More, it would seem, than you think about sex.
When I read this stat, I was like, well, yeah. Not because I’m so undersexed but because I think about food all the time, like a middle-school boy thinks about sex. Or, rather, like Oliver Twist thought about food. I wake up thinking about all my breakfast choices and despair when I have no appetite. I plan vacations around restaurants, carry snacks and have a mental map plotted of New York with every delicious snack and edible destination highlighted in bold. At any given moment my brain scan would be some combination of “best brownie recipe that barbecue place in Alabama that plum I had once would chicken work with membrillo maybe I have time to bake a pie.” As the theologian and gourmet Father Robert Capon (whose priorities should be an inspiration to any person of faith) memorably wrote:
Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with Give us pasta with a hundred fillings.
So, yes, I think about food a lot. And as a result, the stat that “25% of women think about food every half-hour” didn’t seem that shocking. What was depressing, however, was this:
But even though women are thinking about food, they’re probably not enjoying it: 25% say they’re always concerned about their weight, the Daily Mail reports. More than 60% of women say they don’t like eating in front of their partners, and 13% say they’ve chosen a “healthier” option while eating out instead of what they actually wanted. (Even so, 15% also admitted to eating junk food secretly, and 10% admitted to lying about it.)
It doesn’t surprise or depress me that more women think a lot about food than sex because they’re both human needs and, besides, eating requires more planning. You can have plenty of sex without ruminating on it constantly; food, not so much, unless I guess you have a full-time staff or are one of those joyless types who, as my brother said once, “wishes he could just take a pill and not have to bother with eating” and instead chain-smokes or chugs Ensure.
It is tragic that food has become an instrument of guilt and shame and a source of stress rather than a pleasure and an inspiration. Sure, we see portrayals of women eating what they want — but it’s usually when they abandon themselves to foreign countries. (See: Eat, Pray Love; Julie and Julia.) Even then it’s generally seen as a voracious, exotic hunger for life rather than just a quotidian pleasure. Then we have “funny eaters,” improbably slender gluttons like Liz Lemon and Grace Adler and the Gilmore Girls, projecting neurosis through a love of night-cheese. Meanwhile, Man Versus Food even as we trick ourselves into thinking that Skinny tater tots are the answer. Is it any wonder we’re confused? Food and slimness are both fetishized, both made status symbols; gluttony is regarded as hilarious yet the one really aberrant sin; health and pleasure are low on our list of priorities.
The solution? There are much better minds than mine working on these issues tirelessly — or at any rate, certain isolated aspects of them. But if I could point to one piece of wisdom, it’s this quote from Iris Murdoch, which today seems practically radical. “Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.”
Or, this, from one reader of the Daily Mail story: “Strange, I do tend to think about dieting more often while reading the Daily Mail…but it’s likely nothing to do with every other article you lot run commenting on women’s weight.”