Don’t bring that guilt to the party

21 Jun

A few weekends ago I sat next to a friend at an event (notice the animosity) who is trying to lose weight at a party. We all went through the buffet line and loaded up on all kinds of delicious party dishes, roast beef sandwiches and goodies. After sitting down, I noticed her plate was empty. As we ate she told us about her diet which involved eating an apple for lunch. She was clearly starving because she was watching me eat like I was an olympic athlete about to clinch the gold.

Everyone at the table felt instantly uncomfortable as she explained in detail her new diet as well as how hungry she was. At one point she even said, “I could tear into one of those sandwiches right now.”

I looked down at my sandwich and thought, this could have been healthier if I had chosen the wheat bread, turkey and left off the cheese. Wait a minute, why am I feeling bad about your decision to eat an apple for lunch at a party?

There’s a sticker on the mirror in my bathroom that says, “I eat when I’m hungry, I rest when I’m tired and I surround myself with people who make me a better person.” You know what, I was hungry, so I ate. No eating my feelings or for rewards, just for nourishment. Just when I’m hungry. And healthy things, usually. Indulgences on special occasions.

So you’re on a diet, that’s great. Can we not call it a diet though? “Diet” is a fancy word for hungry. Let’s call it “embracing a healthy lifestyle” or “taking care of ourselves.” You diet for a month or until you have to fit into a dress. You take care of yourself for the rest of your life and you should totally take care of yourself, you’re all you’ve got.

As your friend, I want to support you and not because I think you’re fat. I want you (everyone) to be happy and healthy. You are important to me, so are your goals, so is your health.

Personally, I don’t like to think about a target weight, it’s different for everyone and the scale and I do not have a great history. I don’t want to weigh the same amount for the rest of my life. That’s not realistic.

More important than the height/weight number on the chart at the doctor’s is my lifestyle. Can I do all of the things I want? Can I go for a run in the park? Can I walk around downtown without feeling exhausted? Can I water ski? Can I keep up with the kids I babysit? Can I sit down and stand up comfortably? Sadly, it’s also can I wear some of my favorite clothes? I never want my body to prevent me from doing the things that I want to do.

Someday I’ll probably need a hip replacement or my knees will fall off or something. That’s probably the scariest thing about getting old, but that’s another post for another day.

The ladies I used to work with counted calories and points obsessively. It was almost an unspoken competition about who could be the best at sticking to the plan that day. As much as I think supporting your friends is good, I think competing is not healthy.

They were all in their 30’s and 40’s, 10-20 years older than I was. Whenever I ate a cookie, they would make a big deal of saying, “I can’t have that, but you’re young. You’re so lucky.” How do you think that made me feel? Pretty shitty.

Granted, I have not given birth and my metabolism is probably a little more dependable than theirs. It felt a little hurtful that they didn’t acknowledge that I actually work for my health and take it pretty seriously. I had the advantage of being my mother’s daughter, in that she managed my health from the start. She made sure I learned to eat and cook healthy foods. She enrolled me in soccer and softball and bought me a pool pass. Thanks mom.

But I still make a huge effort to eat healthy. I buy fresh things instead of prepackaged food. I go easy on meat and snacks. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies.  More than eating, I spend a lot of time (and sweat) exercising. There are a lot of days I would rather watch SVU than run or do Pilates, but I make those choices, just like they do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the picture of health. I do a lot of things that aren’t great for me, I drink beer, I eat oreoes. Sometimes in the middle of a really hot run, I stop and walk for a little while, because my body is telling me I need a break. Even though I don’t love everything about my body, I’m proud of myself for making health a priority in my lifestyle.

Because of the choices I make, I can eat cookies here and there. I can enjoy a less-than healthy meal on special occasions. Ladies, let’s ease up on the diets and focus on health in general. Let’s support each other in our healthy choices instead of competing and bringing guilt to the table. Don’t hesitate to celebrate with a beer here and there too- we deserve it.

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