shame with a side of fries

I’m trying not to stare while my coworker eats her lunch.

Our de facto break room is in use, so she is at her desk. I’m not sure what kind of sandwich she picked up from McDonald’s because her interaction with the french fries has me enthralled. She removes one fry from the red carton and bites. She chews and swallows before taking another bite. It takes her three bites to consume this single fry.

How can she do that? I wonder. I wouldn’t call this mindful eating since she is reading a book, but she is not distracted from her deliberate pace.

This is not how I eat fries.

I dump them out of the box to ensure even distribution of salt. I know my coworker skipped this step because she’s complained to me about how her husband salts his food before tasting it. Not me. I shake on crystals until the fries glisten or I run out of packets, whichever comes first. Then I grab three, four or five at a time. I shove all of them all into my mouth at once. I continue until I reach out and discover, to my surprise, that all the fries are gone.

I used to think my habit of eating quickly started when I was a teacher. During my thirty-minute duty-free lunch, I had to finish up with one group of students, hightail it to the staff room, elbow my way to the front of the microwave line, shovel in reheated leftovers and get to my next class ready for the onslaught of red-faced first graders resentful that recess is over.

At my first post-teaching job, I didn’t know what to do with an hour lunch break. I found that I still ate in the first thirty minutes. This was great when I started using the rest of the time to go for a walk, but exercise has since fallen from my routine.

The habit was even harder to break when I became a mother. I mastered the “cram in food while the child is asleep” maneuver when he was an infant. Once he was on solids, I added the “let’s not let this food I made but my son hasn’t eaten go to waste” tactic. But there was still no time to savor. I shoved food in because he was crawling off, and I was convinced he was about to stick something in the one socket that didn’t have a plastic protector.

It seems I always have an excuse to consume my meals in haste.

My stomach growls and my coworker glances up from her book. “I’ll be back,” I say and shuffle out the door.

I’ll eat my lunch in the car, like I always do. I’m afraid of the spectacle I would be if I ate my desk. Even with my coworker as a model of restraint, I won’t be able to slow down. I can’t help but observe her self-control and be filled with self-disgust.

Do I want fries with that? Hell, yes. Make it a large, too, because I’ll eat them so fast I won’t realize that I’m sated before I empty the container.

I’m not lovin’ it (or myself)

31 thoughts on “shame with a side of fries

  1. I want to comment, but I don’t know what to say. I often wonder if people like your office colleague ever struggle over what, how and when they eat. I would like – just one day, one meal – to not think about what I’m putting in my mouth, what other people are thinking about what I eat, and the later consequences of my choices.

    One day a friend of mine who works at Starbucks grabbed a honey yogurt which was full fat and sweet. It is one of my favorites, but I can’t bring myself to eat it. I asked about her thoughts on the high fat and sugar content and she looked at me like I was an alien and said, “I never think about those things. I just eat what I want.” She’s thin. I can’t even imagine a world like that although I would like to live there.

    Hang in there – I’m hoping that when I’m 85 and in “the home” that the part of my mind that keeps track of food and the evils of the kinds I like the best will disappear. Gives me something to look forward to!


    1. No one has ever said anything to me, but I can’t turn off my speculation of their thoughts in my own head.
      The coworker I wrote about actually explained why she eats slowly. She grow up in a large family. They ate off of food stamps, so they didn’t have a lot. She learned to eat slowly to make it last.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I apologize for the long response that really didn’t say what I wanted to say. I wanted to acknowledge the sadness I felt from your experience and your abiliity to write about it so clearly. Thanks.


      1. No apology needed. You gave me to a chance to add the logic behind my coworker’s eating habits. I guess we all have our own personal histories when it comes to food. I got that you were saying you wish that those histories weren’t so complicated.


  2. I’m a combo of you and your coworker. I eat one fry at a time (to make them last) but I shove the whole fry in at once (because yum).

    Food shame is such a hard thing. I say eat your fries how you want, but I know it’s not that simple.


  3. I know all these feels. When I was a kid we ate fast because if you didn’t someone would eat the rest of your food. Now that there’s no competition, I’m still not sure how to eat slower. It’s not gross, but it’s really efficient, and it makes eating with others weird.


  4. I loved this! I used to work as a manager in a store that only kept myself and one cashier on schedule all the time so even though I was allotted the 1 hour for my lunch break, I would usually be in there for 20 mins before I got called to help. 😦 I learned to shove the food down my throat faster so I could actually eat. Now, I work somewhere where no one calls me on lunch and I will always finish my food within 15 mins and sit there reading for the other 45 mins I have!


    1. I took my time today while reading a book. It was from the library and I was worried I would splash sauce on it if I was forking food into my mouth over the pages.
      Whatever it takes, right? And it’s always great to have time to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Um, yeah, I have similar eating habits. I eat fast, though, because I am obsessive and don’t know how to moderate myself.
    And is there anything in the world more glorious than shoving four McDonald’s fries in your mouth at one time? No, there is not.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. great post! i can totally relate. in general i despite being interrupted while i’m eating, because i hate that ‘still hungry’ feeling if you have to leave your plate. but as a nurse, it happens all the time. i heat up my food, and then someone walks in with chest pain… ~_~.

    LOL. i like how you ended this piece! =D and i too grab 4-5 fries at a time. how on earth do people eat one at a time?!


    1. I can see how frequent interruptions would prompt you to eat faster when you do get to sit down and eat. There were some days at my previous job where I was so busy I would eat at my desk. People would be in and out of the office and I just scarfed down my frozen lunch because those things don’t taste that great anyway and going cold does not improve them one bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this. I watch my friends in awe too, how they take a bite and chew it fully and take a sip of water and chat for a minute while I’m doing my best to talk through my five massive bites without disgusting everyone (and likely failing).


    1. I’ve become more self-conscious as I notice that my clothes are getting tighter. I know I need to slow down. And eat less. And exercise more. And eat better foods. So the french fries are just a red box of guilt all around.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Fries are my weakness. I eat pretty slow, but French fries I consume with so much passion and I have no qualms about reaching across Paul’s plate or a friends plate for more. It really is my one true drug. I’m so hungry now! 🙂


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