Could you sit in a restaurant, ready to enjoy a huge piece of chocolate cake, while none of your six companions indulged? Would you worry about being judged as a piggish, unhealthy eater? Would you feel anxious about what they might say? Would you be able to eat your cake and enjoy it too?
I am the lone cake eater described above. As I lifted my fork, ready to savor that gooey first bite, my friend’s husband’s eyes widened as he made a comment to his wife. The background noise prevented me from hearing what he said but, I did hear her reply, “Oh, it’s O.K., she ate a small dinner so she could have the cake.” While this was true, and I appreciated my friend’s “defense,” it reminded me that what I eat is not anyone’s concern but mine.
After ditching my dieting ways the last thing I need is a mommy-like voice commenting on my food choices. I’m the only one who knows what I’ve eaten that day, how much I’ve exercised, what foods work best for me, and what I’m craving.
I retold this story to another friend who asked, “So, what did you say?” Nothing. I said nothing. It’s taken me years to learn that responding in-the-moment, when my buttons are pushed, doesn’t usually go well. So, I chose to let the comment slide and enjoy my cake.
Maintaining my healthy relationship with food is a daily intention and takes daily practice. This means eating when I am hungry, stopping when I am full, and making my true food choices without fear or concern about the contemptuous looks, critical comments (and downright jabs) others might make. After ridding myself of my inner judgmental voice, why would I want to hear it from others?
When do food conversations work best?
Food conversations are also tricky when we notice a friend or family member eats less than their body needs or they down too many glasses of Merlot. We may have genuine concern for their well-being. If that’s the case, and we want to help, mealtime is not the best time to broach the subject. This is difficult conversational territory for sure. Even well-thought words, delivered with the right tone, a caring intention, and at the best time may not result in a positive outcome. Basically, a quiet time away from the table is preferable to discussing food choices during the meal.
Have you been a food commenter?
I admit there have been times when I’ve been the food commenter. For about three decades of my life I was a dieting, overeating, dieting, machine. Need proof? I went two long years without a mouthful of pizza (one of my favorite foods). I was too quick to discuss my meal choices and too quick to put others’ food choices on the conversation menu. I spent more time talking about the foods I loved than eating them. I’d let out a, “You’re really gonna eat those fries?” before I could stop myself. Looking back I know it was because I wanted to eat those fries!
After reprogramming my mind and attitude towards eating, I now call myself a recovering dieter. This means I am more concerned with health and happiness than striving for an outward ideal that is programmed by the fashion and beauty industry.
How often have you heard or made comments like these?
Wow, that’s a lot of dressing!
That’s enough popcorn for all of us.
You’re not gonna eat all that, are you?
Or, maybe as you’re eating you notice your dining partner longingly staring at the food on your plate, as if it’s a long-lost lover.
I’ve been that longing dieter. I’ve been that over-focused food commenter. Now I’m at peace with my choices and just ask that others silently respect them.
So, I’d say that the time has come for all of us to bite our tongues and keep our food comments to ourselves. What would you say?
For anyone who might be interested, here are a few resources that have profoundly guided my journey:
- Overcoming Overeating by Hirschmann and Munter
- Eating in the Light of the Moon by Johnston
- Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch
- When You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull up a Chair (and anything else) written by Geneen Roth
In case you are now craving your own piece of chocolate cake…here’s a link to the cake picture (and recipe) from justaspoonfulof.com