If you’re eating a burger and French fries and the person sitting across from you is eating salmon and a salad, it can sometimes be easy to feel like they’re judging you, like they think they’re better than you, like they’re trying to prove something.
I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve been on both sides of that table.
But the truth is, if I’m eating a pile of vegetables and you’re eating a burger and French fries, it has nothing to do with what I think of you or the way you eat. I might be eating this pile of vegetables because the burger contains some ingredient my GI system can’t tolerate. It could be that I’m not that hungry, or that I’m bloated from my IBS and want to eat something low in fat that won’t aggravate my tummy. It could mean that I’m just not craving a burger, and that a pile of vegetables sounds better at the monent. Yeah, it might mean that I’m intentionally choosing an option I think is healthier, because healthy eating is important to me. It might even mean that I’m struggling with eating disorder thoughts and can’t get up the courage to do what you’re doing right now.
But rest assured, what I choose to eat has nothing to do with you. And I’m certainly not judging you. I acknowledge that our metabolisms are different, that you have a different weight and height, a different blood type, that your day might have been very different from my own, or even that you have a different set of values than I do.
Oh, and by the way, I love a good burger with French fries, and if I’m not eating one right now, it mostly certainly doesn’t mean that I never enjoy them
What’s got me on this rant for today’s What I Ate Wednesday?
Today, when I went to lunch, they were serving German-style entries in the hot food bar: brats, schnitzel, potatoes, saukerkraut, and minestrone soup. The hot food didn’t sound so appetizing on such a hot day, and I’ve been feeling a bit burned out on all the beef and pork I’ve been eating lately, so I opted instead for items from the salad bar: lettuce, carrots, broccoli, baby tomatoes, and chicken salad, which I used to make myself a chicken salad sandwich on gluten-free bread.I only scanned the hot food very quickly, decided it wasn’t what I was feeling, and left the food line for my drink, when a fellow staff member (whom I’ve never met, given that there are 700 of us) called out to me, “Hey, you missed the cookies!”
“I’m gluten-intolerant!” I called back. (This is what I say to people most of the time, since it’s easier than explaining that my GI system has a hard time handling large amount of fructans, which is the carb in wheat, not gluten, the protein.)
“It’s good, it’s good,” she said. “You’re eating right.”
And here’s the thing. On the page, that comment sounds pretty innocuous. But at the time…and I might be reading way too much into this…I think I heard a hint of something in her voice, almost like she was irritated at my choice of lunch.
Of course, I have no idea what this woman was actually thinking. Whatever her intention, however, her comment got me thinking about the many times that friends or family have seen something I’m eating (often avoiding whatever they’re eating simply because of food intolerances) and have used it as a platform to express how much “better” of an eater I am than they are, and, whether they say it out loud or not, how guilty they feel about their own meal.
Because, if this woman really was irritated with my lunch tray (again, pure speculation based on her intonation), then she was irritated, not really at me, but at herself. Because she, like just about everyone else in the United States, has been taught that the way she eats is wrong.
I hear this guilt talk when I enjoy sugary treats or fried foods with friends and family. But for some reason, I especially hear it when I eat fruits and vegetables around folks, or I mention that I can’t tolerate soda (too much fructose), or I say no to piece of cake that I actually maybe really want to eat.
“I wish I had that kind of self-control,” I’ll hear. “I really should eat healthier.”
The response you’re most likely going to hear from me? “You should enjoy your cake.”
Today (Tuesday as I write), I actually chose lighter, fruit-and-veggie-rich options for all three meals.
For breakfast, for instance, I opted for my usual oatmeal with peanut butter and brown sugar with half a grapefruit on the side.
I tend to opt for oatmeal out of all of the breakfast selections, partly because it’s a wheat-free, lactose-free option, partly because I try to opt for higher-fiber options when they’re available (IBS), and partly because I really like oatmeal.
Why grapefruit? Not because I think it’s a miracle weight loss fruit. Because I like grapefruit, and I’ve had pineapple and/or melon most breakfasts this week. Gotta shake it up.
Grabbed a banana at about 9. Does a big bowl of oatmeal hold you all morning? Cuz it definitely doesn’t hold me. Good thing I’m pro-snack.After lunch, I actually didn’t eat an afternoon snack. I was pretty full, having not even quite finished my plate (rare for me).
Supper was barbecue tofu and another big salad with sunflower seeds, carrots, broccoli, pepperoncini and blue cheese dressing.The other options were chicken fingers (wheat), baked beans (never liked ’em), vegetable soup (sounded too hot), and pork chops (still just a little burned out on the beef and pork). Also, the tofu here is consistently quite good.
So again, I chose a more traditionally “healthy” meal. But I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I wasn’t judging the dudes at my table who only ate chicken fingers and barbecue sauce, or my Russian friend, who likes to take six pieces of chocolate cake when it’s available. If I could eat 6 pieces of chocolate cake without IBS symptoms or anxiety, I would be over the moon!
If someone is judging you for what you eat (which, of course, is possible), that’s their problem. They’re the one struggling with unhealthy body image, anxiety, a need for control…perhaps even an eating disorder. Trust me. I’ve been on that side of the table too. And trust me, I really regret it.
On a completely unrelated note: the longer I stay here in the mountains, the more I fall in love with these little guys:
Marmots. (Oops. Revision as of 6/23: they’re actually ground squirrels.) They’re so cute when they stick their heads out of their little dens.
What kinds of comments do you get about your eats? Complimentary? Aggressive? Downright mean? How did you respond?