The Guilty Pleasure of Foodies: Why We Love to Eat and Hate Ourselves for It

It was arduous for the preceding generation of my parents to comprehend the profound sentiments that young individuals associate with the term “foodie”. They, too, employed the word “foodie” in the past, albeit its meaning was analogous to that of a “rice bucket”. Those who partake in meals possess a voracious desire, and the incorporation of the term “goods” yields no discernible benefit. Nevertheless, the times have evolved, and the youth have embraced the self-designation of “foodie” one after another, exuding an immense sense of pride. Irrespective of the delectable cuisine they savor, they are compelled to share their culinary experiences with the world, refraining from indulging until they have captured a photograph of their dish.

Seasoned gastronomes, within the realm of their expertise, often express condescension: the majority of foodies lack the discerning taste buds and the pursuit of subtle enhancements in flavor. They merely endeavor to establish their identity and equate the act of “indulging in delicious food” with social standing and an emblem of a refined lifestyle. However, interpreting self-proclaimed foodies as mere show-offs would be an oversimplification. A quick perusal of one’s social circle would undoubtedly reveal foodies bemoaning and lamenting: “Alas, I have overindulged today.” This implies that they harbor a subtle sense of guilt regarding their relationship with food. Consumption inherently embodies contradictory images—on one hand, it symbolizes a life of abundance and prosperity, while on the other, uncontrolled consumption of nutrition and calories signifies an unhealthy and aesthetically undesirable state. Dieting assumes a positive moral connotation in contemporary society. It represents an aspiration of the elite and a manifestation of one’s willpower. Even hunger, purging, and laxatives do not carry the same negative connotation. Hence, when foodies enthusiastically share their gastronomic adventures, their pride is not entirely unwarranted. However, there always exists a moment when they partially conceal their faces, akin to confessing: “Alright, I am self-aware, and I am an individual who lacks self-control. Please bear witness to my transgressions.” All this is accompanied by a touch of self-deprecating humor.

Nonetheless, this form of self-mockery does not solely constitute serious self-criticism. It is akin to an attractive woman deliberately selecting a few flattering photographs to post online while jokingly lamenting: “I have recently gained weight and dare not show my face to others” — everyone understands the underlying message. It is their way of finding solace in humility, and if taken too seriously, it would be a self-inflicted humiliation. If someone intentionally resorts to mean-spiritedness and comments, “Indeed, you have put on considerable weight,” they would promptly be blocked. The same principle applies to the guilt experienced by foodies. It should be perceived as a jest, and a simple “like” suffices.

However, foodies do not restrict themselves to jesting; their struggles with food are frequently sincere. When reminiscing in the midnight hour, they may find themselves plagued by uncontrollable transgressions. I have encountered numerous cases of counseling individuals with eating disorders, individuals who were mocked by others but ultimately bore a broken heart. Superficially, they smile and sigh, “I have overindulged today.” Their words betray no emotion, leading others to believe it is mere empty talk. However, in reality, this represents the pinnacle of the game of peek-a-boo. The most effective method of concealing one’s guilt is to proclaim it with great fanfare. Pose the question to them: “Is it a crime?” and they will happily confess with a smile on their faces: “Indeed, it is a crime!”

This manner of expressing guilt bears resemblance to those who label themselves as “procrastinators” and is akin to a national carnival. Prior to the National Day holiday, a viral post on Weibo emerged, titled “New Procrastination,” encapsulated within a single sentence: “Let us postpone all discussions until after the National Day holiday.” Netizens exclaimed, “Let us recline,” but their words were accompanied by a playful smile. Do you believe they feel no discomfort? They have all been struck by reality. Do you think they derive no unease? Clearly, they have once again found pleasure.

This joyous confession, seemingly showcasing regret, condenses into self-deprecating statements, blending with vivid food photographs and a cascade of likes, becoming an immensely popular intoxication in contemporary society. Verbal self-deprecation masks inner self-blame, while flaunting the pleasures of eating mitigates the emptiness that follows. The proliferation of any label serves the purpose of establishing one’s position within society. Foodies are no exception. They share images of food, and on the internet, a term known as the “revenge society” has emerged, signifying their desire to inflict suffering upon thehungry masses. This humorous expression also reveals their relationship with the real world: they consider themselves a minority outside of “society,” akin to destitute outcasts, and the delectable food they possess becomes their weapon of retaliation. They are nothing if not foodies. In this regard, their guilt does not necessarily stem from seeking revenge on others within society; perhaps it is merely a means of redemption for themselves.

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