There are some weird observations I’ve made as I transitioned from morbidly obese to being thinner as it pertains to crowds of people at meal times. When I was obese, other obese people felt like they could open up to me about eating a lot of food, how delicious it was, how much they enjoyed eating certain things, and their dismay at society’s pressure to lose weight, eat less, or eat right. As I lost my own weight and downsized, people who are obese stopped talking to me about those things and their discussions around food changed to them justifying the food they are eating. They tell me they are eating so much because they skipped a meal, had a light previous meal, or because it just happens to be a favorite food they never get a chance to eat anymore. Deep down, it makes me sad, because I remember doing the exact same thing, saying those exact same words.
I was a ravenous eater when I was morbidly obese, and I could easily finish an entire bread basket by myself when we would eat out for lunch. I had to use a lot of self-control to not eat all the bread at the table when it was brought out to me and my co-workers. I would often leave lunch still hungry because I wouldn’t eat enough to avoid embarrassing myself among my peers. Worse, there were those moments I would catch them glimpsing at me and the food I was eating. Not only would I get the looks, but sometimes, someone would ask me, “Are you really going to eat all of that? How can you eat that much food? Are you going to eat dinner, too? Isn’t that too much food?” It all hurt. Maybe they thought they were helping or offering help, but it had the opposite effect. I would lose myself in more food as a way to compensate for the embarrassment or the hurt I felt.
Now that I’m thinner, when eating with people who are also thinner, there’s no judgment or strange looks. There is nodding approval when I tell the waitstaff to hold the croutons, or when I decline the bread and ask instead for some vegetables. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing: it just happens. However, one thing is for sure: people are a lot nicer to me when I eat at a restaurant now than they were when I was morbidly obese.
I always tell people I’m not the Paleo Police, and they don’t need to justify their food choices to me. I don’t ever want people to be uncomfortable around me when they eat, because their food choices are as sacred to them as mine are to me. I would never judge them as I hope they will not judge me. I never offer or volunteer food advice at the table while people are eating. I hated when people did it to me, and I remember how long those words, while possibly well-meaning, would linger for hours, and sometimes days.
My point is this (in case I didn’t make it obvious): be careful with the words you use at the dinner table. Realize the gravity they have, and the effect they have on others. The consequence of your well-intentioned advice can have the opposite effect based on the setting.
Alternatively, if you receive some of this (hopefully) well-intentioned advice, and it’s difficult to hear, embarrassing, or misses the mark, you have two choices: ignore it, or ask the person if you were to ask them the same question, would they find it appropriate or welcome? Most people don’t realize just how horrible the things they say are sometimes until they are forced to confront them.
I’ve learned a lot as I went from morbidly obese to healthy. I wasn’t prepared for the shift in attitudes, and I never quite realized how much body type impacts conversation at the dinner table.