pages of vapid prattle, In Touch offered some celebrity diet tips (this may have been the same issue that classified Mischa Barton as being “pear shaped”) that included bringing Windex or other toxic substances with you to restaurants and spraying your food with it after you’ve eaten the proper portion size so that you won’t be tempted to eat the rest.

The Pear-shaped Mischa Barton (Ed. note: I changed the picture so as not to upset all the Mischa Barton fans who were angry that I was unable to recognize that the women on the left in the original photo was actually Mischa Barton’s sister. Sorry Mischa Barton fans! I think there is an OC re-run marathon right now. You’d better run or you’ll miss it!) 

I’m surprised you didn’t hear the echoing boom of my jaw dropping three feet to the floor. The first thing I thought of was Anne Lamott’s heart breaking Salon story “My Secret Body.” The second thing I thought of was just how disordered spraying your food with window cleaner was. The next thing you know, In Touch will be recommending laxatives for those days when you feel bloated from eating a plate full of carb-laden pasta the night before. Hell, for all I know they probably already have.

Then the friend who brought the magazines opined that this Windex trick was actually a pretty good idea. You see, she had lived in England for the last seven or so years and since moving back to the States a year ago, had put on some weight. She felt sure this was because of the monstrous portion sizes set before her at every American restaurant. I pointed out that Windexing your food is really classic eating disorder-style behavior but this didn’t seem to phase her. I know I’m not supposed to encourage or privilege diet talk, but viewing it as the lesser of two evils I suggested the old Weight Watchers’ trick of asking for a take out box when you order and immediately boxing up half your dinner. Still a little disordered but at least your not spraying your food with toxins.

I also thought some about that old obesity bugaboo, giant portions, and how ridiculous that is. I mean, no doubt, in some restaurants the servers hand you massive, huge plates of food. But are we really unable to stop stuffing our faces until all the food around us is gone? If that were the case, could we safely even store food in our houses? The friend said that she was just so programmed to eat what was in front of her that she was unable to stop until her food was gone. But is that a portion size issue? Or just another societally inculcated disordered eating behavior? And who decides what a proper portion size is anyway? Given the variety in size, shapes, and metabolisms found in the human race, could there possibly be one objective standard quantifying how much of any one particular food is universally appropriate for every one? If there had never been “portion sizes” to begin with, would the heaping plates of spaghetti at the Olive Garden even be a problem? We humans would have learned to just… eat. And then, when we were full, we’d just… stop. Some of us would be fat. Some of us would not be fat. And life would go on.

Which isn’t to say that I’ve never cleaned my plate and left a restaurant feeling uncomfortably full. But as often I’ve left the restaurant with a take out container in hand. Or, more likely, I left the restaurant and left the take out container on the table, but you know what I mean. I’m not sure that all you can eat buffets are the problem here. I’m more likely to point the finger at a culture that considers Mischa Barton to have a “figure flaw” and recommends poisoning your own food to keep you from eating it.

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