Archive | January, 2012

The festive season is over and your pants are tighter than your wallet. What went wrong? AGAIN?

3 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

The feasting , I mean *festive* season has come to a close.

Did you feast?

To be more accurate, despite promising yourself to take it easy this year, did you feast like there was no tomorrow, while promising yourself you would start your diet in January?

Now that January is here, are you still reaching for the pies because you are depressed about the enormity of the task ahead and too broke to afford a gym membership/buy healthy food anyway?

What went wrong?

Again?

For most of my adult life I have resented the festive season.  I feel out of control, as though the world is trying to force feed me, like a Christmas goose being fattened up for slaughter.

Despite what  glossy magazines tell you about how to ‘choose this instead of that’,  I have yet to find a non offensive way to insist on getting a blob of cottage cheese on a crispbread (‘cut the crispbread into small squares and layer them between the cheese! It will still feel decadent!” they promise) when the host of the third party in as many days, offers me a tray of mini pork sausages stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, while shoving a fruity sugary alcoholic drink into my other hand.

Oh alright then, I will eat it all...

Perhaps there has been a magazine article written on how to artfully offend your friends, I have yet to read it.  If I was to demand a low fat snack at a party while rejecting the proffered offerings, I am quite certain I would not be regarded as sensible and empowered – I think it’s far more likely I would be called, smug, fussy and downright ungrateful.  To my face.  Possibly followed by that fruity drink and a dollop of spittle.

The trouble with asking for a paper towel on which to dab the excess fat off a double fried chocolate fat nugget, or eating half the food you have been served and piously pushing your plate away, or pouring half your cocktail down the sink and topping up your glass with water – if this is not obvious – is that it is RUDE.  Your host has spent hours preparing the feast and probably a fair amount of cash on the ingredients.  In addition to this, the meal, if it is a small party or family get together, was probably prepared with your tastes and preferences in mind.  Your sister saw how much you enjoyed the fat nuggets last year.. you asked for seconds!  That’s why she made them again this year… specially for you… how easy then, is it to push them away when they are proudly offered?

Not easy at all, you admit, unbuttoning another button of your jeans.

Imagine a world in which you could feel safe going to dinner parties in December knowing you would not have to eat anything which fell outside of your healthy eating plan.  Imagine not even being offered these things at all, not because you have been excluded, but because these things were not even prepared, based on your attendance.  Imagine a world where not preparing these items did not make your host feel resentful, but instead made them feel considerate and open-minded.

Welcome to the world of the belief system motivated vegetarian.

Think back on the last time you hosted a vegetarian.  When you decided to include this person on your guest list you already knew a few things about them.  You knew they did not eat meat for religious or other personal reasons.  You knew with certainty this was not a point for compromise or negotiation.  Did you then, insist on serving only meatballs, even when this guest was the only vegetarian at the table?  No you did not.  Instead you created some fancy sundried tomato-balanced on a soya bean starter (which everyone, seeking to appear evolved and tolerant of the veggie eating guest, raved about) and also probably served a vegetarian lasagna which it took you twice as long to make as a steak pie would have, necessitating a trip to three different stores just to find aubergines.

On top of that, I bet you felt rather smug about it.  It was probably easy to say to your brother Peter (known for only eating meat and potatoes) – “It will be a meat free evening tonight Pete”.

As the host you felt splendid about it – what a great chance to show how liberal and cosmopolitan you are.  Meat free?  Oh.. that’s easy!  That is just the type of flexible and inclusive host I am!

The same accommodations are made for diabetics and alcoholics and they are made just as happily.

So why then can a dinner party menu not be planned around the guest (or guests, which is more likely) who are trying to slim down or manage their weight over the festive season?

Here are a couple of reasons :

*We don’t declare our dietary requirements upfront.

*If we do declare our dietary requirements, we do it WRONG.

*We don’t follow through.

*We are secretly pleased we didn’t have to follow through.

Everyone knows who the vegans, vegetarians and diabetics are.  People who have specific dietary requirements have learnt that it does not serve them to stay silent.  It is not uncommon to meet a new colleague in the workplace and to have them introduce themselves as, “Hi, I am Johno, the new Accountant and I am a vegan”.   If you didn’t already know and you invite one of these people to a party, they will not mind reminding you either, several times if necessary.

People who are on a healthy eating plan are less eager to declare their requirements so blatantly for fear of scorn and derision.  If we are completely honest we must also concede that we sometimes do not describe out dietary requirements because we already plan to fail them and do not want to have to explain ourselves when the person who we outlined our carb free eating choices to in detail sees us grazing a family size box of doughnuts at the office a few days later.. but that is another blog altogether.

hmmm... I think I will pretend I want the carrots and then allow myself to be 'forced' to eat the pie...

Vegetarians and Vegans are not immune to scorn and derision.  They will tell you that when they first come out the soya closet into the meat locker which is the world in which we live, they are interrogated and questioned like criminals.  It only hurts the first couple of times though, and people do then eventually get over it and accept it.  Vegetarians and Vegans feel strongly enough about their choices and are prepared to face this sort of pain in order to reap the rewards waiting on the other side – evenings of dining without awkward moments or social pressure, without compromise or confrontation.

When followers of a healthy eating plan do manage to find the courage to come clean upfront they often hamstring themselves by apologizing or sounding ashamed about it.  The knee-jerk reaction of the person on the receiving end, when they hear ; “I would LOVE to enjoy your delicious lemon meringue pie again this season, but sadly, I am on a diet”… is to respond with, “you don’t need to diet darling! We all love you just the way you are.. don’t be silly.. one piece of pie won’t hurt you!”.  Both host and hosted disempowered… and you have only yourself to blame.  Listen to how different this sounds : “You are such a wonderful host so I thought I better let you know as soon as possible so you understand and are aware that I wont be having any of your lemon meringue pie this year; I don’t eat sugar”.

Case closed.

When a vegan gets to a dinner party and a bleeding slice of meat is served up to them, they don’t eat it.  They don’t guzzle it down while whispering to their partner that they ‘don’t want to make a fuss’.  They don’t eat it, even if it causes an awkward moment.  They know their abstinence is a sure fire way of underlining their dietary preferences to ensure it won’t happen again, and the hostess will probably be mortified when realizing the mistake and knowing the guest will go hungry.  They don’t feel bad in the slightest because they know they have explained their choices several times. They feel quite comfortable pushing that plate away.

The difference, the very big difference, is that the vegan was not secretly hoping they would get the hard choice taken away from them and get ‘forced’ to eat the meat.  The vegan is truly comfortable and satisfied with their eating plan.  They own it.  They are fully in, not balancing on a knife edge, hoping for a push to topple them and give them an excuse to abdicate from the choice and responsibility of eating too much of the things they said they did not want to eat this season.

So there it is.  Nobody force fed me this festive season, or any other festive season.  If I feel I have been fattened like a goose for slaughter, I need to acknowledge it is I that am holding the feeding tube.

Is it not time healthy eaters took on an empowering term of their own?  I am a….”X”… sorry.. I cannot eat that.   A friend suggested the term “Spartan”, or I suppose we could stick with “dieter”.  I am not satisfied with either as I would prefer to move away from anything which references deprivation or self pity.  We need something which spells it out in the same way Vegan spells it out.

I need to think more on it.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.

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