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Often I speak with clients who are beginning to make food choices which feel right to them, except that they’re severely self-conscious and uncomfortable about them. If this happens to you, it’s important to learn how to stand up for your food decisions and not cave to external pressure, real or perceived. Remember, if you’re not eating foods you enjoy, you’re going to have a heap of trouble following the rules of “normal” eating.
This problem plays out in three ways. The first is in the when of eating which might seem inappropriate to others. When I began trying to eat “normally,” I carried around food everywhere to assure myself that it would be available whenever I felt I needed it. I once ate an apple at intermission in the lobby of a Broadway show and a tuna fish sandwich in the bathroom of a bar in Vermont. Though I still travel around with snacks occasionally, I no longer need to eat at awkward moments. To get to that point, however, I had to learn not to care what others thought about when I was eating.
Another way the problem arises is in the what of eating. Maybe you have a yen for ratatouille when your friends are eating lobster, yearn for a juicy mango when they’re slurping frozen yogurt, or crave a slice of blueberry pie for dinner when the rest of the family is chowing down on lasagna and salad. Break free from the pack and follow your internal food compass so you’ll feel satisfied. After a while you’ll get used to being joshed about your “weird” appetite. So what—you’re learning to feed your body what it wants. Have confidence that you know what you’re doing and stick to your guns.
The third way you might encounter this issue is in the how much of eating. With your family, you may feel especially self conscious. Maybe they’re all members of the clean plate club and you feel like eating only half your dinner. They may ask if you’re sick or if there’s something wrong. Au contraire—something is very right. Or perhaps your friends eat like birds, take two forkfuls and sigh that they’re full. What if you’re super hungry and want to finish all the food you’ve ordered? Do it. It doesn’t matter (really, it doesn’t) what they think or say. How could it? Only you know how much food your body wants.
Not surprisingly, when you connect to and respect your need for food, you begin to tune in to other parts of yourself—your emotions, thoughts, and deepest (hidden or half-hidden) desires. As you begin to assert your food needs, you’ll learn to stand up for your other needs as well. Start with food and you never know where the process will lead you. But I guarantee you’ll be happy when you get there!
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