We all know a Plate Watcher. It can be a mother, aunt, cousin, friend, or co-worker. It can be Thanksgiving dinner or simply lunch on a Monday. They watch your plate and question why you only had one cupcake and not two. Why you’re having salad and not pizza.
What? Are you being healthy now?
Come on, one piece won’t kill you.
Relax, it’s the weekend.
I come from a culture where food pushing is a norm and is almost expected of you as a host. Sometimes I wonder if my relatives even realize what they’re saying when they insist I pile on a second serving of fried chicken or a third serving of rice. The same relatives that express, with no reservations whatsoever, their disdain with your weight gain and how you will never get married until you lose a little weight around the hips and maybe flatten those abs while you’re at it.
Let’s forget about the issue with my relatives for a second because that’s a completely different animal. This seems to happen on a smaller scale in my everyday interactions with people, and I didn’t become aware of it until recently. Over the summer, I made a commitment to myself to lead a healthier lifestyle. This means I eat cleaner, exercise, and enjoy the unhealthy things that I love in moderation. I don’t publicize this when I’m eating with others because a) I shouldn’t have to and b) you shouldn’t be watching my plate in the first place. I never care to see what others pile on their plates! Do you? I’m just concerned with stuffing my own face. I knew something was wrong with this picture when I had to lie about having pizza once to get someone off my back. Not good. I have a routine food schedule and although I make room for surprises, cravings, and events, I shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable if I politely pass on what seems like the equivalent of a Sunday dinner when it’s noon on a Tuesday.
I know people mean well, and I know I’m more aware of these encounters now more than ever because I am indeed actively trying to change my eating habits, but I’ve come to resent the pressure we put on each other to eat something we really don’t want to. The holiday season is the worst – all the cookies and parties and God forbid you didn’t try so and so’s cake pops. There’s a fine line between being a good host and making your guests feel comfortable enough to eat their fill and making them feel bad for only having one glass of wine and not the entire bottle. Think about it this way: when someone offers or questions why I didn’t have a slice of pepperoni pizza and I tell them it’s because I don’t eat pork, that’s the end of that discussion because they assume it’s for spiritual reasons and most people just don’t want to go there with that topic. Another great point brought up by my Weight Watcher’s leader: say you’re allergic to something, nobody would ever question you or pressure you to eat it. Yet culturally, if the excuse isn’t “valid” enough for the plate watcher, (i.e. I simply don’t want it) we’ve come to fully accept the act of food pushing.
So my advice? The next time a Plate Watcher gives you a hard time for eating healthy, respond with something completely outrageous such as “fried chicken gives me explosive diarrhea and sometimes even anal leakage” and we’ll see if they ever pressure you again.