Jacki Monaco is a Green Mountain alum who blogs about successfully overcoming binge eating disorder. Her story was featured recently on CNN.com.
Eating with Friends: Fitting In Without “Filling Up”
I’ve written about social eating in previous blogs in a variety of ways…events, holidays, buffets, etc. But you can’t just stick a fork in this topic and call it done. Oh no, eating in public can be a weekly, if not daily, battle for those of us with disproportionate ties to our food.
Social Eating Scenarios
Scene 1: You’re in one of your favorite restaurants with a group of your favorite people. The menu is even more enticing than the company you’re with and you know deep down that if you were taking out alone instead of dining together, you might be tempted to order one…of everything.
Scene 2: You’re invited out to a work-related function. Your colleagues know you well, but how well do they know your relationship with food? The night is centered around downloading about the week’s chaos…and eating.
Scene 3: You’ve invited a few friends over for a casual Friday night hangout. You’re in your own home and you feel safe…until talk of the evening’s upcoming feast enters the room. Everyone else is excited,“Where should we order from??” “Let’s at least get three!” “I could eat a whole pizza myself, so better make it four.” The more excited they get, the more anxious you become.
Have You Ever…
- Pardoned yourself early from a social gathering, after gently picking at a few raw veggies to show that you’re appreciative of the hospitality? I have.
- Picked up, ordered in, or gone home to ravenously whip up a huge portion of something less than ideal to “make up” for lost eating time? I have.
- Sat in silence, smiling politely, as you enviously watch your friends chow down like it aint’ no thang? I have.
The pressure of following your chosen eating path can be stifling if you’re sharing a meal with people who don’t have issues with food. The jealousy I’ve felt while watching others effortlessly eat is, at best, ugly.
Even since a young age, I never understood why anyone would ever want to stop eating. So over the years, the more people I saw begin a meal with enthusiasm and end with fulfillment, the more I knew my relationship with food was just a little different.
Justification, Excuses, and Reasoning
I’ve also been on the other end of the spectrum – playfully, yet firmly, hinting that my company should overindulge with me, so that I didn’t have to feel alone in my quest to overeat. If everyone was participating, that made it an activity, and if it qualifies as an activity then how could it be labeled a binge? I have justified, excused, and reasoned my way into overeating more times than I can count. Party? Justified! Celebration? Excuse! Weekend? Reason!
Finding Peace in Social Eating
Food can be a cultural centerpiece for any occasion. Enjoying a food-related social situation is achievable, if we don’t:
- Punish ourselves for enjoying, and perhaps overindulging
- Guilt ourselves into thinking we deserve punishment for that enjoyment
- Starve ourselves until the coast is clear so that we can avoid the guilt
I can’t foresee a future where food won’t be part of 80% of social gatherings. So, finding peace in public is our better bet here. If we tune into our bodies and tune out the crowd, we can focus on making personal choices… that we just happen to be making in public.
For me, not having control over what is being offered or ordered is the hardest part of all. If we take back that control and consciously make decisions, that little bit of power just might be enough reassurance to know that we are okay.
We Are Human
We, as humans, are popularly known for two things: being social and being hungry. Trying not to let your relationship with people dictate your relationship with food, and vice versa, isn’t easy. We shouldn’t have to give up one for the other, which I personally did for far too long.
Here’s to eating mindfully whether we’re cooking for one or dining with many.