I’ve ruined dates because I haven’t eaten enough to satisfy my hunger.
I realize this may sound a bit strange, so let me explain.
Imagine a short woman (five feet tall, zero inches) who is on her third date with a nice, cute, gainfully employed young man who is taller than her and quite slender. They go for a long walk in a park, during which the woman finally tells her date that she used to weigh a lot more, in fact, 130 pounds more, than she does now. (She has been holding off for fear of how he’ll react.) He is impressed rather than terrified, and they go back to his place for dinner.
This is when the problems start. The woman is quite hungry, both from the walk and because it’s later than she normally eats. When she gets this way, she often has a hard time focusing on anything but food (including her date).
At the same time, she feels like she shouldn’t eat more than him. After all, society tells us that women eat less than men (perhaps because, as noted in last week’s post, so many women focus on dieting that it’s practically expected).
But more than that, since she has now shared her weight loss story, it feels wrong, somehow, to eat huge amounts of food in front of him. (It doesn’t occur to her that this isn’t all that different from her earlier shame about eating in front of people when she was heavy.)
And so she takes the same portion size that he does. In fact, she doesn’t have much choice, because he doesn’t have a lot of food available. It means that after dinner, she’s still quite hungry, and when he seems like he might kiss her, she thinks that if he does, then she’ll have to stay longer and who knows when she’ll get to eat? (Admittedly she also wonders what he expects beyond a kiss, this being a third date, but the food is uppermost in her mind.)
So instead of saying that she’s still a little hungry (okay, a lot hungry), she just ducks out and leaves, then eats her fill at home. Then she’s disappointed when things don’t work out with the young man, although in retrospect she can’t blame him.
This was me shortly after losing weight, when I was still figuring out how much I needed to eat in order to maintain, and clearly making some misjudgments. But even once I had a better handle on those amounts, I struggled with thinking that I shouldn’t out-eat my dates. I still feared being judged for what and how much went in my mouth, that I would need to apologize for it or explain that I hadn’t eaten much earlier in the day, etc.
I haven’t made this mistake for a while, although that’s at least partly because I haven’t been dating for a while. But in thinking about this again, I would say to anyone (myself included) that when on a date, or anytime, eat however much or little you need, without worrying about what others think or comparing yourself to them.
Easier said than done, I know, but well worth it. After all, as Virginia Woolf noted: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” As I found out the hard way, she was right.