Tag Archives: food

I really enjoyed this piece from Longreads.  Of course, it’s on a theme I enjoy contemplating. It made me want to dine alone in public now and then, even though I have little objection to room service when I am traveling alone.

We’re eating alone more often than in any previous generation. But why should a meal on our own be uninspired? Why shouldn’t the French saying “life is too short to drink bad wine” still apply?

via Eating Alone — Longreads

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Wellness Wednesday – food & social pressure (part 2)

Last week I wrote about this topic and there was some interest in a further exploration. I think it is appropriate to post about this on a holiday (at least for those in the U.S.) because that is often a time when we can feel pressure to eat or drink, at parties or social events.

I remember growing up my extended family would often have a barbecue or picnic event, and everyone would be eating hot dogs (which we cooked on the grill or at the camp fire), potato chips and dip, potato salad, beans, etc. Then there would be dessert: cookies, bars, brownies, cake or pie, and sometimes ice cream as well. Thinking back to this makes me a little hungry now, actually…

There was always a little pressure to eat. Typically I ate 2 hot dogs on buns, my Grandma’s yummy potato salad, some beans. I saved room for dessert, which I always enjoyed (sweet tooth then & now). There was not necessarily pressure to eat a lot, but if you didn’t eat, someone would invariably ask why you didn’t try their dessert.

Probably three quarters of my family members would describe themselves as overweight. Not all of them are obese, but clearly we do not hold back very much when it comes to eating at social (family) events. Taking a second helping of a food is considered flattering to the cook, and so that can lead to additional pressure.

Isn’t it weird that people always prod you if you do not eat much, but they do not say anything if you are serving up vast quantities of food and shoveling them down? I mean, to me that is an indicator of discomfort, as I see it in myself, so it now makes me wonder what someone might be experiencing emotionally.

Food can be a way to bond and share experiences with people and I think this can be done in a healthy way, when nobody feels pressured to eat. I like to share a dessert sometimes with colleagues, when I want a little taste of something sweet, but I really don’t need a full dessert. “Going for coffee” in Latin America is a very common event, a chance to sit down and get to know someone, whether you drink coffee or not.

I realize I am still a little self-conscious about my eating habits when I am in a social setting. I am gradually learning to trust my hunger signals, and I stop when I am full rather than worrying about how much is socially acceptable to eat. I also try not to eat as much sugar and flour these days, as I find they create unnatural insulin spikes for me, and mess with my metabolism and brain chemistry.

It is getting less important to me to explain myself when these episodes occur, but I find it interesting that we still have to justify these choices. People ask if you are on a special diet, and then that topic comes up. Ugh, do I have to explain again?

I am curious about other cultural social norms that exist around food. Definitely Americans take everything to the extreme, and I think most other cultures take more time with their food, enjoy it more and obsess less about it. Perhaps we can learn to relax and see food as source of nourishment and pleasure. We can allow people to eat what they want, and not add to the social pressure.

May you enjoy the holiday (if you celebrate) and partake in the foods you enjoy, only in the quantities you want.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – food and social pressure

This week I am introducing a topic which may be one of a series, since it is complex topic. But it arose for me as I was attending a work gathering last night and observing the way in which I and others approached the food and alcohol service on a patio restaurant for a social event.

First let me say that work social events have always made me a bit uncomfortable. Over the years I have learned ways to enjoy them (generally without alcohol) but as an introvert, they wear me out. Especially after a long day of meetings, a work event to attend can feel like a special brand of hell to those of us who just want a break from having to interact with people.

For many years, my approach was to be sure I had a glass or two of wine, or a beer, to help myself relax during these events. Many of us know alcohol to be a “social lubricant” and rely on it for loosening up our tongue and not feeling as tense or nervous about having to make small talk.

A couple of years ago I decided to stop drinking completely for a period of time. While I am not alcoholic I noticed I was relying too heavily on wine to relieve my discomfort, and I did not like the habitual nature and automatic desire every evening. It was at the same time that I realized I am in a work culture where many, many people drink at work social events. It is a norm, and I suppose among a lot of introverted engineer types, social lubricant many seem like a necessity sometimes.

When I was not drinking, I felt a lot of pressure from colleagues, and the only answer that caused people to back off from asking why I was not drinking was to tell them it interferes with my sleep. Somehow, then it is less socially acceptable to pressure someone to drink.

But the same goes for pressure around desserts: when you do not have a dessert on my team, everyone gives you crap about it! Tons of pressure.

So the point I want to make in this brief blog (since I will need to run off to meetings again today) is that we often eat, not because we are hungry, but for other reasons, like social pressure. We drink for reasons like that as well.

There is a great episode of Hidden Brain which discusses this topic, and I encourage you to listen if you are interested in the topic of food and psychology. Why we eat goes far beyond actual physical hunger. It sometimes has to do with being unable to tolerate social pressure or personal discomfort.

But we can teach ourselves how to pay attention to our own hunger signals and become comfortable with the momentary discomfort of rejecting food when we really do not want it. Learning this skill we strengthen our ability to make other challenging choices as well, and for me, that has transformed my ability to manage my weight.

Okay, time is limited and I think I will make this into a series, continuing the topic on my next Wellness Wednesday when I will be home and not at all-day work meetings. Happy hump day!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Eating as entertainment

I was reflecting last Friday while having a late lunch with my colleagues in Guadalajara that eating has become entertainment in our culture. I considered the effects of viewing food as entertainment rather than fuel for our body, and the changes I have undergone in the past couple years regarding my own eating.

There is a social component to food in most cultures. We eat together as a sign of belonging, and invite others to eat with us or “go for a coffee” (especially in Latino culture) as a chance to connect. When I visited Jordan many years ago, I was told that to refuse food offered in someone’s home was to insult them, and so I felt an obligation to eat something each time we visited.

It reminded me of the pressure I felt to clean my plate as I was growing up. I now can leave food on my plate when I am no longer hungry, and I have let go of the guilt of “wasting” that food. I think it was Martha Beck that pointed out that food is wasted whether we “throw it on” the body or throw it away when we are not hungry. But the former will lead to further suffering by causing unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain.

Barton G

Photo of a dish from Barton G

When we go to fancy restaurants, we go not only for the quality of the food, we go for the theater, for the presentation. I recalled a restaurant in Miami where I went with colleagues called Barton G, where the food was presented in a fun, artful and surprising ways. There were Sumurai swords sticking out of the dishes, or there was a “treasure chest” filled with gold doubloons, ice cream, chocolates, etc.

We went to that place twice, in fact. The first time, I was amazed and delighted by all of the food creations, and I really did not think too much about the taste of the food. The second time, when I was looking to do something food & engaging with the team, I also enjoyed the presentation. But I noticed the food was not actually that good. The fish was a little dry, and the vegetables were overcooked. The team enjoyed the theater of it, but I had seen through the veneer.

I realize when I am on vacation part of the delight is trying out new restaurants, and maybe trying food I have never eaten. Or the joy the Mexicanos had in talking about what is truly “picante” or spicy and the different regions of the country where people tolerate the heat more than others. There was pride in being able to eat spicy food, in expressing enjoyment of their favorite cuisines in dishes.

While I partake in that joy at times, I also recognize that we create situations where there is over-desire for food. Any time we eat more than our bodies need for fuel, or we feel pressured to try a dessert just because everyone else is eating it, we dishonor our own bodies to make others happy. It is interesting to note that we never seem pick on people who are shoveling down every bit of food they can. We instead pressure others to just have a bite, or not to spoil the fun by abstaining.

Just writing about this reminds me of all the times I have been uncomfortably persuaded to do this, and how hard it was to resist their persuasion. Whether it was for wine or a piece of dessert, at the time when I was refraining from these items, I later realized it was not about me. In my own mind, I had a story that I was insulting them by turning it down. But they could choose to interpret my behavior in whatever way they wanted, and that was not my responsibility to manage.

But the powerful realization that wine and sugary desserts were actually hurting my well-being, robbing me of sleep and causing me to gain weight stood in contrast to their persuasion.  In honoring myself and my body’s own needs, I could still enjoy the meal with them, and focus on the interactions with people, and letting the food be fuel, not the entertainment. I still struggle to let go of the feeling of wanting to fit in, and not wanting to be “too different” from these colleagues.

It gets easier though, this act of honoring our own needs and realizing in the long run that if I do not care for myself, these relationships will not have integrity anyway. By doing things that I do not want to do in an effort to “make others comfortable” I deny what I know to be true. Also, getting in touch and accepting my own discomfort at not always fitting in, and being okay with that feeling, has been incredibly freeing as well. It goes totally against our culture of eating as entertainment. And I am all right with that.

What are your experiences with food and eating as entertainment? What strategies have you used to honor your own needs and desires, while in the face of pressure? I am curious to know.