Tonight’s the night. You finally landed reservations at the hottest new dining spot in town and have invited a group of friends to join. You’re glancing over the elaborate menu when the waiter brings by what looks like freshly made warm bread and whipped butter. You begin to salivate as you stretch your arm out to capture your fair share when someone blurts out “ugh, carb bombs.” Screech. Silence. Your heart is racing and palms are sweating like those dreams where you are naked on a stage and everyone is laughing at you.
As soon as you think that awkward moment has passed, it inevitably happens again.
One of the guests asks a million questions about the fish and you can tell she’s trying to avoid butter and oil until she makes it blatantly obvious to everyone at the table when she asks the waiter “Can you just have the chef bake this one without any butter or seasoning?” “Plain,” he asks. “Yes, and instead of the mashed potatoes can I get double asparagus?”
You sink back into your chair flooded with embarrassment. Sheesh…someone needs a glass of wine. Or a chill pill.
Can you relate?
Your excitement to eat at a new place is squashed once you realize you’re in the company of a royal “picky eater” and she’s ruining your good time.
Now let me be clear: “picky eater” doesn’t refer to those folks who have a true food allergy or medical reason that requires them to be armed with an epi pen at all times. My brother has severe food allergies. I completely understand the health risk when someone at the dinner table could be flirting with a visit to the emergency room.
When I say picky eater, I’m talking about the overly rigid eaters of the world who suck all the fun out of food. These are the folks who make us feel lesser if we’re not on a health kick 100% of the time, drinking green juice, or labeling ourselves as gluten-free or Paleo.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, it’s time to listen up and loosen up so we can all get back to enjoying our meals.
Don’t Suffer From Order Envy
Recently, I was out with a group of moms getting what I thought was a reprieve from the joys of dirty diapers and teething. I soon realized that I was the only one who was even considering something other than a salad. Now don’t get me wrong I love salad, but I know how to make a darn good salad at home, so it’s not something I will enthusiastically order when dining out. I couldn’t believe that I was the only one drooling over the steak.
As our waiter made his way around the table, it was suddenly my turn to order. For a split second I doubted myself, wondering if I would be judged for not getting the salad. I stuck to my guns and ordered that steak – with fries! As soon as my plate of steak frites got to the table, the salad eaters fixated on it. The waves of questions – “how are the fries, is your steak cooked right?” were more than casual conversation. They were jealous. Some even reached over to my plate and took some fries! (At least they asked if they could have some while making a beeline for them). Order envy is the worst!
TIP: Don’t look to other people to approve what you are eating. You’re out to have a good time and enjoy your food. If you really want it, get it and enjoy it! Have trust in your body and know that one meal, or one day of non-A+ eating is not going to derail you from your overall health goals. You won’t magically gain 5 pounds if you choose to order that steak or slice of cake.
Stop Paralyzing Yourself Over The ‘Right Choice’
Obsessing about healthy eating is not healthy for yourself or your relationships. It’s also not healthy to moralize food as GOOD or BAD or CLEAN. I mean, since when was our food ever dirty? Actually, vegetables grow in the dirt. Vegetables are dirty. So, what’s clean again? What does clean even mean? Actually, nothing. It doesn’t have a definition everyone can agree on. Some say it’s vegetarian, plant-based, no processed foods (really, so no canned beans or frozen broccoli?)
It makes my head spin. These negative messages don’t help people make healthy choices they can feel good about. They increase anxiety about not being good enough.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m 100% in support of living healthy. I choose to live a healthy life, and I encourage my clients, as well as my daughters to do the same. I’m thrilled when my daughter asks for an apple instead of chocolate, but I don’t force or restrict food in my house. I don’t want our meals to be turned into food fights.
TIP: Think about some of the recent food rules you’ve set out for yourself. Are you ever worried at the dinner table? Imagine what you’re missing out on – taste, conversation, pleasurable eating to name a few, when you’re so worried about what’s in your food. If you feel good about your choices, that’s what matters. They are your choices after all. Don’t say things that might make others think you are judging them for their choices.
Live a Little
Different foods make us feel certain ways. Our emotions get uplifted when we have new experiences, when we are adventurous, and when we feel things like wonder and awe. I have truly had some amazing food that made me say “awesome”. Awe can come up whether we are staring down at the Grand Canyon for the first time, or hitting our palates with an explosion of new flavors for the first time.
TIP: Be adventurous! Try something that you’ve never had before or wouldn’t likely make for yourself. No matter what you try, it’s important to realize that food isn’t good or bad, it’s nourishment above all else. You will eat thousands of meals in your lifetime. Trying and learning new things is part of what makes us happy.
Let Me Do Me
So what if you’re like me, and feel like other people’s healthy eating habits are influencing your ability to enjoy food? When met with this situation, it’s important to consider the phrase: “to each their own.” In other words, “let me do me.”
Order exactly what you want, and don’t let other people’s beliefs or behaviors take away from you enjoying your meal and having a good time doing so.
In the end, we make the least healthy decisions by being overly rigid and full of judgment. Why do we have to go to extremes with food to the point where we take all the fun out of an experience that has the potential to be so pleasurable?
A little empathy can go a long way here. (I know, I know, it’s frustrating. She’s the one making you feel like you’re “being bad”.) Consider the fact that in many ways, someone else’s judgments are a reflection of how they see themselves. They are outwardly expressing an inner struggle, even when they aren’t really aware of the conflicts. They are there. I remember a friend asked me “how could you order that?” I responded “Yeah, what’s the nutritionist doing ordering chili cheese nachos.” She said, “no, really, how can you do that?” I got it. She truly wanted to know how I go about doing whatever I want when it comes to food. We met up later for coffee and I told her how. She’s working on it.
Take a Shot
If you think you may be the one putting a damper on other people’s dining experiences, it’s time to relinquish control and take a risk! What do you have to lose? Eating something you’ve regularly forbid yourself from enjoying could be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make.
Life is more fun with people who like to eat and have a good time, so dig in – to food and to life! Most importantly, remember that It’s okay. You can be a healthy person and eat foods that bring your pleasure. Chefs call it the “x-factor”. It’s the component of flavor that can’t be defined wrapped up in emotion, passion, and love.
I wholeheartedly believe everyone can reconnect to feeling good about their food choices no matter what is on their plate. Now, where are those “carb bombs,” I’m hungry!
You Tell Me…
Do you have any food “horror stories”? Or did you overcome food rules? Let me know in the comments below.