I’m Self Conscious About My Salad

by Andie Mitchell on March 29, 2011

 

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Okay so this is also a repeat. I can’t help it. I’ve just rediscovered a handful of posts I penned this summer and each one reveals a lifetime about me and what I believe. And most importantly, they help to answer questions I receive through email. But this one? She’s worth another read.

One thing that was hard about losing weight? Eating healthy. No, not actually eating in a healthful manner, but eating healthfully in public. I know, how odd.

But it’s true. The salads, the substitutions, the dressing on the side, the “Could I just have that without cheese?” The modifications that made me feel like I showed up to gym class in a prom dress. Totally out of place.

In truth, it felt a whole lot easier yelling through the speaker of the drive thru an order for a “Double Quarter Pounder, large fry, and a large Sprite. Oh! And an apple pie.” Somehow dining with friends at Chili’s was more natural when my entree of choice was a plate of nachos. Even better when I was the one who finished the Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie.

 

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You’d have thought there were medals for that kind of eating. Why I wasn’t hip to the competitive eating circuit, I’ll never know. I’ve heard other overweight people express the discomfort they experience when ordering and eating those luscious foods. As if others are constantly glaring in that “You shouldn’t be eating that” sort of way. I never really felt that. Never quite felt it necessary to pretend that eating half of my entree was all I could manage, or that I didn’t want dessert. Because…who was kidding who? I wasn’t verging on 300 lbs for nothing.

I fit in. Accepted and in sync, the only one wearing my Extra Value Meal like a Snuggie. And to be perfectly honest, the people around me might have preferred the ease of Andrea 135lbs ago. Not wanted me to be unhappy or unhealthy, but in some way just wanted me to blend. The carelessness made me comforting. Fat confused as fun. Even as I was killing myself slowly, donning my pain like an inner tube around my midsection, I was more relatable and normal.

I didn’t have to think twice about take out. Not bat an eye at nutrition. But when I changed, when I came to terms with eating and depression and sadness and my wish for cake to put me into a coma, I felt less like myself. Almost like waking. Being present. Sometimes to the point of painful awareness. “I miss passively living.”

 

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I ate differently. And not sadly so. When you eat Little Debbie everyday for 20 years, she doesn’t taste as sweet as when you treat her with respect and savor her. Now I dine well. I can honestly say that I love everything that crosses my lips and don’t lament a single crumb. That could also be because I find a balance. Not a food I wouldn’t eat or would be too timid to indulge in. I almost don’t even believe in the notion of “indulging.” Because who the hell carved into stone that there was a time, place, and special title necessary for triple layer carrot cake?

But I do feel self conscious. Because I know that there exists a slight distaste for those who eschew french fries for fresh fruit. No one likes that person who can just have a taste of dessert, half of something, or none at all. It comes across, so I’m told, as holier than thou. Self righteous. Honestly? It’s not that at all. If the people who I assume are making these judgments about me could only hear the running track going through my head, they’d know that for a long time I felt anything but confident when I opted for something seemingly lighter. Felt embarrassed that I didn’t want to get double cheeseburgers just because they were on the Dollar Menu.

It’s not that I dislike what I’m ordering, it’s that I dislike feeling like the odd man out. Or for anyone to think that my menu choices say anything more about me than what I’m craving. Or that their choices mean anything more to me than “Hey, what’s your policy on sharing?” I don’t want anyone else at the table to think that I find the Bloomin’ Onion gross, frightening, or too unhealthy for my sensibilities. Because I think none of those things. Believe me when I say that I don’t judge another for the foods they do or do not eat. I know it sounds too perfect, but I really don’t believe in condemning or praising a person too much for their choices in consumption one way or the other. I am the fat girl. I am the thin girl. Always toeing the line in sensitivity. But for some reason, I find myself more anxious, more like a stick in the mud, for not going with the flow each and every time.

 

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Something must be said for going with the flow, though. I bend. Not every meal must (nor should) fit my standards, and sometimes, even if I just don’t have room for that slice of pie- I should eat it because my grandmother baked it, or because it’s Wednesday at 3:30pm (that one usually works for me). And lots of times there’s as much necessity to eat half a large pizza with Daniel as there is necessity to go for walks. Just eat and shut up about it, I suppose. I’m not glowing or boastful because I’m proud of my healthy lunch, nor am I pouting because I went without it.

I’ve developed a “Who gives a rat’s &%$ about it” mentality, which I think has helped. Because truly, no one else really does. Another reason why I’m sort of lucky to have been both fat and thin: I’ve seen each one from the other’s eyes.

This was true both then and now: I don’t want to analyze why someone would want carrots when there is cake on the table. It’s for them to decide. Unless said cake happens to be sour cream fudge layer cake with dark chocolate ganache, because in that case, refusing it would be a sign the person is mentally unwell. Very, very, hey did I say very?, unwell.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristina @ spabettie March 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Mmm, you had me at sour cream fudge layer cake and dark chocolate ganache… and your salad looks DELICIOUS!

this is a great post, and you have a great (healthy!) attitude and approach… balanced. going with the flow is fine, “in moderation” as they say. :)

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Sam March 29, 2011 at 11:49 pm

“But vegetarians are supposed to be really skinny” (I am getting there, but not yet), that’s my favorite.
I feel silly sometimes. I just want to yell “I eat healthy and run 3 miles a day!’ Because I know you can’t tell by looking at me yet.
Or those looks I get at the gym (that are probably all my imagination) the ‘what are you doing here, fatty?’ look. Rude, I know. I’ve told my inner monologue to be kinder.
Another thought provoking post. Thanks!

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Frieda March 30, 2011 at 12:45 am

I learned to like salad recently. now my problem is that i am so bad at making them because i lived the last 24 years without any salad dishes ^^ maybe that is why i am always excited to order salads when i am dining out :D i guess it is a bit annoying for everyone who accompanies me cause it takes hours for me to order the salad i want at that moment but i guess they will forgive me once i dont annoy them anymore with my weight issue stories ;D

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johnny March 30, 2011 at 2:39 am

Just like the first time I read this post it has captivated me. How deep, yet I can relate to constantly “knowing” what other people are thinking about me. I think being self conscious comes with something we are totally unhappy with in our lives and we put those thoughts into those who just might be “staring at us”. (they probably aren’t thinking about me at all!)
OK, all I know is when I looked at myself devouring that “half a pig” at my favorite rib joint I thought…nothing, I loved it and wouldn’t have changed a thing…until I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes.
Nothing is more unnatural than me turning down the ribs and having the chicken salad instead. Maybe after I loose the 70 lbs I need to loose I can learn how to eat those ribs in moderation. Oh what the hey, love your post. It makes me feel good. I can’t put anything into words like you do so just accept my thanks for giving me something everyday that makes me feel goooood! :)

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Lindsay March 30, 2011 at 3:24 am

I have always, and still always, feel self conscious about what I choose to eat. I used to be quite overweight, and then I was self conscious about ordering unhealthy food (worried that people would think I shouldn’t be eating it) and about ordering healthy food (worried that people would see that I was trying to lose weight when I wanted people to think I was comfortable with myself). Now that I’m a healthy size, I still have the leftover worry about what people will think if I choose something unhealthy, and I worry that people will think I’m feeling holier-than-thou when I don’t.
That being said, I still choose whatever I want, I just have an inner dialogue and imaginary argument with those around me while I do it.

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Matt @ The Athlete's Plate March 30, 2011 at 4:01 am

I totally agree. For me, it ruins the whole experience of dining out.

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Amy @ Second City Randomness March 30, 2011 at 4:01 am

he he he… it’s funny I remember these. :)

And I agree. Who gives a crap? Eat what you want… even if people look at you with that holier than thou look as you prepare your salad every day at lunch (ahem… not like I would know anything about that…).

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Dishes of Mrs. Fish March 30, 2011 at 4:24 am

Great post! When I started WW years ago, I almost had panic attacks every time I went out to eat. I’d analyze all my food choices on the menu before hand and never really enjoy because I was so stressed. I’m so much happier now that I don’t feel so guilty with allowing myself to enjoy foods I love in moderation when I go out.

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ally@girlVfood March 30, 2011 at 4:46 am

This is exactly what I went through. I had a former friend who judged me whenever I adjusted my salads when we went out for MExican food…she was so used to me eating whatever she was eating.

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Brandy March 30, 2011 at 4:56 am

Great great post. I’m a new reader so I’m glad you reposted it. Thanks for sharing – your writing is beautiful and I’m glad you are willing to share it.

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat March 30, 2011 at 5:15 am

I love that you repeated this one because I didn’t ‘know’ you the first time around! I love that you touched on this issue. I know where you’re coming from – I lost 70lbs and while it’s not quite 135, I’ve done the whole “can I have the salad without the cheese and dressing on the side” thing, and felt very self conscious about it, like all the other people I’m dining with are rolling their eyes and wondering why I’m not just ordering a head of lettuce instead.
Now, I sometimes still put in that order, but not because I don’t think I’ll be eating healthy if I let those things cross my lips – sometimes I just prefer not to have them. However, like you, if I want them I don’t deprive myself, and now I don’t feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ for asking for healthy modifications. Food should make you feel good after all, and just because those cheeseburgers are only $1, that doesn’t mean you should eat them – they make me feel gross!
Great post Andrea!

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Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean March 30, 2011 at 6:48 am

it always takes me forever to order at restaurants because i make so many changes and substitutions to make it healthier! everyone always stares at me so i know how you feel.

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Janice Harper March 30, 2011 at 6:56 am

This post reads to me like the budding of your book — having been both fat and thin, making choices, remaining a dietary non-conformist while trying to fit in. Go with it!

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Elisabeth C March 30, 2011 at 6:57 am

I love your honesty. You have a way of tapping into some of the hardest parts of losing weight, and being both transparent and vulnerable about it, but without overwhelming your reader. Thank you for that. :)

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hungryhealthyhappy March 30, 2011 at 7:03 am

I think you have to just own it. The whole “Sorry I’m not sorry” mentality goes a long way here. Sometimes, I want the Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie. And sometimes, I want a salad with no cheese and oil and vinegar on the side. You should never have to apologize for what you put into your body. It’s your body, your choice. If your ordering makes someone else uncomfortable? Too bad for them!

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brandi March 30, 2011 at 7:04 am

i love this – so happy you decided to repost since I’m still backtracking and reading your older posts.

I was the same way for a long time, especially right after starting WW and revamping my diet. It’s tough and really hard when you’re still hanging out with the same people from before you were trying to make these changes.

but I definitely agree with the cake line. No matter how full I am or how rich a dessert might be, I have never been one to “only eat half” or just a bite.

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Clarissa @ Sober and the City March 30, 2011 at 7:27 am

Great post! I used to feel very self conscious about ordering healthy with all sorts of substitutions. The boy hated taking me out to eat when i was a vegetarian because my food was always so boring. More than that, it was boring because I was basically anorexic. At one point I started ordering food I knew I wouldn’t like just so I wouldn’t have to eat much of it. SICK!

Now I just order what I want and try to stay conscious of its nutritionary value. It’s 100% ok to be healthy and just remember this: “What others think about you is none of your business.” I try to remember this when I think EVERYONE is watching what I do with judgment!

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Kelly March 30, 2011 at 7:30 am

What is so funny is that when I go out to eat I don’t judge what other people eat; I judge what I eat! Keith always tells me that no one really cares about you (what you do, what you’re wearing, what your eating, etc.) because they are too busying caring about themselves. I totally believe this. I don’t mean that all people are self involved or selfish I just think we all get caught up in judging outselves and we think everyone else is too. But in reality everyone is too busy judging themsleves to worry about anyone else. Am I making any kinf of sense here? haha!

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Megan March 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

Thank you for posting this!! I just found your blog yesterday and so far am really enjoying it. I can COMPLETELY relate to this, too. Like someone else said, it’s like you’re writing the thoughts I can’t put into words.

That being said, I have been on the side of judgment. These “fears” of people looking at your food choices and judging you aren’t totally baseless. I’ve had people ask me why I’m eating a grilled chicken sandwich when I could’ve had a double bacon cheeseburger (although, it could’ve been my fault for casually saying I was trying to lose weight) or people even noting something like “oh, healthy lunch!” like it’s some great feat to pack a salad with a side of strawberries. I don’t like getting attention for my eating habits – whether I’m choosing something with fewer calories or more! But in the end it’s true that they’re your decisions and who really gives a “rats ass” what anyone thinks?? ;)

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bakebooks March 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I just found your blog too!

What a wonderfully written (and honest) post. Beautiful clear photos too.

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Can You Stay for Dinner March 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Thank you so much! It’s nice to meet you!

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Leah @ Why Deprive? March 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

I sometimes worry that if I order a salad people will think I still have an eating disorder. Its stupid, but its just one of those things you know?
Im going to eat what I want regardless, but it would be nice if I didnt have to feel like Im constantly being judged for it.

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Kate (What Kate is Cooking) March 30, 2011 at 10:38 am

I hate when people question what I order when I eat out! Either they think I’m crazy for getting something healthy, or they think I’m crazy for ordering dessert. I don’t analyze other people’s choices, so I hope they don’t analyze mine either!

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This Italian Family March 30, 2011 at 10:39 am

This is really a great post! I love that you don’t look down on anyone for their eating choices. I used to really care what people thought about what I eat, but now I couldn’t care less. Enjoyed reading this!

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Lindsey @ trail to train March 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

I just found your website through Cookinfanatic and I love it! I have been devouring it for the past hour or so. Thanks for all the honesty and hey! Your a Massachetts girl too? Or you just went to UMass?
P.S. the tuna bugers and the strawberry crumb bars on now on my list to make!

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Can You Stay for Dinner March 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Thanks Lindsey! Yes, I’m from Medfield, MA! And I went to UMass!

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Shelly March 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I know your post wasn’t about the salad, but I’m loving the looks of it and what appears to be a peanut butter dressing…recipe please? Also…how yummy is chocolate chip paradise pie!!! I can’t wait until I too can have a better relationship with food. I still have 50 pounds to lose and feel guilty when I’m eating something sinful- like chocolate or triple layer carrot cake! YUM!!!

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MelissaNibbles March 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Another fabulous post as usual. You know what would help those of us who struggle with ordering? If restaurants would offer more healthy meals and make salads that aren’t filled with cheese and fried chicken. It’s not that difficult and I think most of the dining public would welcome it with open arms.

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meaganwilcox March 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Andrea,
I love how real and inspiring your posts are. You truly encourage so many people, including myself.
:)

Meagan

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Evan Thomas March 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm

This post is so true and just how I felt today. We ate lunch at an Irish pub. I knew that I would be ordering a salad because that’s typically the only place you’ll ever find something vegan + gluten free on a menu. I found one salad w/o meat and ordered it w/o the cheese and with a side of french fries and the waitress just sort of stared until she tried convincing me to add meat to the salad. It didn’t work. And that plate of french fries was amazing, but I think that’s past the point.

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Halley March 31, 2011 at 12:21 am

Seriously get out of my head! Actually no its ok cuz this definitely pinpoints why I order a massive burger instead of a chicken caesar salad… mmm man I love caesar salad.

Great job!

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Liv March 31, 2011 at 12:35 am

Hi Andrea, I just found your blog and I’m loving your stories, recipes and photos.

I think this post is so true. While I was never overweight, I grew up with a mentality of eating anything I wanted, and what I wanted wasn’t very healthy.

When I finally decided to eat healthier, I took it too far and lost too much weight. During that time, my friends seemed to judge me for ordering salads, and I know that they were just concerned for me.

But even now, I still think that I’m going to be judged for ordering something healthy. I don’t know why, but I assume that they’re going think I’m still “sick” when I’m not.

The “don’t give a rat’s a$$” attitude is definitely going to take time, but it’s such a positive thing to work towards.

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Jessica March 31, 2011 at 7:12 am

I always say I order my salads with a side of judgement ;) People are definitely way happier when you join them in a splurge because then they feel better, but I figure if I’m going to let guilt bother me that much, I should probably start going to Church again too and honestly I just can’t get up that early on Sundays…

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Can You Stay for Dinner March 31, 2011 at 7:20 am

Gah! i just laughed out loud so hard. Thanks for brightening my morning Jess!

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 1, 2011 at 8:56 am

Thanks for sharing this post! I have had instances where friends got “mad” at me for ordering a healthier way clearly because they felt bad about the choice they were making but that is rare now. I have the biggest problem when I am out with work people. They always comment about my “healthy” eating so I find myself picking strategically off the menu for something that I’d need to alter the least.

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Joanne April 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm

When I first started losing weight, I definitely felt obscenely awkward about this as well. I think it’s because the friends who I typically ate out with at the time were the same ones who had seen me stuff my face with cheesecake and deep fried everything and french fry after french fry…so it was just awkward that now I was turning down these things to order a salad with no dressing and cheese and bacon on the side, etc. It was almost like I was rejecting their way of eating, or at least it felt that way to me.

When I graduated from college, though, and went to med school, my med school friends never knew any me other than the one who doesn’t eat french fries or pizza (unless I make them myself!), so they just accepted it. It’s been really nice to just kind of be and not have to worry that someone’s always judging.

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