As I place my order with our waiter, I can tell by the way you’re looking at me that you are second guessing your choice. The way your eyes dart back and forth as you look down at the menu tells me you are searching frantically for an option that you think would be “ok”. The waiter looks around the room impatiently but manages to keep a tightly pursed smile on his lips.
I’m guessing you felt his impatience because you put the menu back down and quickly order. “I’ll just have the . . . “. He grabs our menus and hurries away to another table. Without me saying anything or even changing the expression on my face, you blurt out (any one of these):
1. “Oh, I’m only ordering this because I didn’t have breakfast today”
2. “I’ve been so good lately that I’m rewarding myself. Back on the diet train tomorrow!”
3. “I never eat this stuff but I haven’t had this in so long!”
4. “Do you ever cheat? You’re making me look bad!”
If we go out to lunch and I order a green salad and the wild salmon, there’s no need to add a disclaimer when you place your order (of macaroni and cheese, buffalo wings or a glorious piece of cheesecake or anything else).
I’m not judging you for what you eat. I’m not watching your every move. I’m not making an assessment of your entire diet because of one meal we share together. I hope you extend me the same courtesy.
While I encourage eating less processed food, more whole foods from nature and being thoughtful about what ingredients we put in our bodies, I want you to know that it doesn’t mean that I expect that you will eat the exact way I do (or that you want to). We each have reasons for choosing the foods we do. It might be because it tastes good, it’s tradition, it feels good, it’s affordable, your kids like it, it’s good for you or any other reason. I know I have mine. What works for me may not work for you – and that’s totally ok. I promise I’m not judging you for your choices. My goal is to help you improve your diet and lifestyle and I will do that by meeting you where you are right now. And if where you are at the moment is a macaroni and cheese and cheesecake kind of place, I’ll be right over. I’ve visited more frequently than most.
If you are someone who doesn’t like vegetables, as your coach I would be setting you up for failure if I recommended you suddenly fit in 8 servings of vegetables every day. If I can get someone to go from eating 0 vegetables a day when we start working together to eating 2 a day after 6 months I consider that a major improvement and I know they do too.
I didn’t start eating the way I do overnight. My food journey has been a long and varied one. When I was 23 I thought being “healthy” meant staying under a certain amount of calories, eating a lot of processed soy in place of dairy & meat, artificial sugars (because I was saving calories!) and drinking as much beer as I wanted as long as I exercised. At 27 I thought being “healthy” just meant cooking everything from scratch, and as long as something was homemade, it didn’t matter if it had 3000 mg of sodium and 4 lbs of cheese in it (for proof, just visit a food blog from my past. It’s like a cheese and bread festival over there).
Over the years my diet has changed to whatever felt right to me at the time. Sadly, for many years “felt right” meant bingeing on junk food after restricting for long periods. After learning about food sensitivities and emotional eating, I’m much more in tune with what foods make me feel terrible and what makes me feel good. So when you see me ordering certain types of food in a restaurant or saying “no thank you” to something I’m offered, know that I’m trying to do the best thing for me, right now. And right now, the best thing for me is to give my body food that nourishes it and that doesn’t cause it uncomfortable symptoms or binge behavior. Those same foods might be ok for you – you know what’s best for your body.
My food choices are not about making you feel bad or about trying to appear perfect.
I spent a huge chunk of my life judging myself for the food I put in my body and feeling judged for every bite. People made comments about what I was eating to the point where every bite made me feel like a shitty person. Believe me when I say I have absolutely no desire to make you feel shitty too. If me choosing to eat the way I do makes you feel shitty, that really sucks because it’s not my intention. If you think I’m judging you, yes it makes me feel kinda crappy but you’re the one that it really hurts. Are you going to enjoy what you just ordered now? Not if you think I’m calculating the good or badness of the contents of the plate in front of you. Honestly, I’m thinking about how glad I am that we finally ordered because I have to pee and also that I’m so excited to catch up with you.
I want you to know that I’m human. Even though I watch my sugar intake most of the time, I’m pretty sure I ate more chocolate over the holidays than most of you reading this (and most of it was NOT dark chocolate). Despite choosing to not eat cheese most of the time, last night I ate cheddar cheese and salami (and neither of it was organic or local and it was definitely loaded with chemical preservatives). I drink alcohol. I drink coffee. And I eat a lot of other things that you might think someone in my field may not do.
Do I walk my talk and eat the way I encourage others to eat? Yes, around 90% of the time. But 10% of the time, I give in to indulgences. And sometimes I derail hard and that 10% and 90% reverse for a few days. But then I get back up and go back to what I know works and feels good for me.
It’s my job to help others change what they don’t like about their lives & health and I can do this because of my training, but also because I have been a chameleon of change in my own life. In this field of work, people often assume you must be perfect 100% of the time. I remember being terrified in coaching school because I was the opposite of perfect. But I’m not finding that is actually a benefit when doing this work. I’m able to relate to people’s struggles better and they find me easier to talk to because of these experiences.
I know changing anything about ourselves isn’t easy. I know you’re probably going through your own battle. I know you’re probably scared to really share what you struggle with. You’re not alone and I promise I’m not judging you.
Judgement shouldn’t be a part of any meal on your end or mine.
Next time we share a meal together, I hope we both can order whatever is best for us at that moment, enjoy the meal and each other wholeheartedly and go about our day. No judgement of each other or ourselves. That’s best for everyone.