Here Comes the Bride – And She’s Hungry!
Eating for Special Events
by Signe Darpinian
Unless you’re from the planet Mars, your pursuit for thinness increases when you have an event coming up that you want to look good for. Let’s take as an example the twenty-year high school reunion. At about the time the event planning begins— sometimes months in advance—we start hamster-wheeling about how we’re going to lose weight for the big day. It’s not uncommon for people to not even go to their reunion because of their weight. It’s time to swap your strategy and understand the real story about attractiveness.
Alison Armstrong is a nationally known expert on men, women, and what causes them to be attracted to one another. After decades of research, she has found that the four qualities considered the most attractive in women are, in order: self- confidence, authenticity, passion and receptivity. So just go right ahead and cultivate that negative body image, but keep in mind it’s ultimately the negative thoughts about your body that are throwing you off your game, not your actual body. I’d be more worried about the blue eye shadow you were wearing and the half a can of Aqua Net you used to put in your bangs the last time you saw these folks. Seriously, worry-thoughts about not being thin enough at an event emit insecurity, and insecurity is unappealing in any color.
I see two extreme behaviors happening when trying to look good or be thin for an upcoming event:
First, there is the infamous and wildly self-defeating Weight Loss Effort Before the Event. This is usually a completely hollow plan, executed on sheer willpower alone. It sort of reminds me of holding your breath—and we all know what happens after you hold your breath too long. Remember, when restricting your food, you are ultimately eating below your metabolic rate, basically hanging out in a semi-starvation state. Note to self: Your body doesn’t care about whatever fancy-pants event you have coming up. It doesn’t know you are trying to look hot; it is only concerned with keeping you alive. (I know—big deal, right?) So while some measure of quick weight loss may take place, it can cost you your presence and promote a sluggish metabolism, not to mention that it also makes you no fun to be with. When you’re feeling the foodie-call (a pull toward food without hunger), the emotions driving you will overpower your drive to look good. And the more you try to ignore the foodie-call, the worse it gets. The more you try to control your food, the more out of control you will be with it.
Your obsession with food can overtake you to the point where you end up missing the event in real time.
The second outdated, weight-obsessed maneuver is the plan to restrict your food intake at the actual event. Your fear of a protruding belly—c’mon, don’t deny it—may drive you to swear an oath to fill up on only healthy food in an attempt not to eat what you perceive to be the “fattening” food awaiting you. Or it may drive you to an even more unreasonable oath in which you promise not to eat anything at the event at all. Both are hollow plans that typically get checked at the door with our coat.
Let’s rework the plan. Your goal should be to imagine how you do want the event to go.
How do you want to feel about the people there? How do you want people to perceive you?
Spend time thinking about how you are going to eat peacefully up to the event: with real hunger, honoring cravings and stopping at just enough. As for eating at the event itself, it’s perfectly okay to anticipate indulging in the special food that will be there, those foods you don’t often have access to. Just make sure you also envision yourself arriving near hunger so you can get a good read on what you’d truly like to eat once you’re there. Most importantly, imagine exuding confidence at the event; envision feeling proud of the personal growth you have made since adolescence and feeling excited to see these people from a refreshing perspective, remembering how good it feels to know that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and that you are so much more than a number on a scale.
Following this direction will lead you peacefully down the path to finding your natural body shape for an event—or for anytime, for that matter. And remember, better-feeling thoughts will likely cancel out the dysregulated emotion that typically pulls us toward food without hunger.
Signe Darpinian is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author and speaker. She co- created Meghan’s Place, a center for the treatment of clinical eating disorders here in the Central Valley. She is also the founder and executive director of My Weigh, a Bay Area practice treating disordered eating.Though she will always be a valley girl at heart, she and her daughter also live part-time in the East Bay. To buy Signe’s book please visit her website at www.myweighfamilytherapy.com.