At dinner with my manager, both my co-worker and I opted out of dessert. Looking off to the side somewhat towards my co-worker, our manager asked, “What, are you watching your weight or something? Are you on a diet?”
I couldn’t tell if the question was directed at both of us, or specifically at my co-worker, although he was the one who answered it, jokingly saying his wife was watching his weight. I was glad for the deflection, because it wasn’t something I felt like discussing with my boss. Leaving aside the appropriateness of the question, what particularly struck me was my manager’s tone. He wasn’t actually curious, or interested – he was simply incredulous. He couldn’t believe that we were being given carte blanche to eat as much food as we wanted and skipped out on a course.
Such astonishment isn’t unique to him; our society in general encourages people to eat whatever is in front of them, whether or not they need it. The idea of stopping eating when you’re comfortably full instead of stuffed is one that took me a long time to grasp because it’s not how food is presented to us. It reminds me of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, with the man who protested that he couldn’t eat another bite, but the waiters kept plying him. “Just a wafer thin mint?” When he finally gave in and ate it, he exploded, literally.
While I wasn’t worried about any reaction quite so extreme as that, I have learned enough about myself to know that if I overeat, I often pay for it later on, no matter how good it may taste at the time. And I don’t just mean weight. I don’t sleep well, I don’t feel very good, and the effects often last for a couple of days. Which isn’t to say that I always get it right, or that I always avoid desserts, because that’s not the case. Sometimes I do just eat what appeals to me, but not often.
As for the dessert, had I found a one that had a non-dairy base that really appealed to me, I probably would have gotten one. But I also didn’t need to have it. I’m just grateful that I can make that distinction. I can enjoy my food but also know (most of the time) when enough is enough. It’s been one of the most valuable lessons on my journey.