Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm Your Private Eater...

I like to eat in private. I'd rather eat by myself than with people and I prefer not to eat out at all. I know it's all psychological and I know that it's not healthy. But, I'm fat. And as a fat girl, I'm super uncomfortable eating in public. There are so many things you can't do with your food in public. You can't:

--Make a buffet of sauces for you to dip each bite into
--Wear a shirt you don't care about spilling on
--Get things on your face and not care
--Prepare your food the way you want to
--Watch TV

I'm the queen of take-out. I'll pick up food a couple times a week and bring it home. There, I usually lay a large towel on my bed, put on a crappy old tshirt, get out my "eating tray", prepare my sauces, make sure I have a cold drink, find my remote and get down to business.

Sometimes, I wish a therapist could observe this craziness, but then again, it defeats the purpose of loving to eat alone. And on those occasions when I do go out to eat, I'll usually pick at my food, eat about 1/4 of it and then bring the rest home and follow the ritual mentioned above.

I had been at my old job for such a long time that I really got into a comfortable place where I didn't care who saw me eating what. But, that's not the same with my new job, especially since I'm now in a cubicle next to a woman named Beverly.

I love, love, love Beverly. Once, when I was having a bad day I almost asked her for a hug. She's awesome and a motherly figure. And, she always asks me what I'm eating. She must have some sort of bionic ears/nose because she can hear/smell everything. And every time I'm enjoying my lunch, she says something.

"Whatcha eating?"
"That smells good"
"Let me come and see what you're eating"

It's almost too much to handle. And the thing is, I could go eat someplace more secluded, but if I did that would mean I'm taking traditional lunch hours and I would have to stay later at work. (my boss allows me to skip lunch, eat quickly and leave an hour early)

So, I'm going to have to work on this eating out stuff, because:

1. The food here is pretty good
2. It's only Beverly
3. I can't be this crazy anymore.


Anonymous said...

I have issues eating in public too. But for other reasons. Whenever I eat in public I'm always terrified somebody will see me and wonder why some fat girl is eating *insert various foods that I'd be eating here* It terrifies me. To the point where I avoid eating in public like the plague. Or when I do eat, I tend to get salads and other stuff people would be less likely to comment on.

I suppose it's really quite conceited of me. To think that everybody is so focused on me that they give a damn about what I eat or how I eat it.

But the fact remains. I hate eating in public. Or in front of people, even family sometimes.

I wonder when I am skinny (when, not if.)if I'll still feel the same.

JessiferSeabs said...

You know, I moved in with a roommate in June of 2003, after living alone for 4 years. In August I met my boyfriend and I always say that was when I started losing weight. But really, I think it was when I moved in with the roommate. My eating habits were so atrocious that I'd never let anybody actually witness that...

kat said...

What kind of sucks is when you see overweight people eating salads, you kind of assume that they are just eating like birds in public and that they're going to go home and stuff their faces later. I know I certainly used to eat practically nothing in public (sometimes because I'd be full from previous binge eating), but the thing is, I wasn't fooling anybody. So in a sense fat people can't win either way.
As an aside, my weight only came down when I was able to enjoy the same food (not just healthy stuff) in public and private. If I eat by myself too much, I start to put on weight. Moral of the story? Eat cake outside!

Anonymous said...

Glad I'm not the only crazy person who changes shirts...

Anonymous said...

I prefer to eat with people because then I've got a handle on what I'm eating, I enjoy it more and I don't binge, but thats just me. If I eat on my own, I just go mad and don't really enjoy what I'm eating as a result (forget a seperate shirt, I just stuff my face!). On the other hand, I went to a friends the other week and was nervous eating in front of people I didn't know, but eventually I just made a joke out of it and felt fine eating in the end (I got some pudding, someone asked if it was too big a piece and I just said "no, not for me!"). Then it all became so much easier. I can understand why you feel self conscious eating though, its almost like being naked!

Anonymous said...

I do almost the same thing you do, except for one alteration. I eat a piece of fruit for each meal, which I can eat around other people, but as soon as I get back from school I hide in my room with bags of potato chips, cookies, chocolates and other processed junk. Then I put it in my mouth, chew it up and spit it onto a paper plate or something, and then rinse my mouth out with water.

I've gotten to the point where I really can't eat in public, and if I do, I conspicuously spit bites into my napkin.

I want to stop, but I'm afraid of gaining weight. I'm a former chubby girl, not really fat, and I'm terrified of going back there. It's almost like I feel I don't deserve to swallow the food.

So, that's why I "eat" in private.


Heather said...

I have gotten over the whole eating in public thing. For one thing, I love steak and I just can't cook it as well at home as they do at the steakhouses!

It actually works out better for me to eat out b/c I enjoy the food more and actually end up eating less than if I was alone at home

Heather said...

JessiferSeabs: I actually love salads! Granted, I love the bad stuff as well, but when I'm eating a salad, it's because that's what I want and not b/c I am trying to pretend that I never eat junkfood. Of course, I am aware that there are people who are snickering away smuggly when they see me with a salad because they ASSUME that I am pretending.

Just to clarify...I'm not accusing you of being like that. I was just making a general comment to your salad post (I have slept for about 2 hrs in the past 2 days, so I just want to make sure I'm not stepping any toes!).

Heather said...

and, I apologize, b/c it was KAT who make the salad comment, not JessiferSeabs. See, I told you I was sleep deprived! LOL

(those word verifications are a real bitch when you're tired!!!)

GoBetty said...

The description of the ritualistic eating (changing tops, getting the bowl, being in bed, TV) I found kind of sickatating. Not judging here, just giving you my reaction.

You're fearful of eating in public. OK... but what about when you so obviously order takeout in public several times a week. You and everyone else who's around, knows you're going to go home and be nasty with that food. What about when the delivery man brings it to your door? You open the door in your "eating shirt"... you're all alone. He must get it at least once a night - that some overwight woman is going to hand over the money and then plough through $30 or $40 of greasy delivery food. What's the difference between those examples and eating out in a restaurant?

Those takeaway and delivery examples are what make me personally ashamed of myself. I wish the food would just appear without human interference. But I did not relate well to the eating in public thing (tho on occasion I am guilty of the bird-eating and purposeful salad ordering in restaurants when out with friends).

Kat said...

Heather: no qualification necessary, there's nothing wrong with liking (and ordering) salads! I guess what I was trying to say that no matter what you're eating, if you look a certain way, it's easy to feel like you're being judged.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar ritual, only my activity is reading instead of watching T.V., and my "tools" aren't nearly so well-developed (tray, etc.). For me personally it has a lot to do with some sort of shame/comfort complex. I hate eating in public because I've assimilated from childhood the idea that *ME* eating is a shameful activity not to be witnessed by others. I have the same feeling no matter what size I am. Then, after wallowing in so much shame and angst for the duration of the eating-out experience, I need some comfort--which takes the form of food. It's both stress-eating and shame-eating. Messed up? No kidding. But just because it's messed up doesn't mean it isn't my reality. I can relate to the work/food thing, too. I hate other people asking me what I'm eating. It brings out the worst in me--instant snarl reflex. Which has to be supressed-leading to more shame and the need for comfort . . . .


Anonymous said...

When they were new to my area, I would drive miles out of my way to one of those Neighborhood Wal-marts with self-checkout lanes, so cashiers couldn't judge my food purchases. The only flaw in that plan was the roving bagger who might come by to "help" and ruin my day by pawing my purchases, or by holding up a box of cereal or something to ask me if it was any good.

Anonymous said...

I was privy to a conversation once between a heroin addict and a guy who'd had gastric bypass, and both talked about how the ritual of ingesting your "drug of choice" often became such an ingrained part of the process that they didn't enjoy it as much if they had to shoot up/eat in different circumstances. And also that their brains would start producing "pleasure chemicals" (dopamine?) as soon as the ritual was started, because it had been trained to anticipate what was coming.

I'm just throwing that into the conversation as information, not trying to make secret eating sound like it should be on the same level as shooting up heroin! :-)

Anonymous said...

I think maybe you are seeing certain types of very normal behavior through a lens that is making you unnecessarily uncomfortable.

My co-workers and I are constantly asking each other about what we're eating. I bring in home-cooked food more often than many of my co-workers (I'm on a budget), and without fail, as soon as people can smell my food heating up in the microwave they come in and ask me what it is, say it smells good, etc. So I don't think that your co-workers are scrutinizing your eating habits-- I think people of all sizes just like to talk about food!

I'm not overweight, but I completely understand what it is like to feel self-conscious. For most of my youth I had terrible skin and frizzy, frizzy hair, and I was teased mercilessly on a daily basis. As a result, I almost always feel like people are looking at me, and I love getting reassurance that they actually are not. So since food is one area in which I am not self-conscious, I can reassure you that when people are talking about what's cooking in the office, they are not looking at you or thinking about your size-- it is just normal office banter. I hope maybe this helps.

Heather said...

Kat (7:22): I could not agree more. Anyone who is overweight knows that they are immediately judged (and often dismissed) on sight. If I'm eating a salad or an ice cream cone, there is going to be someone, somewhere, who is going to form a judgement on me despite not knowing a damn thing about me. I am lucky enough to have a tough shell when it comes to the idiots like that!!!!

Anonymous said...

Judgment is a part of life. Fat, thin, old, young.. everyone judges.

I'm a big girl - I see people peering into my shopping cart at the grocery store. One time I had my friends over to play cards and had it loaded with chips, dips, etc. and the looks I got like "oh I guess that's your food for a night". Whatever.

I work in an office with 20+ women and we have the food police/inspectors. I had someone make a big deal about my sandwich one day and I turned and said "it's baloney on white bread". 'ohh but everything you bring looks sooooo good' Get a life! (meaning them). I don't want to waste my $$ on eating crappy fast food every day when there are better things to buy (jewelry for one lol).

Ignore your co-worker.. Lord knows I have to every day.

As for the rituals in eating.. have you ever talked to a therapist about that? It sounds a bit OCD. No judgment.. I probably have 100 of them myself.

Anonymous said...

old joke...It doesn't count if no one sees you eating it.

buffpuff said...

I don't have any rituals but I do have a tendency to eat too quickly when I'm on my own - and I quite often change my clothes if I'm wearing something I care about especially if I'm eating something with staining potential, (since it's almost guaranteed to gravitate to my boobs).

I agree with anon at 8.16 about people at work asking what you're eating. I had a (perefectly lovely) boss who was forever asking me what I fancied for lunch or what I'd had for dinner the night before, often because she was feeling uninspired about what she was going to eat herself - but mostly because we both enjoyed cooking and talking about food.

I sometimes feel slightly awkward eating with total strangers but, in relaxed company, I'm fine. If I order a salad, it's because I want one. Likewise chocolate cake. Few of my friends diet or play the martyr around food - especially if we're dining out - and our choices, regardless of size, are generally pretty similar.

JessiferSeabs said...

No harm, no foul.

I'm fat.
And I also love salads.


JessiferSeabs said...

No harm, no foul.

I'm fat.
And I also love salads.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone here think that Whitney is here to basically promote her own blog? Get some fans of your own!

Stacia said...

I often wear a different shirt at home when eating, but also when cooking. I've got a shelf, as I call it, and it catches everything. FWIW, my non-fat husband's shirts catch a lot more than my shirts do, so fat isn't really the issue.

I don't think I'm in denial, but I don't seem to have an unhealthy eating ritual. Yeah, I eat fast food too much and even if I stay within my daily calories it's not healthy. I don't order $40 worth of pizza like someone above suggested and I don't buy food for 2-3 people and scarf it all down under the covers, either. I'm not saying it's bad if you do that -- it's not my body or my life and it's none of my business what people eat.

But I hate eating in public. I always felt there were people judging me, and three times now I've had proof. Once was a guy loudly proclaiming that it was "awful" to see me eat so much. The second time was a lady who traded seats with a friend because I was "gross to watch" as I ate. (FWIW, the friend looked perplexed and even said he didn't see what the problem was.) The third time it was a group of college kids staring at me, wishing their friend was with them because he would "confront" fat people publicly and it was so funny.

Each time I was eating a salad. I love salads. I'm not "pretending" when I eat a salad. But I was publicly embarassed just for being fat and it made me almost afraid to eat in public anymore.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:13, I know exactly what you mean about food rituals being an addiction. I have very strange eating habits I would NEVER let anyone see, and when I partake in them I can feel a release, like getting a "fix". I am not overweight, but I am addicted to food. I do what I have dubbed "slow-eating" which is to divide my food into pieces and then watch the clock and eat over an allotted amount of time. I have been known to make a hershey bar last 2 hours! I have tried many times to stop but can't. I feel like I am the only person on the planet who does this, has anyone heard of this before??

Kristyl said...

i think you should pack extra and invite beverly to join you ;)

AnaBell said...

I hate hate hate take out. I feel the guy that sells it to me is probably thinking I have ten other dishes to eat.
Forget about all the fat-related diseases, being fat makes you paranoid.

AnaBell said...

forget it. I thought I was paranoid but GoBetty just convinced me it's true.

Anonymous said...

I'm not fat (never have been), but do eat enough to feed about 3 people normally (stupidly fast metabolism - y'all might complain about having slow ones, but believe me, they're a lot cheaper to run!). This does attract the odd funny look, which is occasionally amusing, but occasionally embarrassing - it ain't just fat people who can get embarrassed eating in public.

Anonymous said...

I used to hate eating in public. When I was a teenager I made the radical decision to eat a chocolate bar whilst I was waiting for a bus. A 'friend' instantly said 'everytime I see you, you are eating' and the crazy thing is because I was SO paranoid I knew she have never seen me eat! Actually the crazy thing is that I still remember that and it still pisses me off!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 6:36, did you call her on it? If so, what did she say?

Tara said...

I've always had the feeling that I was judged when I eat in public, but I've never cared. I eat alone in restaurants all the time, have since I was a kid. I've been paranoid in other ways, not showing my body and sometimes I've even been uncomfortable hanging out with my other fat friends in public (worked to overcome that one-horrible), but eating has never been a problem.

Also, I thought most people changed clothes when they come home from work, is that really strange? I'm always dripping stuff on my shelf, I don't think wearing an old shirt is a sign that something is wrong, I think it is normal.


AnaBell said...

I hadn't thought about eating alone at restaurants. I do that all the time and don't care who watches. I do not care if I'm eating a salad or a burger with fries.
This is interesting. Why eating alone but in public is fine but it's shameful eating alone in private? at least for me.

littlem said...

This is so interesting.

After some thought, I've concluded that what I'm eating has a profound effect on whether I'm embarrassed about eating it (or drinking it) in public.

Because I will eat my 100% organic ActiveGreens meal replacement bars walking down the street (if I'm really in a hurry and between meetings and don't have time to search for healthy food and didn't pack a healthy 2 small meals the night before, since I'm out all day - which clearly happens frequently) and DARE anyone to say anything to me about it.

But I don't drink that much anymore either at home or out(and Cosmos not at all) because I never wanted to be someone who drank at home alone, and when I'm out I'm afraid if I drink too much I won't be able to get home.

(Although I did have a glass of 1986 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at a fabulous birthday party recently, because I didn't want to miss the group experience.)

Plus a family friend once said to me, "honey, they're not thinking about you -- they're too busy worrying about their own d*** lives." (I think Anon 3:37 above made a similar profound comment.)

Anonymous said...

I don't want to make any sweeping generalizations, but I've thought a lot about why I have these issues and I keep going back to what happened to me as a kid. I remember the first time my weight became a peer-teasing issue was a total shock to me--a total mental shock that other people were judging me and found me unacceptable. And every little action I took became fodder for peer judgment--I'd think, "So-and-so does such-and-such but noone judges her for it, why is it that what I do is instantly noticed and denounced?" I think sometimes when you're a fat kid, it does seem like everybody is all up in your business at all times and it's not an illusion. Then there's that weird transition between school and real life where all of a sudden no one cares if you're cutting your hair in a more flattering way or if your clothing choices really don't make your ass any less fat. Or, if they do care, they've receives social conditioning that there's no constant reward for voicing your thoughts/opinions to your peers(and most fat kids have learned to defend themselves in some way by the time they reach adulthood--with stunningly icy wit or timely self-deprecating humor). So--at one point in your life, everyone IS looking at you--and then POOF! You're an adult and the other adults have learned that being seen in public with a fat person doesn't automatically get your ostracized in the school cafeteria. Just my thoughts and personal observations, anyway.


Anonymous said...

That's a fantastic observation, Laura! So true!

Anonymous said...


First of I randomly found this blog today, and ... do you people live inside my mind? Cause this is the first time I feel like I am talking with people who "get it."

Anyway, I personally find ordering in pad thai and coconut soup a blissful, sinful experience, almost like doing a drug or something.

And I shared an office with a darling girl who did that very WHATCHA GET??!!??! every day. Every single fucking day for a year. I loved her, but it killed me.