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Wednesday wondering: Do you pay attention to what other people eat?

On my recent Blog Indiana post, Casey commented about meeting me:

I loved LOVED that you have a book out about losing more than half of yourself and yet you ate. Food. Like real food. Silly huh?

No, it’s not silly. Of course, not everyone is happy to hear that I don’t subsist solely on salads and rice cakes. Last year I posted about eating half a Dairy Queen cake on my birthday and one reader sent me a really angry email. If this blog had a door, she would have slammed it as she stormed off in a rage. The ire ice cream inspires on this blog surprises me. (BTW, I just searched for “Dairy Queen” to find that entry and found 10 entries. Maybe I should change my nickname from PQ to DQ?)

I’m not ashamed to eat food. When I was losing weight, I was hyper-aware of what I was eating and what others were eating. I wondered what people would think of my lunch choices. When I wasn’t wondering that, I wondered what other people thought I was thinking about their choices. I went to lunch with 3 friends one day and they all ordered large burgers with fries and I ordered a small salmon bisque because I’d just eaten and wasn’t hungry. As I stared at the food on our table, I hoped they didn’t think I was judging them for their meal choices. I think women should eat whatever the hell they want to eat and my small soup was not a judgement on their own eating habits.

Eventually I realized that I could never win. If I ordered something healthy, I might be seen as a diet nazi who knows no joy in life because she never eats an Almond Joy bar. If I ordered something decadent, people might think I should not be eating that because I could get fat again. Now I just eat whatever the hell I want to, be it deep-friend cookie dough or a grilled chicken sandwich. Since I had that personal epiphany, I don’t observe what other people are eating that much either, unless I want to ask for a bite off of their plate.

However, all of this thinking reminded me of an article I read a couple months ago about how women observe what their friends eat, which affects what they’ll eat. If everyone else is ordering a salad, you’re far less likely to order a double-cheeseburger with fries. However, you’re also much more likely to go home and eat double what you would have because you didn’t have the double-cheeseburger you wanted.

So I’d like to know, do you watch what your friends are eating? And if so, does it affect what you eat? Do you judge them because of it?

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81 Comments

gknee • August 27, 2008 at 11:30 am

thanks for the link to the article on women eyeing up each others food. We really are weirdos aren’t we?

I used to pay a lot of attention to what other people ate– pre OA.

It was just all about the comparing myself to others. I also worried about how fast i ate, how much I cleaned my plate etc. Now I just figure out what I need to eat, order it and eat it. Sometimes I feel a little self righteous about my healthier choices — especially when eating with someone who constantly gripes about the size of their ass and orders crap– but who am I to judge? that was me– and by the grace of god it won’t be me again, I hope.

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BB • August 27, 2008 at 11:33 am

I do pay attention to what my friends are eating, but I don’t judge. Sometimes when I’m in diet mode I think to myself that I made better choices then they made, but other times I just eat whatever. There choices don’t always affect what I eat, but sometimes they do.

One friend that I eat lunch with regularly orders a diet drink and I order a regular. The waiter/waitress ALWAYS brings me the diet drink. I began to get paranoid. Do they think I’m heavier and need it or that I’m thinner so I must be the diet drinker? We laugh about it now, but it still happens. I better stick with water.

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Skye • August 27, 2008 at 11:46 am

It is exceedingly difficult for me to go out to dinner with friends without blowing my diet out of the water. When I first starting losing weight I’d avoid doing anything that would throw me out of my routine. This often resulted in avoiding my friends for months on end. That got pretty lonely, so I made a real effort to find some middle ground. Now, if I want a burger, I have a burger. If I want dessert, I have that, too. Then, the next day, (usually) I’m right back on plan. I don’t pay much attention to what my friends are eating because I’m too focused on my own plate, and I imagine the same level of self absorption exists on their parts, as well.

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infiniteemily • August 27, 2008 at 11:50 am

I’ve been reading your book, and have found it really inspiring, so I decided to subscribe to your blog as well. In response to this entry, I do notice what people around me eat, but usually my response (if any) is jealousy and resentment– especially if the people I’m eating with are thin. It’s irrational and unfair, but I tend to think ‘why can SHE eat like THAT and be thin?’

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April • August 27, 2008 at 11:58 am

I don’t pay attention to what others are eating or judging them for that but I do find myself often more aware than I’d like to be about how I think others might think of my own choices. As an overweight person it’s so hard to enjoy something in public without fear that everyone around me is thinking, oh how gross. Should she be eating that? Just another obstacle to overcome on the road to a good, healthy body image.

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Kate • August 27, 2008 at 12:07 pm

If I go out to dinner with others, yeah, I watch what they eat. Not because I’m going to get a salad if they get a salad, but because I’m not going to order a $19 steak if they’re ordering a $3.99 soup and sandwich.

as for the choices with food, no, I don’t care if they’re eating a big greasy burger with a ton of fries while I’m eating the grilled chicken salad.

The only time I was ever embarrassed or caught people staring at a restaurant was at a Chinese buffet. Everyone at the table bemoaned that there had been no General Tso’s chicken out when they got their food. Well, when the servers put the General Tso’s out I was at the salad bar anyway, so I turned around and mounded a plate with General Tso’s. Everyone looked at me, but I was bringing back food for 5!

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alison • August 27, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I pay attention to what other people eat to a) see if it’s any good and b) make sure I don’t order the same thing as them (I have a real compulsion about not ordering the EXACT SAME THING as someone else at the table, it drives me crazy some times, and then I usually give up anyway and order what I want even if four other people at our table of 10 are having it).

I’d like to say I don’t judge what other people eat, and for the most part I don’t. I worry a little when my diabetic friend eats super sugary stuff, but that’s really it. What you choose to eat is your own business. And I’d like to think that I subscribe to that pretty well when I am out dining with others. I always come back to what my mother said when she was on weight watchers: that a lot of the salads are just as unhealthy as a lot of the burgers, so I’ll order the burger and fries if that’s what I’m craving, I just might not finish it all – there’s my compromise – and I don’t judge people based on how much food they leave on their plate either!

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Emily • August 27, 2008 at 12:23 pm

I definitely watch what other people eat, and I hate to say, I probably judge, too. It’s hard to not judge when you have friends that always talk about their weight, but make terrible choices. I also will order more healthy if everyone at my table orders healthy.

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jae • August 27, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I do pay attention what others are eating and I do order/eat accordingly. For instance, I love to go out with my sister in law, she will order a big burger but cut it in half and eat only one of the halves so I feel it’s ok for me to eat a big burger too, but only half.

I don’t judge people on what they’re eating, it’s not something I really notice other than in eating situations, but then I don’t judge. My husband on the other hand, is the WORST!! It drives me insane how he’s always got tabs and comments on what everyone is eating. It’s annoying. ~j

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Lori • August 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I don’t worry too much about what other people think of my eating choices. I used to worry a little more when I was much heavier, but now I don’t.

I do notice what other people eat, not to judge, but just out of curiosity. You never know if the meal they are eating is something they planned for. Or if they had already lost a lot of weight and this is an aberration.

Of course, it’s hard not to stare if it is one of those sizzling fajita plates that goes by. Yum!

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Alexia • August 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I don’t pay too much attention to what others are eating, but I always assume they are paying attention to what I am eating!

Boy, I had a DQ craving last night. The kids were ready for bed and my husband was out and I was seriously thinking about how I could get them in the car to go to the drive-through. But, then, I thought of the resulting sugar rush (them, not me) and canned the idea. Unfortunately, I ended up eating other stuff and not feeling satisfied. Perhaps a small ice cream is in order today. ;-)

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Karen • August 27, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Sometimes I do. It depends on how hungry I am whether I’ll order something similar to what they’re getting or not. I low carb too and none of my friends do so that makes a big difference in eating out. I’ll never get a danish pastry or a sandwich.

I do hate it when one will want dessert but won’t have it because nobody else is getting dessert. If I ate desserts and I wanted one, I’d just get it and not even think about it.

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maggieapril • August 27, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I always check out what others are eating because, afterall, I am an addict. I never judge – mostly because I can’t – my friends are all lean and healthy.

Just last night I dreamed I ate three Reese’s peanut butter cups and then my Weight Watchers leader stopped by the house and saw the wrappers in the trash and I was mortified. So I do, apparently, have a subconcious fear of being judged!!

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Alexia • August 27, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Interesting post I found off kottke.org about noticing and super-noticing: http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/ever-notice

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fd • August 27, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I only recently started REALLY paying attention to what I’m eating, and in doing so, also comparing with others. And it is true, that the skinny girls are usually eating less than me. Not necessarily more healthy foods, just smaller portions and fewer courses. In a fit of unhelpfulness however, my significant other, has started informing me every time I eat more or something less healthy than he does. Makes me angry and want to eat a pint of icecream. Ugh, sorry, mini rant :-)

Once though, I was at a chinese all you can eat buffet and was talking lots during the meal, and realised that the three six foot something guys I was with had finished eating. They said they were full up, and even though I was still really hungry, I was too embarrassed to be the little fat girl still eating.

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Alex • August 27, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Short answer: No. I eat what I want.

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tutugirl1345 • August 27, 2008 at 1:22 pm

My mom is a doctor, so I usually am eating healthier than others. I definitely pay attention to what other people are eating, and its usually with envy…if I’m having a salad, it’s pretty hard to watch someone else eat fettucini alfredo, even though I know I had a huge meal earlier and need some veggies!

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Lydia • August 27, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I feel very intimidated when my writers group orders Thai food and then they don’t eat all of their pad Thai they only eat 1/4 of it. I continued to nosh away, and suddenly realized that people were watching me, and I *felt* like I was being judged. So I put my pad Thai down and left the rest alone…gave it to my son for his lunch.

And now, I don’t want to order pad Thai if I am with that group of people. So yes, it totally affects me.

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Amy • August 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I pay attention to what my naturally thin friends eat – how much, etc. I still have trouble stopping when I’m full, especially when I’m out in public and there have been drinks, so if I pay attention to what they order & how much they eat, I can use it to assess where I’m at, too.

But I’m not all judgy or anything. I only judge the eating habits of overweight strangers.

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Gina • August 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I notice what others are ordering. If it is close friends then I’ll have whatever I am craving but if its people I don’t see too often I might stick with the salads. There was a time when I was on some meds and it caused me to chow down like a horse. I didn’t stop to breath. I couldn’t help it!

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Nancy • August 27, 2008 at 2:01 pm

If I’m paying for what I’m eating, it’s gonna be whatever I damned well please, and I respect anyone else in the restaurant for doing the same. I could care less what’s on their plates! It’s nobody’s business if we’re watching the calories that day or not. We all make our own choices and as long as we’re not annoying other customers by flinging food or yacking on our cell phones, we should just be enjoying our company and our food.

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Elizabeth • August 27, 2008 at 2:37 pm

I definitely check out what others are eating… I feel guilty when I get junk and I feel smug when I eat healthy… I never verbalize these thoughts, but I definitely have them… :-(

I have a funny story about this, though… I was eating food with a large group of people and a super thin girl had ordered a giant Caesar salad (loaded with dressing). She was very particular to eat around her croutons and someone asked her why that was… she smugly said it was because of the fat. I had to laugh because this girl had no idea that the Caesar dressing she had just inhaled had far more fat than her handful of croutons did… oh well, I continued eating my yummy fried fish… :-)

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Alex Tucker • August 27, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I won’t order first in a group. I won’t go first in a buffet line. I won’t be first in line at a cafeteria. I don’t notice what others eat, but I am alway afraid of being judged. I have lost 30 pounds in the last year very slowly, but I am a yo-yo dieter. This is the first time I have lost it and kept it off this long. I have had some health problems that stopped my exercise, but I have maintained for 6 months. I will be released in October to start slowly exercising again.

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katy • August 27, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Interesting you should mention this kind phenomenon. Although I must admit that my related experience doesn’t revolve around food, it revolves around alcohol.

I’m not a big drinker. I don’t like beer or wine, and I never order it with my dinner. It’s not because I am morally opposed, or religiously restricted: I just don’t like the way it tastes.

I have no problem with alcohol whatsoever. People may do as they please and frankly, it’s no skin off my nose how much they consume.

But it’s happened more than once that when I’m around people who are drinking, it seems as though my choice not to drink makes them uncomfortable.

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Teresa • August 27, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I don’t always watch what my friends eat, but I do tend to watch what my husband eats. It isn’t so much the food choice, but the amount. I sometimes despise the fact that men (in general) can eat slightly bigger portions than women and be okay. I have a tendency to want to ‘coach’ him on his eating behavior and that is wrong of me! So, you’re not alone and I do agree whole heartedly that it is okay to eat what you want and not worry about others.

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abby • August 27, 2008 at 3:24 pm

can you write a bit about what you do on phase 1 of southbeach? i am trying to begin and that would be really really really helpful!

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Laura • August 27, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I don’t watch..any more. I decided to change the way I eat and stop dieting. I have been able to stick to this plan and only watch what people/friends order so I can have a bite. My birthday is not until October but, my husband already knows he will be going to Cold Stone for the cake batter confetti cake. I’m going to eat as much as I want and enjoy every damn bit of it!

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deanna • August 27, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I watch what everyone eats. If I am out to dinner with friends it could affect my choices, lately no because I have had greater will power but other days absofreakinglutely. I can be really weak. I don’t usually judge what other heavy gals eat but the skinny ones I do, and it’s usually “I wish I was skinny so I can eat like that” or ” No wonder she’s skinny because she eats like that”. I look forward to the day I don’t care what anyone eats, including myself! Just another fucking thing to work on! JEEZE! It never ends!!!!!

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terri • August 27, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I notice what people eat, but I don’t think about it that much. It’s like noticing what they’re wearing.

I don’t like to tell people that I’m trying to lose weight. I think if they have that in mind, then they will really notice what I’m eating and how fast I’m eating. I just don’t want to deal with that.

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Benita • August 27, 2008 at 3:50 pm

I tend to order what I want no matter what others order. Case in point, I have a co-worker who eats at McDonald’s nearly every day and gets either a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Large Coke or the new Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich and a Large Coke. I bring my lunch most days and each a Lean Cuisine with an extra helping of veggies on the side. I will not feel guilty for trying to eat healthy, but I am trying to lead by example (this person is always talking about how much weight she has gained).

I have to admit, I tend to judge what people buy at the grocery store more than what they eat at restaurants. Eating out might be considered a treat to some people (and with the economy going the way it is – to more people every day), but what they buy at the grocery store usually is what they really eat. That actually helps me to make smarter choices. :)

BTW, I am REALLY enjoying your book. The stories of you in high school make me cringe. Gee, I thought that stuff only happened to me.

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melissa Roy • August 27, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I think I’m like a lot of the commenters by saying that, Yeah, I notice what my friends are eating but only in a way that I would notice anything else about them…their outfit, hair style, etc. I do not let what anyone else orders affect my order at all, ever. I’ll eat a burger/fries if that’s what I want and the others order “light.” We all have our own food agendas and issues so I think its… to each his own food. Your body, your eats.

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still reading • August 27, 2008 at 3:53 pm

its not so much that I notice or care about what others eat, but my friends absolutely influence my decisions…if I have determined before hand that I am only ordering a salad, and a friend decides to have the burger, fries and bucket of beer special, well…whoo-hoo! I have it too. cause you know thats what I REALLY wanted. Unfortunately it rarely works the other way around.

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Esmeralda Rupp- Spangle • August 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm

I, actually, don’t much care. I know that *sounds* impossible, but honestly- I don’t. I used to definitely let others choices influence my own- but since my weight loss, I’ve gained new perspective. I know what my body wants/ what it needs/ how to tell between the two. I know what I want and since 99% of the time it’s wacky foreign food that most people think is gross, I learned to ignore one type of judgement, and then slowly, all types.

The other day some co-workers took me out to lunch and they all ordered burgers and fries. I got the hummus/feta/ and kalmata olive plate. They all looked at me like I was insane, but I have no shame. Really.

It’s cool, but it took a long time to cultivate.

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nolafwug • August 27, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Oh DQ – I mean PQ – I thought about you at the grocery store the other day. Philly Swirls now makes ice cream cupcakes in six-packs – mini ice cream cakes! They must read your blog. I bought a pack and ate one in your honor – delicious and only about 150 calories. Cheers!

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Marste • August 27, 2008 at 4:07 pm

I always used to notice what others were eating, but I used that info then to judge myself. If they were eating less, I should be eating less. If they were eating more, they probably “earned” it by eating less, so I should eat less. How’s that for a rationalization? (Did I mention I had some seriously disordered eating?)

I’ve gotten a lot better about it, though. Now, 80% of the time I just order what I want. The other 20% is still hard.

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Sara • August 27, 2008 at 4:24 pm

I try to follow that whole “judge not, lest ye…” edict.

I think we attach too much morality to our food choices. Working to remove the value judgement from food has helped me a lot. Chocolate isn’t evil, celery isn’t accomplishment, pizza isn’t failure and skim milk isn’t success. It’s all just FOOD. It has a relative caloric value, and if I can fit it in, I can eat it.

I get tired of the food police looking down their noses at the choices other people make. I am especially annoyed when the person who is doing the downward-nose-looking doesn’t have enough street cred under their weight-loss belt to be judging my meal. The only thing more annoying than a formerly fat person who thinks they have all the answers is a CURRENTLY fat person who thinks they have all the answers.

Hmm. Maybe I should have passed on that side order of lingering bitterness at lunch…

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Katie • August 27, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I guess I do pay attention to what other people are eating, especially now that I’ve become focused on my own habits. I try not to judge, but sometimes I probably do.

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Jenelle • August 27, 2008 at 4:33 pm

As someone who’s been health-conscious/losing weight for about a year I have been really careful not to make anyone around me feel guilty for enjoying the foods they’d like to enjoy. I just happen to have conditioned myself to enjoy the lighter faire. Dining out is definitely more fun when I am with other health-conscious friends. Finding tasty, healthy meals is kind of like a hunt because so much of what tastes good is not necessarily good for the body (like fried cookie dough, which despite my better judgement, I would probably HAVE to try.)

I think that the weight loss process has been made easier by supportive friends and family who take similar steps to take care of themselves, although it is not right for anyone to be denied what they want out of guilt.

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Gwendolyn • August 27, 2008 at 4:48 pm

The only real time I was seriously aware of what others ate was at a restaurant I worked at where two overweight women ordered the extra large deep dish pizza with extra toppings and cheese, chef salads with extra ranch dressing, a huge basket of garlic bread (with cheese), a slice cheesecake for each and then to wash it down, a Diet Coke. This was 19 years ago, but I still remember their order, it was a huge amount of food for only two people. I think the reason it stuck in my mind so well was because I just could not figure out why they bothered with the Diet Coke!

When I’d go out with friends in the past, I usually didn’t pay much attention to what they were eating or what I was eating. I ate whatever I wanted. Many times when I went out, it was because a friend wanted an excuse to go out and order the deadly tall cake at Ruby Tuesday’s to ‘share’ together. I think she felt she could justify ordering and eating most of it if a fatter girl was with her. haha

I no longer eat out, but I have found myself cringing when I see people making horrible choices at the grocery store, especially when it’s parents filling their shopping carts with really bad food for their children. That bugs me the most, so I try to not look at other carts.

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Alex • August 27, 2008 at 4:54 pm

I have definitely started to notice this, because I have a friend with an eating disorder and while I wouldn’t comment on how little she eats, I do take notice of how little the amount of food on the plate changes.

My friends at school never commented on what I ate while I was losing weight this semester (although one friend did ask me if I had an eating disorder, which really offended me given the above), but I had so much trouble with my friends at home. All of them are naturally thin and as far as I can tell, they’ve always eaten whatever the hell they wanted. So when I stopped eating the crap they eat, I think I made them feel guilty even though I wasn’t feeling smug about it at all. And I wanted to just say, “It doesn’t matter! You’re thin! Eat the food!!!” I actually feel like a lot of the time like my diet makes other people feel like they should be healthy too, and I really wish it would stop happening. I guess I haven’t learned to play it down well yet.

But I don’t understand the rationale behind feeling smug about eating healthier than someone else. I do feel smug about not eating things with HFCS or other things that are overly processed, but if I’m having a salad and my friend is having a burger, I’m always going to feel envious, not smug.

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Lucrecia • August 27, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Hmmm, I’ve never really thought about it, but yes, I’m very aware of what others are eating when eating out. Especially with co-workers or people I don’t know well. I certainly influenced to eat more healthy when I’m out in public.

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kilax • August 27, 2008 at 5:00 pm

I definitely notice what other people are eating – especially in the office, but I don’t let it affect what I choose to eat. I am just interested in what other people eat for some strange reason…

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PastaQueen • August 27, 2008 at 5:04 pm

@abby – Both Google and the South Beach Diet book have more information on it than I’d be able to give.

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Annette • August 27, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I do watch what others eat. I have to say that I don’t judge but I do feel empowered when I know I made the healthy choice that day and won’t feel guilty later ;)

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Jen • August 27, 2008 at 5:08 pm

As a fat girl, I get judged for my eating all the time. No one says anything to me but I can feel it and see it. This makes me really uncomfortable. I get the small portions, I eat the salad, I skip the dessert. I don’t enjoy meals with friends–I endure them.

One of my chubby friends is on a diet. And she eats very little. But when she does eat, she makes such a big production out of it–about how huge the portion is, how full she is, etc. We’re talking a 300 calorie frozen meal. She repeats it over and over again, ad nauseam (at least 5 times). As I am a good 50 pounds heavier than her it just makes me feel like crap. Do you think maybe she says this on purpose? What do you all think?

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

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nolafwug • August 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

I think going out to eat with others is more than just eating – it’s a shared experience. My boyfriend was kinda mad at me when we went to a really nice restaurant with a large group and although I was determined to try new things and I did, I really didn’t like anything I ordered and thus didn’t really eat that much. He said it ruined it for everyone. I didn’t want people to think I was a freak but I just really really didn’t like anything they had on the menu (it was a limited brunch menu for a special occasion and I’m a vegetarian so there wasn’t much to choose from). I definitely worry more about how others might be judging my food choices and spend relatively little time even noticing what the next guy or gal’s doing.

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Kari • August 27, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Jen -

I’m wondering if people are truly watching/judging your eating or if you perceive it that way because you are afraid they are. Often our perception of what other people are thinking about us is very different from what they actually are thinking about us, because, let’s face it, how much time do you spend worrying about what someone else looks like/eats/etc.? Probably not much. Your friends are probably about the same. This perception could also be caused by internal mechanisms…i.e. you feel guilty for eating [whatever it was] but don’t want to admit that so you are projecting it onto someone else…justifying that “guilt” by assuming someone else is judging you…make sense? So here’s my advice: Don’t worry about what they think (if they are even thinking about what you’re eating). Do what you need to do to be full and be healthy…if someone else is judging what you’re eating, then they need to look inside themselves.

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Kari • August 27, 2008 at 6:44 pm

I don’t really worry about what others think about what I’m eating — in fact, what really frustrates me is when others think of me as “on a diet” and assume there are things I won’t eat (like spaghetti or cookies) simply because I eat fruit as a snack at work. Since when is eating healthy equal to “on a diet”? I think that really says something about our society and its unhealthy view of what it means to eat healthy. Like eating healthy is something to be done only temporarily while trying to lose weight, after which you will go right back to eating Hardees Thickburgers every day. Eating healthy should be something we all do, but it also doesn’t mean completely cutting out things that aren’t 100% healthy. (Like DQ Ice Cream Cake…mmmmmm.) I still enjoy the foods I like…I just watch my calories when I do it.

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K • August 27, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I don’t eat out in company very often, so it’s not going to be a diet-dooming occurrence whatever I order. I never stress over my main course because (like the poster above) I’m vegetarian and often there isn’t that much choice. People often express sympathy for this, so clearly they are not judging me on what I’m eating.

However, I don’t order a dessert if nobody else does, simply because it’s awkward to be the only one eating, and it means we don’t all finish nicely synchronised so we can pay. If ONE other person says they will, though, I will. I am partly conscious that I’ll look greedy, but I don’t think it’s the main reason.

I could never leave food on my plate at a restaurant unless it was seriously disgusting. It’s as well that I don’t have to deal with US-sized portions!

I don’t think I notice other people much, but I do have a new colleague who’s very slim, and was sort of relieved when she took something from the office biscuit tin (because if she did it, so could I…) It’s mildly annoying that she can eat chocolate biscuits and still be that slim, but I don’t know what she eats the rest of the time so I can’t judge.

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Tara • August 27, 2008 at 6:50 pm

This is one reason i never eat at buffet style resturants. I always felt people were watching me thinking wow she really doesn’t need that, or does she really need to go back for dessert. I also watch what people are eating, not in a bad way like oh they dont need that but like if i ate that i would gain like 5 pounds. Like yesturday i was at a family BBQ. I happen to be the fattest one there, but where am i not the fattest person? Anyways, i am on the southbeach diet and cant eat sugars. Well there were some delicious white chocolate macadamian nut cookies from costco(which happen to be my favorite) everyone was biting into those things without a care in the world. As this really skinny girl stacked up like 5 cookies and downed them all in like 2 minutes flat, I just thought just looking at those cookies would make me gain 10 pounds where she would probally lose weight. It is really sad that these thoughts are even in our minds but we cant help it, it almost seems automatic.

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SL • August 27, 2008 at 7:09 pm

I don’t care what acquaintances order at restaurants, but I can’t help but take notice what my family and closest friends are ordering. When I see what they are ordering I am either happy they are ordering something healthy, or if it’s unhealthy I’m wishing they would take better care of themselves. It’s not that I care what they weigh, but I am happy to see my favorite people eating food that will keep them as healthy as possible. I don’t say anything out loud though because I don’t think they would appreciate it :)

As for feeling judged, I sometimes feel a little embarrassed when I ask the waiter questions and take a few extra seconds to ask for some modifications/substitutions. I sometimes feel like others might be thinking, oh we can’t take her anywhere, look how picky she is! I have seen an eye roll or two!

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Maureen • August 27, 2008 at 7:16 pm

This is an interesting topic, I haven’t read all of the comments-but one that Katy made above struck a chord. She doesn’t drink, and she doesn’t care that other people do, yet they don’t feel comfortable with her non-drinking.

It’s the same with food, because there are VERY FEW women who do not have issues with food. I don’t care how thin, heavy, medium sized you are-women have such a strange relationship with food, it makes them crazy. Maybe some men do too, but in my experience, all 47 years of it, women are the crazy ones.

Here is what I think and god knows I could be way off base…but women judge themselves as being “bad” or “good” depending on what they put in their mouths.They look at what other people eat, and think “I am being better or worse than the people I am eating with” Not that they are judging the other person, but they are always judging themselves.

So, I gave all that up once I realized I was placing a moral judgement on myself by the food I put in my mouth. I’m not perfect, but my character isn’t defined by the food I eat.

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MizFit • August 27, 2008 at 7:34 pm

awesome post as evidenced by the interesting funny insightful comments.

I dont.

notice that is.

perhaps I need to get out more (I so do…toddlerville is killing me) but Im always just happy to be, well, OUT!!

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cindy • August 27, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Hi PQ,

yes, I notice what other people are eating, but not to judge them. I want what ever anybody has. I am obsessed with food and can’t stop thinking about it. I look at portions, too. If I order the same thing as someone else, my plate always looks smaller. I know its not true, but it always feels that way. I must have been cheated in a previous life because my mind always sees what I have as deficient. Even after changing my eating habits and losing so much weight, this aspect of my personality hasn’t changed. I feel deprived ~ and I HATE that about me. I covet what anyone has.

I never judge others, but I always judge myself… and I almost always feel that others are judging me as well. Writing this out, I realize how self-absorbed it sounds… and how unhealthy it sounds, so I hope I can work on this obsession next. I’ve fixed some of the symptoms of this “illness,” its true, but I haven’t found the cure… yet…

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Sarah • August 27, 2008 at 8:30 pm

As always, you bring up some interesting points.

I remember a friend and I were out for breakfast at our local 24-hour Greek diner, and we both wanted to order the “two eggs any style”-combo. She had to go to the restroom, so she told me the meat/toast-or-pancakes/how-to-cook-eggs specifications and asked me to place her order for her. When she came back, she started asking me how I had ordered my eggs, which side I had gotten, etc. When I told her I had gotten turkey sausage and a side of fruit, she was all, “Oh, now you’re making me feel bad.” Sorry for the long story, but my point is that women definitely take notice when you make an effort to be healthy … and the funny thing is, I only succeed in this end about half the time. I’m just as likely to douse my (large) movie theater popcorn in ten pounds of butter and to order a cheeseburger and fries in a restaurant as I am to order a grilled salmon or a salad.

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Jen • August 27, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Kari,

Thanks for your reply. I have thought about that before. I could be projecting a little bit. But I think this situation is isolated to a certain group of friends. I hope that you are right but this group is obessed with how much food they eat, portions, etc. I realized whether or not they are judging me, the whole situation is dysfunctional.

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Heather • August 27, 2008 at 10:26 pm

When eating with friends, I hate being the one still eating after everyone else is finished. I tend to order whatever I want, though. I also have a co-worker who eats fast food for breakfast and lunch every day and still keeps off the weight she lost. That bugs me, but only because I can’t do that and not gain weight!

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Katrina • August 27, 2008 at 10:48 pm

When I was in high school, I would go out to eat with friends and eat as little as possible. I acted like it was a big secret that I was fat.

Then came college, where I was surrounded by stress and all the glutonous food I could eat stood around me at all times of the day. I didn’t care anymore.

I don’t think I pay attention to what other people are eating who I have no relantionship with. I could care less that my gripe-y twig of a co-worker eats tofu burgers everyday. Good for her. I know Whole Foods appreciates her business.

But at the same time, with my true friends (i.e. those I mostly went to college with and love the most)I usually mirror thier eating (and drinking) habits. If they’re eating a huge burger with cheese fries, so am I. If they have 5 beers, I’m going to match everyone of them. What has always been my problem is I associate food with love.

Did I mention Monday I’m going on a diet? :)

Thanks for the insight. I don’t think there is any crime in having 10 post about DQ. I love that you’re real. When all is said and done, we’re only taking one ride on this sphere, and one blizzard isn’t going to slow it down (just don’t have it with the cheese fries! :)

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Mich • August 27, 2008 at 11:02 pm

I never watch what other people eat; not my business. Should someone makes a comment about what I eat (or feel the need to share their food and weight neuroses in my presence) I might say something sarcastic or pointed, such as “In my family the skinny people die first” or some such, as needed, to get them to shut up.

My assumption is that there’s a special (and apparently, crowded) corner of hell reserved for people who stick their noses into other people’s plates.

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Christie • August 28, 2008 at 2:38 am

I do pay attention to what my friends eat. It usually encourages me to eat things that I know I shouldn’t. I feel the same dilemma that you described about being screwed either way. If I eat healthy everyone will bother me about it and I will feel badly. If I eat crap, I win with the crowd but I will feel badly about it.

So pretty much the only thing to do is just eat what you wanted in the first place.

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Greg • August 28, 2008 at 6:59 am

I tend notice that I am getting seconds while they have finished, but never worried about what they ate. As for you, yes we’re all watching what you eat. All the time……

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earthmamma • August 28, 2008 at 7:49 am

ive been trying to observe people’s eating ‘styles’ so that i can learn from them. as in – before i would just be so focused on the food and make sure that i got my ‘fair share’ – and not in anyway notice what was going on around me. now i sit back and watch how 8 women can sit in a room and take one or two pieces of chocolate and leave the rest. i just find that fascinating since its not long ago i could devour a family block of chocolate in minutes. i would like to think that over time i can become one of those people who dont finish everything on their plate…and just enjoy having a taste of something…instead of seeing if they can break some world eating record.

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Marla • August 28, 2008 at 8:45 am

I only notice what other people eat when it’s fairly extreme. Someone with a shopping-cart full of chips, cookies, and snacks at the supermarket. Or my friends who “hate vegetables”–ALL vegetables. That’s just weird to me; it’s like if they admitted they’d ONLY ever had sex in the missionary position. I’d think, Well that doesn’t make you bad people or anything, but IMO that’s just freaky!

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John's Weight Loss Blog • August 28, 2008 at 9:35 am

I think part of my problem is I am not “hyper-aware” of what I eat. I need to get there, and soon!

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Quix • August 28, 2008 at 10:24 am

I do pay attention, but not to judge, just to observe. I have a psych degree, so it makes sense! Since I started on this weight loss thingee really seriously a year ago, I eat whatever the hell I want that fits in my plan for the day. If that’s a burger and fries or a soup and salad, so be it.

I do sometimes ponder the example I’m setting for my friends, as I’ve succeeded in losing where some of them are struggling. If I eat the burger do I reinforce that what you eat doesn’t matter? If I eat the salad, does it make them think they have to eat rabbit food all the time or they won’t succeed, which is SO NOT TRUE.

I spent some time studying the way that skinny people eat when I was heavier, and found that the people we think “can stay skinny and eat whatever they want” are generally just satisfied on smaller portions, and have no problems throwing food away or giving it away. I’m getting there, but with some things it’s hard (hi 2 u, potato chips…).

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lindsey • August 28, 2008 at 10:43 am

I really don’t pay attention to much of what my friends eat, except for two women that are also trying to change their eating habits like I am. I personally try to fully balance a meal because I am trying to make a lifetime change for eating better. One of the ladies has lost oodles of weight already, but she takes a diet pill and for lunch she really neglects the calories that she should be eating. She maybe only eats 175 calories. But she drinks Vitamin water all day and in the evenings she consumes about the same calories, so when she gets off her diet pill… she has a really good chance of gaining back what she has lost. I worry for her. I don’t want to say anything to her because she is so happy with the weight she has melted off(she has gone from 18w to 8/10 if you want to know.) The other lady and I are trying to keep each other motivated so we really stay on key about what the other one eats.

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JEM • August 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

I do watch what my friends eat mostly out of curiosity. All of my best friends are thin. At first I started watching what they ate so I could possibly emulate them and possibly shed some pounds and be thin too. However what I found was some of them ate more and worse than I did and some ate less and better than I did. It was a very individual thing. One of my best friends (lets call her Emily) eats at least double what I eat at every meal and is still 5’9” and 140 pounds. I have watched her eat an entire pack of chocolate chip cookies! If nothing else I am jealous of her. However some of my other friends count every calorie and only eat dry salads to stay so tiny. It is always so interesting to see how each person’s body and mind relate with food.

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Caffeinated • August 28, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Honestly? Hell yes, I pay attention to what other people eat and definitely feel very self-aware about how others might be perceiving my food. It’s part of my messed up food relationship. It’s like how an alcoholic goes to a party and immediately, whether they are drinking or not, knows exactly how much booze there is, what kinds, how many different varieties, and who is drinking what – even if they aren’t drinking?? I’m the same way with food – I know instantly what is on the table, what kinds, how much, and who’s eating what – including me. It’s really messed up, in my opinion, but there it is.

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Demille • August 28, 2008 at 1:30 pm

I just read your book. I’m not hugely overweight but I’m 37 almost and my waist has all but disappeared. Same old story for most thirty somethings. I’m 5’1″ and at work I usually get harrassed by my female colleagues if I don’t eat the biscuits and cakes that are brought in for breaktime snacks. One of them is a 6 foot tall slim lady and the other a 5′ 10″ workaholic. It’s nothing horrid and I’m strong willed enough to tell them to get lost and they do take it well. We’re good friends out of work too, which helps.

My husband is a very big guy who was about 100ibs overweight until he read your book. Since then he has changed his habits somewhat and lost about 30lbs so far. However, he has become very discerning about what he will eat and feels no way whatsoever about commenting on what others eat. This is a good thing as far as I am concerned for him. I just hope that he does not start to express his opinions to people whilst they are actually eating. He has started eating thai food when he and his colleagues go out for lunch and gasp, has stopped eating when he is full!!

I think an awareness of what others are eating is a good thing as it makes you think about what you are eating. But like the other comment above, as you are aware you cannot help but wonder how the hell others are ramming their shopping trolleys full of fat and sugar laden, over processed foodstuffs in apparent ignorance of its impact upon their health. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a red wine and black coffee lady who loves dark chocolate.

Here in England we are constantly given TV shows about how to make ourselves younger, healthier, stop killing our kids with our bad habits etc. Health initiatives by the government to inform us about food content are broadcast constantly.

Awareness is key to improvement but it’s a small step to harrassment.

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victoria • August 28, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I went to a women’s college. At one point I learned that if a woman went to the dining hall with her friends, and she was the first in line, she would often — wait for it — “feel pressure to take a large portion because she knew that her friends in line behind her would feel pressure not to take a larger portion than the first woman had taken.” Yet at the same time, of course, the first woman would feel pressure not to take too large a portion for fear that her friends would think her a pig.

When I heard this, my response was, “You people are FARKING CRAZY. You don’t have anything better to think about than what someone else might be thinking about your portion size? Are you KIDDING ME? Here we are privileged to attend one of the best colleges in the country and you’re worried about your stupid portion size? Who, who on God’s green earth could POSSIBLY be petty enough to notice — much less CARE — how much someone else was eating???”

I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.

Then I learned that – wait for it — apparently EVERYONE BUT ME weas feeling this pressure! I was the “freak” of the whole school because I just took whatever dang portion I felt like and it never occurred to me to wonder whether anyone else was looking at my plate. (Look at my plate? What, were they monitoring the way I did my laundry? Kept my notes? Tied my shoes? What kind of Stasi surveillance was going on here, anyway?)

I eventually learned that almost everyone at that school — except me — was constantly worried about her weight. It was a CONSTANT topic of conversation. “She gets these HUGE salads every day and then she wonders why she can’t lose weight.” “I wouldn’t eat that if I were you. There’s 80 calories in half a piece of pita bread.”

I thought the whole point of attending a women’s college was to learn without the pressure to fit into the little boxes that mainstream culture wants women to fit into, but I guess that pressure is everywhere.

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Anne • August 28, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Oh, sad but true. Just about a month or so ago, I was having lunch with a colleague who I didn’t really know. She is a petite woman and thus thought nothing of asking if I wanted to split a sandwich for lunch. I was starving and wanted my own goddamned sandwich, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell her as such. Came home hungry and $15 lighter, not to mention really mad at myself for being so stupid.

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Laura Brandon • August 28, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I only have one friend whose meals I pay attention to, and it’s because she’s skinny, so something in me ends up thinking, I should eat what she’s eating. And if I don’t, I always wonder if she’s judging me, because she knows I’m trying to lose weight. I don’t want her to be thinking “Laura shouldn’t be eating that.” But she’s the only one I can think of that I do that with.

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Esmerelda • August 28, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I used to care. Now I only pay attention in business situations or when someone else is buying. Otherwise, I eat whatever I like because I like food. If you’re eating with me you know I like food.

Plus, I’ve got this whole triathlon thing going on and if anyone gives me a sideways glance I just say, ‘training’.

It made dating hard because the guys would marvel at what I could eat, and it was hard for me to feel comfortable eating what I wanted (that is, I’d always order the steak which is often the most expensive thing on the menu).

So, I watch what people eat, but not because of portion or quality. I eat what I want generally when I want, and they can kiss my ass.

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Nichole • August 28, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Do I keep tabs on what my friends eat? No. However I use to be well aware of what I was eating.

Sometimes I feel I have to prove to people that I do eat (because I’m really thin) so I end up ordering more food than I can actually eat. I don’t do this as much now, but I really did a lot before. Some people didn’t believe I ate at all.

Now I don’t care much, especially if I’m in good company. I just eat what I’m in the mood for. My eating habits have changed over the past two years (I’m eating a lot more healthy) but that doesn’t mean I thrive of salad and rice cakes.

I LOVE CHEESE SO FRICKEN MUCH!

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Amy • August 29, 2008 at 11:32 am

I don’t really pay much attention to what other people are eating. But I do sometimes alter my order depending on what my tablemates are eating and how skinny they are.

What I do pay attention to is what people are drinking. Mostly b/c I cannot understand how people — skinny or not — can drink regular soda. Usually, though, the people I lunch with either have water, diet soda or iced tea. So when someone does order regular soda, I notice. And I usually notice that they are skinny!

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abby • September 3, 2008 at 1:55 am

@PastaQueen

thanks

i do have the book

just wondering what has worked for you

with phase one

i fall off of it before day one is through

thanks -

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PastaQueen • September 3, 2008 at 9:07 am

@abby – I have to be totally prepared, stocking my fridge with foods and bringing them to work. Otherwise it’s too easy to cheat.

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maris • September 8, 2008 at 1:55 pm

YUP. I pay attention to everything that other people eat, even though I logically know that no good can really come of it!

Everyone has a different metabolism and nutritional needs so while my friend might be able to eat a cheeseburger and fries for lunch, I can’t do that regularly without gaining weight.

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Kelly • September 10, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Count me among the dysfunctional. I’m so that girl who waits to see what everyone else is ordering before making a decision so I’m not the odd man out at the table. Ridiculous…I know…’cause my food choices are so intriguing that all of my dinner companions just can’t help but take note. : )

It was lovely meeting you at “IT Girl” Ellen’s dinner Tuesday night. Hope you weren’t too overwhelmed by our very loud, very opinionated company.

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Calidaho • October 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm

When I lost a bunch of weight, people would ask, “Can you eat pasta?” (Or cookies or potatoes or whatever most people don’t eat when they are on a diet). I just responded. “I can eat whatever I want.”

I DO watch what my thin co-workers eat. I grew up in a house where people ate like birds (how I became a pig is something my therapist and I dug through). But that was a long time ago. I have been married for 7 years to a sweet but nutritionally challenged guy and I think I have lost perspective. So, I learn from my 45 year old, thin, fit co-worker. Sometimes she eats a big fat tuna sandwich for lunch but more often she eats a rice bowl, lean cuisine or a PB&J with some chipsm maybe carrots. Not always the healthiest but she isn’t eating a TON. And, she swims a lot. And she goes hiking every weekend. I hope I don’t creep her out with my watchful eye.

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Annika Q • November 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

When I was a teenager, my parents would sometimes make comments about what I was eating, usually to the effect of “that’s a lot of cheese.” Sometimes other foods, but usually the cheese. I don’t think it’s because I was heavy, although I was about 15 pounds overweight, but just as an expression of their diet philosophy. Still, it made me always feel nervous about what I was eating around them, because I didn’t want to hear it and really didn’t want to talk about it. Now that I’ve lost 35 pounds on my own, I feel much more comfortable. They don’t say much anyway since I’ve moved out, but I imagine that now they will see me eating bread and cheese and shrug to themselves “she’s been losing weight successfully, so she must know what she’s doing.”

I’ve never compared my diet to that of my friends much, but since starting to lose weight, I’ve done so more – not in a judgmental or advisory way, but more as an observational exercise. Nutrition and the like are on my mind more so it naturally occurs to me to notice those things.

I have always paid attention to eating speed, for very different reasons. I’ve always eaten faster than maybe 75% of people I eat with, but I didn’t like to finish first because I was liable to be distracted by their food, especially if they were dawdling and seemed like they might not finish. So I would try to slow down or make finicky preparations before eating so as to let them get a head start. It’s less of an issue now.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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