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Remember how teachers cautioned you to keep your eyes on your own paper during a test? They did so because they wanted you to develop skills and knowledge on your own. If you don’t do so already, it’s time to apply the same approach to eating.
Everybody seems to have an opinion these days on what you should or shouldn’t eat—your neighbor, doctor, mother, father, brother, friend, cousin, the supermarket check-out clerk, your third-grader, and everyone you have more than a five-minute chat with. Some days you may feel so bombarded with advice that you want to lock yourself inside the refrigerator just to have a quiet moment to think.
Forget such drastic measures. All you need to do is develop a “my own plate” mentality and resist peeking at what others are eating. Instead, ask yourself what you feel like having. How much food is enough for you? How does what you’ve eaten feel like in your body after you’ve eaten it? No one else has these answers. Just because your dining companions are eating salad, doesn’t mean you can’t have pasta or a bowl of ice cream. Just because they’re ooing and ahing over dessert doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Your body, your mind, your decision.
Moreover, forget about what others say about your eating. I’m often asked by clients how to respond to folks who make intrusive remarks about what they’re eating. Frankly, most any remark or question falls into this off-limits category because eating, like voting and deciding whether or not to believe there is a God, is a highly personal, totally individualized activity. When someone questions your eating, ask, “Why do you want to know?,” squarely hitting the ball back into their court. When someone makes a comment on your eating, you can: ignore it and say nothing, thank them for their input (and ignore it), change the subject, tell them kindly that you recognize they’re trying to be helpful but that their remark is causing the opposite effect, make light of what they said, or insist flat out that you’re no longer open for discussion of your eating, body or weight.
Stop waiting for others to change and, instead, start changing yourself in these two ways. First, keep your eyes on your own plate. Tune out what others are eating and focus on feeding yourself. Second, rather than feel ashamed or guilty when people question you or comment on your eating, set a limit. Once you’re an adult, it’s none of their business. Following these practices will become easier over time and will speed you on your way to becoming a “normal” eater.
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