Like a lot of people I know who are managing their weight, I tend to cede control of what’s going into my mouth a lot more than I’d care to admit. Case in point, my office went out for lunch today as a “team builder” and while the restaurant my boss chose was quite good and had many appealing items, I felt a lot of pressure to eat, even though I was not at all hungry. I did order a small entrée, but I ate only some of it, and was subject to questioning about why I didn’t like the food and what am I ‘allowed’ to on my ‘program.’ I’d had a large breakfast and a snack mid-morning, and so it wasn’t hard to pass up the bread and the dessert from a physical well-being perspective. It was simply difficult because I had a sense that if I didn’t eat this food (which I didn’t want in the first place) I would be a bad co-worker, anti-social, and somehow would be rejecting the kind gesture of a free lunch. Walking away from the table, I felt great physically, but defeated mentally.
When I was in weight loss mode several years ago, I channelled every stubborn molecule in my body to withstand the onslaught of guilt, shame and inadequacy that came from refusing food when I wasn’t hungry. As a result, I seldom ate at restaurants, and I was very diligent about what I ate in the world outside my own kitchen. It wasn’t exactly that I was hiding from the pressure that other people put on me, but rather I was hiding from the assumptions and judgements that I put on MYSELF. While at that time I often succeeded in my goal to only eat when I truly wanted to, the psychological effort of doing so left me exhausted. After all, I had spent most of my life just giving in to the guilt.
In all of this I am reminded of my naturally thin partner, who loves food and considers himself a gourmet, but would never dream of eating something just because it was there. On many occasions I’ve lovingly prepared meals for him only to hear him say “You know, I’m not hungry this evening, sorry!” Rather than get angry, I’m always wondrous when that happens.
To be honest, I hate having to accept responsibility for my eating habits and I find it a great deal easier to blame people, circumstances, and my own history. The world seems filled with temptations that are certain to derail my best efforts. But the unfairness of it (and yes, it IS unfair) doesn’t mean that I am absolved of taking responsibility or that I have to throw in the towel and put on a dinner napkin. When I eat food that I don’t want to, how can I possibly blame someone else and consider that person to be a saboteur? Can I look myself in the eye and say calmly, truthfully and in complete candor, ‘I’m not hungry, I can’t eat’ and then send that message out into the world like I mean it?
How do you accept responsibility and banish the blame?