I hope you all had lovely long weekends! A bit of time has passed since I’ve written regularly for healthygirl, and I was excited when Sunny asked me to guest post (I hope that you have all been well in the interim). In fact, my post is about being another kind of guest and how it made me think about my relationship to food—a house guest!
I was lucky enough to be invited to a family-friend’s lake house this weekend, where much of the activities revolved around food and eating. When I think of Labor Day weekend, I tend to think of barbeques, s’mores and enjoying the last vestiges of summer, which is exactly what I did this weekend. In the past, being around so much food all the time and in such social settings, might have sent me into an inner-panic, but this year I had a more relaxed feeling about it.
Staying at another person’s home, you obviously want to be a gracious guest and that often means sharing meals and trying the food that is generously prepared for you. However, you also have to remember to be your own self too! Staying for multiple days in someone else’s environment often means going along with their lifestyle choices. Naturally, everyone has different eating styles, rhythms and preferences—two big meals and hors d’oeuvres and drinks, three square meals and no snacks, etc…
Before, when I was much more preoccupied with food, and I was just trying to get a grip on my own regular eating habits, it was difficult to feel settled or calm about temporarily adopting other people’s way of doing things. I would often end up anxious and that would manifest in overeating or eating when I wasn’t even really hungry, just taking cues from other people because I thought I was “supposed to.”
Long weekends can often feel like an all-out vacation (and sometimes they are), which can also include a lot of common trigger foods (at least for me)…Chips, cheese plates, extra desserts, rich (yummy) foods, they are all great, but sometimes hard for me to have just laying around, especially when I’m just laying around. There are certain ways in which I feel comfortable having these types of foods, but sometimes that is hard to maintain when you are out of your regular element. It sort of feels like the hard work I have put into “figuring it out” doesn’t always translate when I am away in someone else’s space. However, this time by being more relaxed about it and true to my own self, I was able to deal with it in a more healthy way.
On the first day, I asked if I could help with preparing lunch in the kitchen and I was declined (“No! You’re the guest!”). I stayed around to chat and keep the host company as she made sandwiches for everyone and prepared a seven-layer dip. She laid out all of the bread to be used and then started to plop down a fairly hefty glob of mayonnaise on each slice. I also noticed that she was going to add cheese and a few other rich toppings. I felt a little uneasiness and thought, I don’t really want that much mayonnaise, but I hesitated to say anything about my personal preferences because I didn’t want to cause a scene or seem ungrateful. This is where I stopped myself and realized that’s what I used to always do, and it always end in me feeling like I didn’t speak up and do what was right for me. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but little victories come from small things, remember?!
Before she got to the last slices of bread, I sucked it up and said, “Hey, sorry, do you mind putting just a little bit of mayo on my sandwich, I don’t care for too much of it.” She didn’t even blink and said absolutely and went a long her way, making sandwiches. She even asked me if I wanted one or two slices of cheese after that, maybe catching on to the idea that I liked my sandwiches a little bit lighter. In the past, I would get so worried about not coming off as rude or rocking the boat, that I would forget all about what was best for me. The thing I realized is, hosts want to give you what you like and what you think is good—but they aren’t psychics! You need to say something, and it can be done in a very polite way.
Speaking up made me feel more relaxed around food in general this past weekend (and in charge of what I was putting in my body) and I felt that even though I was in someone else’s “eating environment,” I could go at my own pace and not worry about it too much. I certainly still bump up against little moments where I have to deal with this type of thing, but it felt a whole lot more manageable this time.
How do you deal with being in other people’s “eating environments?” Do you have any house guest experiences that made you think about your relationship to food? -Morgan