Whilst living in Brisbane I remember going to the park to eat my lunch by the ocean on a weekday. I walked past a lady siting at picnic table facing out to sea. She looked up and saw me—a complete stranger. I smiled at her, and rather than say hello, she smiled at me and said, ‘I don’t normally eat like this for lunch’. I looked to the table, and only then noticed that she was eating fish and chips.
How often have you heard others or yourself justify your eating to your dining companions, waiting staff or complete strangers?
Why do we feel the need to explain ourselves to others?
Firstly, I believe that our widely-accepted diet culture and perception of how we should or should not eat means that it is normal to discuss how we will deprive ourselves later or start our diet tomorrow, or on Monday. Therefore, when our eating does not align with popular diets we can feel a need to explain ourselves.
Secondly, we fear what others will think about us and what we eat. If we are overweight or dining with someone more petite than ourselves we can feel that they will judge us for the amount we eat or the foods we choose. In this case, we feel a need to explain ourselves. We can feel that anytime someone glances our way we are being judged; if we choose to eat a salad others may think it is just for show, conversely if we choose to eat a dessert others may think that this explains our weight.
However, what we see someone eat occasionally does not give us a good indication of how they eat most the time, nor whether their weight reflects their diet. How someone looks does not give us an indication of how they eat or their lifestyle behaviours. We can’t assume that someone who is petite is healthy, or conversely that someone that is overweight is unhealthy.
Therefore, any thoughts or judgements we have about someone else, or them about us, are untrue. They are only a reflection of the beliefs of the one who is doing the judging.
When someone glances at us as we sit in the park or café eating a salad, chips or cheese cake, we can’t know what they are thinking. Even if they are judging another for their body or their eating, it says more about them than it does about us. They are judging based on their own beliefs and perception of what someone should or shouldn’t be eating for health or weight maintenance.
What others think of you really has nothing to do with you.
What does matter is how you feel about yourself and your eating. Whether you feel at peace with your eating and food. Whether you are eating based on your body’s internal cues and enjoyment or your external rules and fears.