There is a saying among the people I know who keep boundaries around their eating: Keep your eyes on your own plate.
I have mentioned before that I don’t watch food porn. I never watch the Food Network. If one of those recipe videos comes up on my Facebook newsfeed, I click that little arrow in the corner and choose to “see less from” and “hide all from.” I don’t want to see things I don’t eat. I don’t want to see cookies and cakes, and all manner of sugar bombs.
In the beginning of getting my eating under control, I felt like the Holiday Season was hard for me because I was a compulsive eater, and there was food everywhere. But the older (and more clear-headed) I get, I realize that the Holiday Season is hard for everyone. Fine, maybe not children. (Who am I kidding? Has there ever been a single child who did not have at least one meltdown in the overwhelm of the end of the year festivities? I’m going to go with no.)
Holidays are overly emotional times of year where we obligatorily visit with the people in our lives who know best how to upset, enrage, and mortify us. I am not saying that we don’t love our families. I am saying that family is difficult. For everyone everywhere. And for many, it’s sugar (or sugar’s delinquent brother alcohol), and not music, that soothes the savage beast.
Overeating is the rule and not the exception from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Basically everyone gains weight over the holidays. It is so pervasive it is the topic of much holiday humor and the reason practically everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to lose 5-10 pounds.
But there is something else I want to note, that I don’t think I understood until I got my own eating under control. People who don’t have eating disorders or weight problems might gain some weight over the holiday season, they might even be doing some comfort or binge eating to deal with the stress, but most of them are still managing their food. They give themselves a little leeway, but they are not eating whatever they want whenever they want. Some do this management unconsciously, and some do it in their heads, and some might even keep a log of it. But they are actively thinking about what they are eating, and what effect it is having on their bodies.
I have spoken about this with compulsive eaters who have boundaries around their food, or I have heard them speak of it, or read their writing on it. Many of us used to think that “naturally thin” people were eating the way we were eating and not gaining weight. We decided that we were unfairly cursed. But what was often happening was we were seeing people eat the way we were eating, but we were never seeing what they weren’t eating behind closed doors.
I might pig out with someone at a holiday meal, and not realize that they were not eating the rest of the day. Or they were going home to have, as a friend’s sister would say, “a bowl of chicken soup and half a cup of dry popcorn.” While I would have another meal, plus all of the leftovers that the host sent me home with.
People with a healthy relationship with food do not “eat whatever they want and not get fat.” Or if they do, it’s because whatever they want is a salad. Or a single piece of fruit, not dipped in chocolate. Eating high-sugar, high-calorie foods and not gaining weight is not the way life works.
I suppose there are people with crazy metabolisms, but they are few and far between. If you know someone you think is “naturally thin,” chances are that what they really are is “naturally conscious” of what goes into their bodies.
As an addict, I know that I cannot handle my sugar. I am incapable of stopping at one, or a taste, or a little. And I might mistakenly think that nobody else can stop after one, or a taste, or a little either. And if I hold onto that assumption, and look around, I might mistakenly believe that life must be incredibly unfair because they are not physically large.
But that would be a lot of mistaken assumptions. So I make a point to keep my eyes on my own plate. And there is something else I do, especially over the holidays. I make sure that my food is amazing. I make sure it’s decadent and delicious and abundant. I make sure that if, by accident, my eyes happen to wander onto another plate, that when I look back at my own, I am positively enraptured.