This blog post has been one of the harder ones I have written. As someone who has been on a serious mission the last two months to lose weight, I spend A LOT of time thinking about food, dieting, and all the challenges that go along with that. I have vacillated between writing about the social expectations of what one should or should not eat versus the idea that diet is all about free will (so screw social expectations). Instead of picking one of these two perspectives, I am deliberately leaving it open (and quite possibly a bit disjointed).
Let me start with a personal story. After seeing the horrifying results of a body scan, I became determined to change my body composition. (More info on what a scan is here which for the record despite how humbling a scan can be, I am a total advocate for getting them). About three weeks into this revamped diet, I had a birthday around the corner, I refused to be the oldest and biggest I had ever been. By reevaluating and changing my diet, which entailed generally turning down most social invitations that involved eating or drinking, I did manage to lose 6 pound before I turned another year older.
Having said that, life is worth celebrating and diet or not, I was excited to go out for a birthday dinner with friends. I managed to indulge in some foods I hadn’t had in a while without overdoing it or feeling guilty about it. I was mostly just very happy and blessed to be in the company of close friends. After our meal it came time for dessert. I declined as I felt like my cheat meal dinner was more than sufficient. My friend repeatedly asked if I wanted cake and insisted I needed to blow out a candle. I assured her I would not feel like I missed out if I skipped cake. After the second time though she asked, I did find myself feeling frustrated. Was I being disrespected? Why was I feeling so offended? Didn’t she have nothing but the best of intentions? Life is short, we should eat cake, right? I wondered though, why if it is a voluntary choice to not eat something, is there still pressure to overrule that? I felt completely conflicted.
What is it about social expectations around diet and food choices? People have opinions about what others should or should not eat. Does it matter? Why should I care what other people have to say or think about what I eat? In the story about cake was it indeed insensitive, or rather a wrongly perceived reaction on my part?
A few days after my birthday, my friend came to me and profusely apologized for the cake incident. She comes from a place of after years of battling some serious health stuff, she is grateful for being able to enjoy foods she hadn’t been able to. She had nothing but good intentions in wanting to see me kick back and enjoy a birthday tradition. It was not a case of judgment or insensitivity.
It has been common for me of late to be in situations where I am offered either food, drink or an invite and I decline. I immediately feel the need to explain that I am on a diet. Shouldn’t simply declining be sufficient enough? Why do I feel compelled to explain why? Is it my own self -defense or is it because I anticipate that when I say “no thank you” it will be followed by “why”?
I do also realize that I have free will. I choose what I eat and when. No matter if I get one invite or a dozen to be indulgent, it is ultimately within my control as to how I respond. Whether or not someone asks politely or with a tad of judgment (perceived or real), it should not matter. I know what is best for me so why pay any heed to temptation, whether good intended or not?
On the other hand, there is still a school of thought that I have a hard time ignoring. I still have that nagging sense that people do at times pose their expectations onto others. As someone who is pescatarian, I am also closely aligned to the vegan lifestyle. I do not eat meat by choice but I still love seafood and eggs. Due to an intolerance of lactose, I cannot eat dairy. So I do get slightly irritated when I see posts on social media poking fun at vegans. Why should someone care if I chose to eat tofu? I’m not asking them to nor do I care if they eat beef and chicken till the cows come home.
Here is a scenario I pose to you as I think we all have been in this at least once. Two people go out to eat dinner. One person wants a glass of wine and the other does not. What ends up happening? Often the one who really wants that wine, decides against it as they rather not drink solo. So I ask you this without being facetious. Why does it matter what the other person is drinking or not drinking? Does the wine taste any different if the person in present company is instead drinking water? Does it somehow take away from enjoying that desired wine? If it does, I ask you, why? Is it some societal rule that drinking alone is frowned upon? Or does it have something to do with it just simply is not the same if it is not a shared experience?
I truly have no conclusion to my conflicting thoughts and the many questions I have posed. So I ask you: how do you perceive dieting and social expectations?