So, remember how in last week’s post I wrote about how sometimes people who love me offer me food I don’t eat because they feel bad for me? And remember how I don’t mind because I say no, and I know that they love me and I love them? Yeah, well sometimes people don’t want you to say no, and they push and push, and it’s abusive and inappropriate. And that is what this week’s post is about.
Last weekend, my husband and I had people over. I knew some of them, but some were new to me. This is a story about one who was new to me.
Everything was all fine for hours, and then it happened. This visitor had brought Italian beef from Chicago. She really wanted me to eat some. And I briefly told her thank you but no.
That is usually all it takes. I smile with genuine gratitude and say “no, thank you,” and people graciously honor that.
But that is not what happened this time. This woman did not honor my no. She pushed. She pushed for about 5 full minutes.
So you can understand a bit about some of my food boundaries, you should know that I need to know the exact ingredients. I need them in the ingredient list. Ingredient lists are written in a specific way, descending order of quantity. Sometimes there are parentheses in the list when one ingredient, for example salsa, can be broken down into more ingredients, like tomatoes, peppers, and potentially things like corn syrup. These parentheses mean something to me. They matter.
Now, this woman didn’t have an ingredient list. For me, that made it an automatic no-go.
There is another important part of this story in my mind. And it’s counter intuitive, but hugely important. This person has her own food boundaries. I know because we talked about them. And I thought that would make her an ally. She also avoids sugar, though she does have it on special occasions. We laughed about it because I bought sugar for coffee because I didn’t think a guest would want artificial sweetener, especially the one I use. And I found out that she actually uses the same one I do. And we even talked about what it’s like when people try to get you to eat something you don’t eat. So, you can imagine that her pressuring me seemed to come out of left field.
This woman who had her own experience of being pressured and abused over her own food choices was being relentless with me! She told me that I was being silly not to try the beef. That if it had flour, it was just a little. (It doesn’t matter, I can’t eat it.) Well, of course it matters. The percentage would be practically nothing. It’s just a thickening agent. It’s just…It’s only…It’s nothing to worry about.
For about 5 full minutes she pushed me. She did it in front of other guests. She was pissing me off. And I could tell that every time I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to calm myself, she thought she had won, and was even more forceful.
I want to be clear about something. What this woman did to me was controlling and abusive. Because she is the wife of my husband’s coworker, I had to be friendly. So I did not say “Back the f*ck off, b*tch!” But I had every right to. Nobody, and I mean absolutely NOBODY gets a say in what goes in my body but me. Not my mother, not my husband, not my doctor. If I didn’t eat the lasagna of the greatest love of my life besides my husband, my sweet grandma, there is no way in hell I’m going to appease some control freak I’ve never met before, whom I have graciously welcomed into my home.
When people refuse to honor your no, they are trying to control you, and that is a form of abuse. I want to say that, because so many of us are people-pleasers. We want to appease our spouses, our parents, our mothers-in-law, our bosses. And some of us even want to please strangers, to be considered nice.
Like I said last week, I love it when my father-in-law offers me food. He offers out of love, and he honors me when I say no. It is a beautiful thing to be offered food as a sign of love.
But when we are pressured repeatedly to the point of frustration, it can be easier in the moment to give in. But at what cost? That is a serious question. There is a cost, and you are the one paying it.
I once met a woman who was a recovering bulimic. She ate a food she was addicted to in order to please her mother-in-law. She was sent back into bulimia because of it, and it took her months to stop again. She said one of the most profound things I have ever heard. She said “My mother-in-law wanted to be there when I ate the pastry she made, but I’m alone when I’m in the bathroom afterward. She’s not there holding my hair back while I stick the toothbrush down my throat.”
The control freaks don’t have to live your life after they have convinced you to hurt yourself. They don’t have to deal with your consequences.
I’m hoping that this story gives you strength. I hope that if something like this ever happens to you, you can remember that you don’t have to harm yourself to please someone else. I hope you remember that it is a form of abuse. I hope you remember that you are in control of your body and your life, even if someone is trying to control you. But mostly, I just hope it doesn’t happen to you. Because it sucks, and it’s not OK.