Everything was stunning, from the calligraphy-adorned table assignments to the flickering candle-lit tables with their elegant glass and floral arrangements. My sea bass begged to be photographed in its Asian inspired preparation. And the desserts were splendid to watch disappear. Sorry, I was so busy enjoying them that I totally forgot to take photos! And then there were the guests. Truly gorgeous, strikingly so, every one of them. I aspire to be as healthy looking and as fit as my 60 and 70- something year old aunts, uncles and second cousins—really!
You might naively look around the room and yearn to be like the beautiful guests—happy, seemingly carefree, enjoying the celebration, apparently having it all. But just like everyone else, they aren’t free from knowing pain and suffering. They’d struggled with depression, in years past and present and lost loved ones prematurely, like my Dad, a non-smoker, who died of lung cancer. There was my beautiful, sweet cousin whose permanent absence resulted from a drug overdose and attendees present because they survived in spite of themselves. “It’s so great to see you up there dancing”, I was reminded by an acquaintance, acknowledging not only my diagnosis with MS, but the difficulties her mother struggles with, with the very same disease.
It’s easy to project onto others, to assume that everyone else has it easy—that they manage everything with ease, and can even effortlessly manage their weight, eating whatever they want—but that you are different. You may watch someone eating a meal, a small part of their day’s intake, then believe they eat that way all the time, with such control, perhaps. Yet you have no idea what they are really going through beneath the surface. You may conclude that you, and you alone, struggle with eating (and other) issues.
It may seem strange, but this has everything to do with managing your weight.
If you start comparing yourself to someone else at the table resisting dessert, you may feel bad about yourself as you clean your plate of chocolate cake. Even if others are enjoying dessert, you may think that you are not entitled, that the same rules just don’t apply. “You shouldn’t be eating that”, you may say to yourself. And that bad feeling may lead you to thinking that you already blew it, that it just isn’t worth trying anymore, resulting in the “what-the-heck-effect”. And this can trigger continued slips, in terms of eating and eating disordered behaviors, causing you to sabotage your own efforts to stay on course. And then you’re left feeling even worse.
We can’t help but compare ourselves to others, or so it seems to me. But we can focus on better meeting our own needs, regardless of what others are doing. Take half the prime rib home, or ask for a sauce on the side, if it makes eating out easier. You’re not alone in your struggles with food! Don’t just go with the flow, if you’re not comfortable doing so. And don’t eat to be like the others, or not eat to be like the others, as the case may be. But listen to your body and its signals.
Ask for foods the way you’d like them, to help manage challenging situations. Tend to overeater? Remind yourself that this is not your last chance to eat this delicious food. Move foods off their lists. You know, the good food, and the bad food lists, allowing yourself to eat what you truly enjoy—but just as much as you truly need. It really helps, and it’s quite liberating! And remind yourself that every day should start with a clean slate (not a clean plate!)—a fresh start, even if you’ve eaten way beyond your need the day before. It’s the only way to break the cycle.
By the way, that beautiful couple in the photo? My parents, divorced after 27 less-than-perfect years of marriage.