Creative pursuits, Captain Awkward, and the overratedness of being “helpful.”

Helpfulness: Not all it's cracked up to be.

I hate blog posts that start with “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long!”, but, sorry.  I haven’t posted in a while.  Coupla reasons:

1. Lighting in my new kitchen is dim and awful, and it’s really hard to get good food pictures in there.  The photography went from “neat daily challenge” to “chore to get even one decent image.”

2.  After documenting my food for a while I figured out:  Hey, I eat in a way that makes me feel good and happy, I don’t need to examine it so closely.  I’m sure I’ll be back at some point when I’ve cooked something awesome and manage to take a decent photo of it, or just turn this over to Twistie to blow your mind with guest posts.

3. I’ve been more wrapped up in work and other creative pursuits than in food.  My short film The Wardrobe just got into its first film festival (EgoFest in Brainerd, MN if anyone’s out that way).

4.  I started a new blog at the beginning of the year at  It’s full of curse words, brutal honesty, and sci-fi references, so if your vision of me is of a nice lady with recipes and pretty pictures you might want to just stay here. However, if you want to read about how to survive a bad breakup with the help of Dune or how to tell well-intentioned people to Shut The Front Door, stop on over.

Which leads me to my next topic.   Today I got a “helpful” comment from a total stranger, “Tom.”  Here it is:

One thing I noticed while reading this blog. A lot of the food is very rich. I love food like that too, but I don’t often eat any of it for reasons of health and diet and weight.

Not sure if this blog is about losing weight or just healthy eating and finding a healthy “size” that suits the way you want to eat.

If this blog is about weight loss you need to radicalize yourself even more. Cut out ALL dairy, ALL sugar, ALL wheat, Coffee, and Alcohol. Drink tons of water and eat only fresh vegetables and some protein (in the form of meat and nuts). Use dried fruit (a piece or two) as a desert.

Follow the above and you will improve your diet and health even more than just buying “great food”. . .and you will peel off the pounds too.


I’ve been really debating how to respond to this.  I feel like Tom really, really wants to be helpful, and my temptation to tear a permanent hole in the walls of his soul with blistering sarcasm would be overkill (or perhaps lost on him entirely).  It’s so routine and normal for people to be dieting or to give each other advice on dieting that it doesn’t seem all that offensive or out of the ordinary, so my response feels disproportionate by comparison.  And yet?  It’s just so uncalled for and out of line, and it bugs me that it’s so commonplace.  Which of these two options is more strange:

1) A healthy happy fat person who eats pretty healthy, likes cooking and sharing recipes, and occasionally eats wheat (OMG!), dairy (GASP!), sugar (NO!), coffee (EEK!), alcohol (JESUS IN HEAVEN COME AND SAVE US!) and more than “a piece or two of dried fruit for dessert” (PEARLS = CLUTCHED), and who might not be actively consumed with trying to lose weight (THE MOON JUST TURNED TO BLOOD), or;

2.  The fact that it’s normal in our culture for people to casually and with great helpfulness tell complete strangers “Yes, but what you NEED to be doing is________” around this one issue.

Tom, you tried – you sort of admitted the possibility that this blog might not be about losing weight, and again, I think you really meant to be supportive and encouraging and not a condescending douche. But once you got those disclaimers out of the way, you still couldn’t resist telling me what I NEEDED to be doing.  There are a couple of things I need to do this year: 1) Get a pap smear and a dental cleaning 2) File my taxes by April 15.  3) I forget, but I’m sure that whatever it is is also none of your concern.

Listen.  These are the situations where people who are Not Me are within bounds to advise me about food:

  1. I have consulted you as a nutritionist or other medical professional, and I have asked you “Do you have any recommendations for improving my diet?”
  2. You are the waiter in a restaurant and I have asked you the question “What’s good tonight?”
  3. I see you eating something that looks delicious, and I ask “Wow, that looks really delicious.  Where/how did you obtain/make that?”
  4. You ate something delicious and want to tell me about it, because maybe I will want to eat it too.

That’s not because I’m fat and sensitive about it.  That’s is because I am an adult human being who is separate from you, and you are an adult human being who is separate from me, and the world would be 1,000,000 times better if we all agreed that there were personal spheres of things that are just not our business.

Other people do this activism stuff way better (and certainly more politely and with more science) than me.  Mostly I just want to  make movies, cook when I have time, and explain the world 1 Star Wars reference at a time. Still, I feel that this stuff comes up in ways that are meant well but ultimately unhealthy and damaging, so I feel the need to say something on behalf of people who are less certain of their own badassery.

Whether you are fat or thin or talking to someone who is fat or thin, here are some good assumptions:

  • Fat people already know about (and have tried) All The Diets.  All of them. Yours, that thing your cousin did that worked so well, the thing Oprah mentioned on her show that time.  WE KNOW.
  • “Meaning to be helpful” = often really unhelpful.
  • The number of people who want to hear about the diet you are on, were on, are thinking about being on, or anything else about your personal weight loss journey approaches zero.
  • The number of people who want to hear weight loss advice from you approaches zero.
  • At the limits (where it approaches but does not equal zero) you’ll know because the person will explicitly ask you.
  • In other cases, you left the front door open.  Please go and shut it.

8 responses to “Creative pursuits, Captain Awkward, and the overratedness of being “helpful.”

  1. Rock the Front Door out! This entry ruled.

  2. This! The chairman of the board at my non-profit seemed legitimately surprised when I was offended that he forwarded some macrobiotic bullshit diet tip emails to the four members of our staff who are not a size 2. Granted, he’s very wrapped up in this stuff, and good for him for wanting to do it for himself, but a) I eat healthfully and well, and b) he is retired with three houses and a doting wife and nothing to do all day but focus on diet and exercise.

  3. People forget about absurdist diets. The simplest of these is to wait till dinner time then go for a long walk. One might also curl up under the dining room table and make random hooting noises out of the side of one’s mouth.

    The google translate diet involves waiting till dinner time then running some known piece of text into google translate, perhaps English – French, then French – German, then German – English. One advanced practitioner of this (who lost 4 ounces as a result) can perform this whole exercise with their head in a bucket.

    There is a Monty Python diet involving the eating of building products, but I think they were joking.

  4. This is my first time visiting your blog (I haven’t even checked out any recipes yet) but I have got to say that you ARE totally bad-ass! And I love you. 😉

  5. tinfoilhattie

    DANG, I love this blog. And I discovered it only recently. Thanks for all the great writing and great recipes!

  6. I believe this may legitimately be the greatest blog post of all time.

    I want to cry.
    I want to send you gifts.
    I want to send this to every “well meaning” asshole that crosses my path.


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