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The Loneliness of Diets

December 14, 2014

Have you ever noticed how being on a diet can make you lonely?

 

That might sound counter-intuitive. So many people are on diets, after all, that being on one might seem like a way to draw people together. As someone commented to me recently, though, when you’re on a diet, “You can’t be social.” And it’s true. If you’re rigidly following the rules of your diet, you can become so worried about what type of food will be available when you’re away from home, and what’s allowed or what isn’t, that it’s simply easier not to go at all.

 

I’ve experienced this myself, as I was reminded when my company recently held its office holiday party. 

 

In the past, when I've been really restrictive about food, I would either skip these events altogether, or attend but not eat anything for fear of overdoing it. Not going at all is clearly isolating, but it’s not much better to mingle and never eat anything. It might give others a perception that you're too good for their food, or maybe it makes them feel ashamed for indulging, or inspires them to be as restrictive. No matter how you look at it, you're in a different place than most of the other partygoers.

 

Over the years, though, I’ve begun to think about health, wellness, and nutrition from a more holistic perspective. Consider – might you actually be happier, more relaxed and less stressed and therefore healthier, if you occasionally participate in such events, eat moderate amounts of the food, and simply enjoy not being flagged as "different" or worrying about whether something is allowed?

 

Which is why, for this year’s party, I chose not to stress about it, even though in addition to the after-hours event, we had lunch provided at work. I did bring a few of my own snacks, but I also went through the buffet line on both occasions. I mostly avoided gluten due to allergies, but I still enjoyed salad, turkey and ham, potato chips, shrimp, veggies and hummus, a mushroom-stuffed packet of filo dough, and a taste of one of the desserts.

 

It felt so much nicer than those years of avoidance and isolation, like I was my own person again, not driven solely by the dictates of a diet. Even better, I didn't feel alone or lonely, and that's worth more, sometimes, than whatever the nutrition guidelines may say.

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