Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Food for Thought

I read this in the NY Times the other day.

It's about food and relationships, and how people manage dating other people with different preferences and principles with food. (I.e. meat-eating vs. vegan diet, kosher-eating, picky-eating)

I had a brief encounter with this issue last year.

As you may all know, and I've mentioned it once or twice here, I lost some weight. Basically what happened was, I decided that I would like to see if I could run the LA Marathon (which I'm not going to) and started running. I slowly started getting better at running, and started noticing how the food I was eating was affecting the way I was running. I discovered my local farmer's market (which is literally a block away) and also started getting less and less interested in meat. (I'm not a vegetarian. I'm just into vegetarian cooking at home.) With all that combined, I started eating healthier and dropped about 15 pounds over a couple of months.

Not too drastic right? 15 pounds in numbers doesn't seem big enough to be in a weight loss commercial.


I've never been the world's unhealthiest eater. I always liked salads, beans, and nuts. You could ask my roommate in college. All I ate were spinach, black beans, and tomato soup during the times I lived with her. I used to eat all the leaves that came with her pho take-out. But I used to eat a LOT. In fact ( and you could ask my roommate again), my roommate's father used to call me a garbage can. He loved the fact that I could finish every one's food. Peter was also always amazed how a person my size could put away so much food. I always exercised, though, so I was never fat or overweight. I was, just, you know, chunkier.

Anyway, because I physically was unable to eat as much as before when I started running (it curbs your appetite a little bit per meal, but I ended up eating more times during the day), people started becoming really concerned. Then, they started focusing on what I ate. I mainly ate plant-based foods. While I think I've always leaned towards that food group, I think the fact that I wasn't eating a gallon of it, and the fact that I was losing weight caused some concern in some people.

It was really interesting how personally people took about the way I ate.

They would make comments about how I've changed, how I'm not the same person any more, how they feel weird eating around me. At first, it was OK, but after a while, people started making weird comments to me at every single meal. It was like they were putting a big scarlet H on me, throwing around the h-word as if I had just ruined my meal. "Gosh Lisa, you're so... healthy." It gets pretty annoying when someone has something negative to say every time you sit down and eat.

I didn't realize that the way I ate affected how people around me felt about me, and their overall opinion about me. Food is so emotional, and I suppose because I didn't want to take part in the plate of fried food or cupcake (unless it was a deep chocolate color), I was denying something that I should be sharing with them as their friend as opposed to just a dinner mate.

The oddest thing was, it was worst around my closest friends. People I saw regularly. They were the ones that were most vocal and negative about my eating habits. I thought they would be able to distinguish between my general human nature and my eating habits, but they were the ones that smashed those two together and accused me of being "not fun any more."

It's fine now. In fact, some of them have sought my advice about eating, since they've realized that I NEVER (and I stress this) compromise flavor when it comes to my meals. I've cooked my food and gave it to friends, and they've noticed that I actually do not deprive myself of anything with the way that I eat. But for that brief period of time, I was amazed how one part of my life that was seemingly unrelated to human relationship actually affected it in a significant way.

Do I have deal breakers with food and relationships? I think, for me, if they don't like my mom's cooking / Japanese food, it's a red flag. If they can't eat with my family, I don't know how I would be able to be with them. See how complicated food is? Amazing.


Patrick said...

food is totally complicated! especially when it's tied to how we care for ourselves, and other people. my girlfriend semi-keeps a blog on food, if you're interested:

also: losing fifteen pounds is a pretty dramatic difference! i imagine it's pretty easy to notice on you, too. i'm also willing to bet that the way you relate to food and your friends is highly gendered. i know i've talked to female friends of mine who have described how hard it is to eat with other women, because they're constantly feeling worried and challenged and compared and one-upped about whatever it is that the other women at the table are eating. just a thought.


Lisa said...

pat -

it's so true. in fact, if anything, it's women that make the most comments about my food, even at work. i really stopped caring what they say, but it's crazy how observant they are.

and yes, 15 pounds is dramatic. i suppose i don't feel like it is as much because it was such a gradual change. it just... kind of happened.

i will read your girlfriend's blog! and hope japan is treating you well.

Louie said...

imagine how my guy friends reacted when i stopped eating meat. supposedly, not eating meat if you're a dude = pussy. there's a 'machoism' complex when it comes to food for guys, i found out. you know, BEEF! FOOTBALL! BEER! get my point? i just tell them to F off, and its all gravy.

Lisa said...


i remember making some snide comments to you when you were a vegetarian, and i'm sorry about that. although, i don't know how anyone living under mom and dad's roof with mom's food could ever fully becoming vegetarian and not eat fish... as you may have experienced.

seriously, if it wasn't for mom and sushi, i'd be a vegetarian in a heartbeat. the mercury AND the peril of extinction for the bluefin tuna are not enough to sway me... yet.

Annie said...

Hi Lisa!

Thanks for the blog comment, it always makes me feel so loved :) I really liked this post of yours, I an understand especially since I went through a weight loss too. Come down to visit me and Sean and we'll take you to one of favorite vegan restaurants!

Carmen said...

look whos talking and look whos eating