A plus-sized 42-year-old Seattle woman used to dread consuming life-sustaining nutrients in public due to the critical gazes she would receive by others in her vicinity.

By having the audacity to consume what appeared to be the same menu items as her trimmer friends who she regularly dined with, she was making it clear that she did not deserve to be respected as a human being. Rather, she should fully expect the harsh judgment of those who were experts on eating food, and, on occasion, receive unsolicited yet helpful advice such as, “You know that you shouldn’t be eating that”, “You’re definitely going to get diabetes”, and “Girl, you should really put that cheeseburger down and exercise more,” often accompanied by questions from people who didn’t even know her like, “Have you tried going Paleo?” or “Are you interested in a business opportunity while losing weight? Ask me, someone with less than zero medical or nutritional training, how!”

She often found herself in the scenario of explaining herself to concerned citizens, pointing out that she had just come from her cardio kickboxing class or Zumba Meet-up group, and that she was feeling healthy, strong, and quite good about herself, thank you.

She would go on to add that even her own doctor had said to keep up whatever she was doing, because she was doing great.

But she was more often than not met with doubtful, knowing looks of strangers who clearly knew better than THAT. I mean sure, that’s what her doctor said, but what about Kevin who watched a Dr. Oz video once?.

She would end up feeling frustrated, thinking “What if I don’t want to put that cheeseburger down and buy books that will teach me to eat like fictional versions of cavemen? What will it take to garner these complete strangers’ approval?”

She once mistakenly believed that if she only ate at food courts at places like Whole Foods and local co-ops, she would present as less offensive to her peers and strangers alike, but it turns out it wasn’t the location that was the problem. It was her actual menu choices of anything other than the driest of salad greens.

If only she could just conform to society’s expectations of how to eat her lunch while also inhabiting her own body.

One day, she went to the deli section of her local Trader Joe’s and grabbed the same kale salad that she frequently ate for dinner at home. This plus-sized woman brazenly chose to eat it at lunch instead; in full view of passersby.

Defiantly, she muttered to herself, “Today I eat what I want, to hell with other people’s opinions!”

Much to her surprise, she was greeted with smiles, thumbs-ups, and random shouts of, “You go, girl!” and “Look at YOU eating all healthy!” One gentleman stopped and exclaimed, “Wow! Judging by your larger size, I had assumed that you only ate fattening foods and other items that you really shouldn’t eat according to everything I know…but BOY, I now stand corrected!”

Delighted, she smiled to herself. “That’s what I’ve been doing wrong this whole time. I feel so silly!”

Now that she had finally put that cheeseburger down, things were looking up. She got it through her head that, if she ate the foods that OTHERS felt were appropriate for her larger frame instead of simply relying on what her body signaled that she was hungry for, she would be met with the approval of her more acceptably-shaped peers, and her self-esteem blossomed!

If only she had thought of this before.