"Are you Really Gonna Eat That?"
(and other phrases that are grounds for full-scale revolt)
You've been there...
You're about to enjoy something juicy and fabulous in peace, when someone from the Calorie Police sounds their siren...
Or maybe you are RAVENOUS, but afraid of getting sideways looks if you go for that second helping your body is dying for...
...Or you're embarrassed of what people might think, so you eat alone in self-imposed hiding..
We can all agree: every variation of this story feels like shit, and can leave you wondering how to best handle it. If you don't feel like reading on, the short answer is: there is NO wrong way to react, as long as you remember that it's not your fault that you live in a world where women's food is scrutinized because their bodies are objectified.
But if you wanna know how this affects bingeing and overeating later..
or if you want a tingly buzz of freedom and some tools for fighting back, read on for a cautionary tale about yours truly, a perianesthesia nurse, and a California elevator full of sausage..
It was a sunny California morning when I walked out of the hotel gym, and headed to the continental breakfast hour before it closed. This was a lovely buffet, with sizzling turkey sausage, vegetable omelettes, and fresh baked cinnamon buns. Having just worked up a sweat, I was starving and on a mission to bring up a nice spread for myself and my (still sleeping) friend. I felt self conscious as I filled two plates with food. I felt (or was I imagining?) every eye in the room on me, and finally, when I noticed the presence of an attractive man my age, I broke under the pressure. I dictated a phone text aloud to announce that I was 'bringing up breakfast for both of us,' lest someone think I was taking this all for myself. But I still managed to magnetize a woman on the elevator ride upstairs, who eyed me up and down and said, 'that's a lot of food.' I felt caught. Guilty. Criminal. Shamed. And I felt compelled to EXPLAIN that it wasn't only for me.
Then I had a moment of clarity ...'Oh yeah. I don't owe her an explanation. It's none of anyone's business. And why do people think they can pass judgment about, let alone comment on, how much women eat in every respect? And how their bodies look in every respect? When will we stop seeing that as NORMAL?' But it was too late. The elevator doors had already closed, and the sausage quota enforcer had left the building. But the lesson stuck.
If you're looking for an example of a TOTAL ROCKSTAR on behalf of women everywhere, and an option for what to do instead, observe exhibit B, my dear friend, as she shared this story in her own words last week:
"Today they got us a cake for Perianesthesia Nurse Week. Our quality manager sees me in the break room, as I purposely cut a big piece of cake (because I want the flower icing on my piece ) and she says, 'Wow. That is a really big piece of cake.' So I responded, 'Yes, it IS a big piece of cake. And eating cake gives me pleasure. And when I feel pleasure, that means I’m happy. And when I’m happy, everyone else is happy.' We really need to stop shaming each other, and start empowering."
It's clear why this story gets bonus points, and how FREEING it is to respond in a way that doesn't pander to the Food Police. But how do situations like this affect your eating behavior?
How ashamed we are about honoring our desires with food is a direct barometer of how ashamed we are of our bodies. Always. No exceptions.
And when we are judging and self-shaming our bodies, we are headed into Survival Mode, which is one of the major triggers for bingeing, overeating, and emotional eating.
(If you need a review of this in greater detail, review my free training, particularly video 3, of Break the Compulsive-Eater-Cycle Without Willpower.)
To conclude in a nutshell: practicing non-judgment and compassion with our current body helps prevent out-of-control eating. And practicing non-judgment of our own and other's food choices does the same from another angle! And allowing others to judge us if they want, without explaining or apologizing for our own choices, can be revolutionary for both! (Not to mention, it feels kinda scary powerful and good, like the free fall of a carnival ride).
What experiences have you had with food shaming? I sincerely want to hear from you. Write to me this weekend by responding to this email (anonymously if you prefer) to tell me about it, and I'll get back to you personally. :)
Until then, I'm bowing to the judgment free zone that is your body and heart,
P.S. My Insight Sessions are one of the single most powerful things you can possibly do for your own relationship with food. Scheduling takes seconds, is free, and will change your life.
When you're CONVINCED you'll never have a normal relationship with food..
How Do I Know If I'm On a Diet?
We now know diets lead to a decline in physical and mental health, and actually trigger out-of-control eating. If you need a refresher on this, sign up for my dang Free Training already. But how can you tell if you’re on a diet in the first place?
Actually, this can be sneaky. And different from what you think you know about dieting.
You might be on a diet if…
- You are restricting, vilifying, or cutting out any specific food, food type, macro, or food category (allergies and medical mandates notwithstanding. We will get into all this another day).
- You are following any prescriptive food credo, plan, or counting system, instead of listening to your body.
- You are limiting your amount of food intake instead of listening to your body.
- Pro Tip: If you are experiencing binge, compulsive, or emotional eating, there is a strong chance this is an effect of physical or even mental dieting. (There are other causes for these habits, but addressing physical and mental dieting is ALWAYS the first step for anyone)
- You are technically eating whatever you want, but still emotionally restricting. You still have judgments about foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ You feel guilty, anxious, or stressed when eating certain foods or quantities.
IF YOU’RE EATING A BROWNIE BUT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT EATING IT, YOU'RE STILL ON A DIET.
Which leads to the KEY REVEAL HERE…
THIS is the easiest, most bottom-line definition of a diet.
A DIET IS ANY WAY OF EATING THAT YOU ARE DEPENDENT UPON TO FEEL GOOD. IF YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF AFTER EATING ANY THING OR ANY CERTAIN WAY, YOU ARE ON A DIET. Period. End of story.
And it’s primarily, MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD, this EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO EATING A CERTAIN WAY that sets off the cray cray food habits again. Bear with me on the caps, this is just so so important.
SO, the absolute most effective thing to stop bingeing and out-of-control eating is to disentangle your EATING HABITS from your SENSE OF SELF. And this isn't just self-love lip service or hippie dippie ra-ra stuff. This is literally the key to not bingeing.
Dieting is not REALLY about what you eat or how much. It’s about whether you are emotionally dependent on a way of eating. THAT is what's standing in the way of your ability to act “like a normal eater.”
Divorcing your sense of well-being from your eating habits might seem impossible to you. Or even counterintuitive. We often think that judging ourselves to death is the only way to prevent from repeating the cycle but, seriously...how’s that been working out so far?
Breaking away from the emotional attachment/judgment of how you eat can take practice. But it’s very doable. And it’s the most effective thing you will ever do to prevent bingeing, emotional eating, and the rest of the “Basket of Eating Deplorables.”
The only sustainable way to get long-term control of what and how you eat is to separate it from your sense of okayness. It’s one of the major focuses on my calls with clients, because it’s essential to take a good hard look at what we are REALLY dependent on here, so we can break the attachment. And whenever we get to the heart of it, not once has it ever really been about too many Doritos.
THIS emotional state is the MAIN PIECE that determines whether an action is a diet or not, and thus, whether it will lead to rollercoaster eating habits later.
This is why there are people who are able to make CHOICES about the foods they want/don’t want to eat without triggering crazy eating backlash. They are doing the same thing from a different state of mind. Some people make ethical choices about meat, or don’t like the way tomatoes make them feel, or don’t like what they’ve read about trans fats, or whatever it may be, and choose to abstain. We can make any number of choices about what and how to eat, but until we have dealt with our emotional dependency on what our food looks like, it will trigger unwanted habits.
The good news is, once we’ve gotten to the heart of the emotions we’ve tied up with our food, we are finally free to CHOOSE.
Saluting you, freedom of choice, and life beyond the rules,
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?