“You Going to Eat That?”

The dinner table… No matter the size, style, or location, is a place where conversation and the social scene thrive. Families come together and catch up on the events of their day over the home cooked meal, or takeout, on the plate before them. Coworkers or business acquaintances gather together over a delectable five star meal while debriefing, networking, or closing deals. Friendships flourish over food, drinks and laughs.

Food has become a key aspect of our social behaviours. Conversations of many discourses take place in the presence of food.

But what about when the conversation turns to the plate? I do not simply mean commentary on the succulent deliciousness of the meal itself, or the aesthetic construction of the food on the plate. I’m referring to the food on the plate in relation to the person before it, and the subliminal social messages that can be derived from a variety of these scenarios.

Scenario 1: At the buffet, you load your plate with more pasta than any other selection

Someone responds: “WOW! You must REALLY like pasta!”

Possible Meaning(s): -They’ve concluded that you do really like pasta.
OR   -They are insinuating you eat a lot and this was a more than helpful serving
OR   -They suspect that you are a picky eater as you have mostly helped yourself to pasta
OR   -They believe that you do not like the food prepared at this particular buffet and pasta is usually a safe choice

Scenario 2: You help yourself to a small portion of food

Someone responds: “That’s all you’re going to eat?”

Possible Meaning(s): -b***h must be anorexic
OR    -omg not another “diet” chick
OR    -You’re a picky eater

Scenario 3: You load up your plate

Someone responds: “You must be hungry”

Possible Meaning(s): -Wow. You’re fat.
OR    -You’re eating so much more than anyone else here… it’s kind of embarrassing

    

Then there are also those scenarios where you are eating out with a couple of people, and the comparison of what is left on the plate. Is the person who eats the least the one with the most will power? The skinniest at the table? Obsessed with their body image? Is the person who eats the most a pig? The fat one? Do you ever find yourself checking out what is left on another person’s plate and catch yourself thinking or making the comment “you didn’t eat much” or “you must have been hungry”?

Let’s face it… The thoughts people have when examining the food on another person’s plate are barely positive. The thoughts or comments usually have some sort of critical undertones. I am definitely both victim and perpetrator of the above; however, I have never really thought anything about it post-comment… until it happened to me recently. The comment really struck me especially because I am currently undergoing this huge journey towards a healthier lifestyle change.

I was at a neighbour’s BBQ this past weekend, where a spread of healthy BBQ favourites were out for self-serve. There were lemon seasoned baked potato wedges, chicken kabobs, garden and potato salad, and garlic stuffed vine leaves. We all went to serve ourselves. Back on the patio furniture I was about to dig in, when another female at the party looked over at my plate and made the comment, “…that’s all you’re going to eat?”

A surge of thoughts immediately drowned my mind:

 

… She’s still looking at me. Quick! Say something!

“…I’m just tring to watch what I eat and how much I eat” (not a great response, I could have come up with something better… she didn’t need to know that). I thought the conversation would end there, but then came the rebuttal, “It’s all healthy food. Live life, eat well and enjoy food.” I then referred to my raspberry/banana smoothie on the table (that I had originally fooled everyone into thinking was an alcoholic beverage), and noted that I didn’t have a huge appetite. Instead of leaving the conversation at that, she began to tell me of a really good diet I should try, “but it’s not really a diet, it’s more of a healthy lifestyle thing…”

I’m sorry… what’s your name again? I seriously didn’t remember.

The nerve! Why do I need to explain myself to some stranger? Why is what I put on my plate of any concern to anyone else but myself? I was quite annoyed to say the least.

This prompted me to think about all of the times I had made comments like this, not thinking about the many and various meanings that another person can derive from such a comment- no matter what the intention may have been.

Afterthought: After publishing my post today, I began to think about what I had just written. I was reciting my post over and over again in my head. I originally thought that the main purpose of today’s post was to vent about an uncomfortable situation that had occurred; however, I realized that I have a bigger issue to deal with than someone simply commenting on my food portions. I have an insecurity with people taking notice to and pointing out my weakness: food, weight, health. Today’s post has revealed to me how heavily I weigh the opinions of others about myself. It’s something that my mother has always told me… “you care too much.” But I always saw it as a positive, and never really understood the negative impact this has had on me. Re-read my post… The inner dialogue I have when it comes to weight and food is so painfully negative. All of the “meanings” I listed behind the food directed comments others make were incredibly  judgemental and negative. Today’s “vent” was a really influential awakening for me… an important realization that, I believe, will help me along in this quest for health journey. I knew I needed to be more active. I knew I needed to make healthier food decisions. I knew I needed to better portion my food. I didn’t know that I was sabotaging all of these efforts from the inside out. I think the journey began in the wrong direction… one of those forks in the road… but I may be headed somewhere now.

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