The New Year is upon us, which means many of us have resolved to improve our eating habits, ramp up our exercise regimens, and shrink our bottom lines." And what inevitably happens when everyone collectively decides to go on a diet? It's suddenly all they can talk about.
Look, I get it. To diet is to obsess. Many years ago, I was a nervous undergraduate who had packed on the proverbial "freshman 15" (though in my case, it was the freshman 30) thanks to daily box of Wheat Thin crackers and nightly trips to the local ice cream parlor which created a particularly delectable "mix in." My "size-ist" family, for whom slenderness ranked somewhere above Godlines,s happily acceded to my wish to go slim down at spa.
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What I discovered after a week at said spa, dear reader, is that hell is not other people, as Sartre declared. Hell is spending every waking moment worrying about and talking about the size of your thighs with other people. There truly is nothing more boring. No, not even watching paint dry. In fact, given the choice, I rather watch some Benjamin Moore air out for three days than listen to myself or anyone else talk about the "Whole 30" for three minutes.
Given the choice, I'd rather watch some Benjamin Moore air out than listen to anyone talk about the 'Whole 30' for three minutes.
Do you really think your office mate, or that attractive person at the networking conference-or even your best friend!-wants to hear about the effect your high protein, no carb, gluten-free plan is having on your breath and bowel movements? If you do, think again! And if you're on a date, whether you are a man or a woman, there is no greater cold shower than talking obsessively about your relationship to food.
Like so many other subjects-your sexual proclivities, your spouse or lover's sexual proclivities, your dental hygiene regimen-diets are subjects best left to you and your health care professional, your shrink, your minister/priest/rabbi/imam, or your best friend.
But what if I'm going to a dinner and need a special meal?
Unless the person is your best friend, stay home. Why torment yourself with an evening of pushing the pasta around the plate and foregoing dessert, or make a nuisance of yourself by requesting wheatgrass-and-kale-infused poached chicken breast? Just as when you are recovering from a broken heart, you shouldn't listen to the song you and your ex danced to, when you are on a diet, you don't want to stare at a chocolate mousse or french fries.
Will power, like fossil fuel reserves, is finite. Conserve it for moments that matter.
But what if it's a girls' night and we're all talking about our diets?
My first thought is, isn't there anything less loaded to discuss, like the chances for peace in the Middle East or whether our President-elect has an untoward relationship with Russia? But if you must, make certain these are your besties.
And if you are slender and complaining about having packed on the holiday pounds, you will not win friends-only alienate those truly struggling. On the other hand, if you have deliberated carefully and come to the conclusion that losing weight is a good idea, it's something to discuss with a professional or your closest friend who wants the best for you-not a table full of potential diet saboteurs. (It almost goes without saying that the worst sin of all is to offer unsolicited dieting advice. When people want help, they will ask you. Don't presume otherwise.)
But what if someone notices I've lost weight and asks me how I did it?
If you have found an eating plan that has given you more energy and a better body than ever before and someone asks you, then, by all means, share the secrets of the Paleo/Protein/Skinny Female Canine Who Lives in South Beach plan. Just remember there is no one size fits all diet. What worked for you may not work for your friend, and there may be factors other than portion size at play. Remind them that you are a successful dieter, not a nutritionist or physician.
A Note to the slender: Everyone imagines that skinny people are just "born that way," can eat whatever they want, or don't like chocolate and desserts and burgers and fries. If asked how you "do it," don't feign a struggle you don't actually face-and definitely don't say "just born lucky I guess." Keep it vague and upbeat, thank them for the compliment (if there was one) and say something vague like "I aim for moderation at all times, but I don't always hit the mark."
Susan Fales-Hill is an author, arts advocate, and host of the New York Public Radio podcast "Icons and Innovators." A member of the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, she lives in Manhattan with her husband, her teenage daughter, and a labrador/pit bull rescue who has had the grace never to demolish a pair of her shoes. Now that's manners.
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