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How to Stand Your Ground Around Food with Other People

  • Eating

Do you know people who seem totally comfortable in their own skin around food? They eat whatever they want whenever they want in whatever quantity they feel like. If people comment on their feeding habits, you can tell they couldn’t care less. My guess is that these folks are this “self-focused” in many (if not all) areas of their lives. Let’s talk about how they tune out what others think and tune into themselves.

Before going down this path, however, I need to point out that never caring what people think is not a healthy trait. Humans evolved to live in harmony with others and take their opinions and feelings seriously. We’re designed to live in community, which means not always following our own needs and wants. 

That said, we’re also individuals meant to think for ourselves, especially when making decisions about how to feed ourselves. Just because your friends are on the latest fad diet doesn’t mean you need to hop aboard. Alternately, just because your friends are cleaning their plates, doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a doggy bag.

Adults who eat intuitively strongly believe it’s their job to take care of their bodies. Honestly, those I know don’t give a hoot about what others think of their eating because they’re too busy staying connected to their own appetite signals. They settled the issue of pleasing themselves rather than others long ago (at least in the eating arena). 

Most dysregulated eaters are other- rather than self-focused. A great example: I asked a client, “How are you today?” and she actually answered me, “My brother said I looked sad this morning.” Take a minute to fathom this dynamic. I ask her how she feels and she tells me how someone else thinks she feels. Get the point? 

To grow a strong resilient self means spending more time looking inward than outward. Regarding eating, this means not surreptitiously glancing around to see what/how much friends and family are eating or imagining what they’re thinking about your food choices or consumption. The whole idea is that you’re responsible for you, including your eating, and others don’t get a say in it, which makes for a healthy self.

When you practice staying focused on what/how much you want to eat, others’ potential thoughts will drop off your radar screen. You won’t struggle with this issue forever if you put consistent effort now into tuning into you and screening others out around food. You’ll grow new neural pathways in your brain and become more “self” centered around food and in other areas of your life. And you’ll get closer to being a “normal” eater.