Food as a social connector is deeply engrained in American culture and in my life. I am coming up on 3 weeks post-op and slowly re-entering some social aspects of my life. The first time my husband said that someone asked us to go to dinner, my first reaction was a panicked "No! I can't!" As I've gradually and successfully added more foods to my daily diet and had a couple experiences of feeling full and realized they are not too scary, I'm feeling more confident about starting to connect socially again over meals. That said, I am mentally sorting through a lot of previously held notions that have shaped how I manage social situations with food that have accrued over a lifetime.
I recalled years ago when celebrating a birthday with friends, serving up cake and one girlfriend saying that she would pass because she'd already had a dessert that day. I remember thinking that was so strange...it was our friend's birthday, how could she not have a piece of cake? Recently I read on TT that our world today has people making all kinds of food choices and so when those who've had WLS make a special request or decline something, it's really not that big of a deal anymore. I think my brain has to catch up to that. Passing on a piece of cake is not rejecting a friend or failing to recognize her special day. Being there is what makes it special.
In high school, so many moons ago, I felt like I was the funny girl who hung around with a bunch of pretty girls. I didn't feel badly about it, but felt like it was what it was. I did however pick up what I think was a fatal flaw...the notion that people who monitored their weight and eating were hyper-focused on their appearance and therefore, vain. Being the funny one, this was not a road I would have ever gone down. The ironic thing is that when I look at a picture of all of us from back then, we pretty much all look the same, same hair, same clothes, same make-up...in fact, it took my young niece three tries to guess who I was in the picture.
I've always enjoyed cooking and serving food to other people. Two weeks usually don't go by without my extended family coming over for a meal. My SIL, who is very thin but can really eat, always says that when she comes to my house she always feels so full that she has to be rolled out afterwards. At first I appreciated what was meant as a compliment, but as I started considering WLS, that comment resonated with me in a different way. Why should having a fun family get-together involve me stuffing people to the point of being uncomfortable? We can have an enjoyable time without eating in an unhealthy manner. Every time we get together is not a special occasion or excuse for over-indulgence.
I need to carry this same thought to dining out as well, because in my pre-surgery life I treated meals out as if all visits to restaurants were special occasions. The way I would peruse menus would be to look them over and find the meal that I would absolutely love the most. I didn't generally consider if it was the best choice health-wise...I mean, I might not go to that restaurant again for some time and so I should get what I really wanted, right? Obviously this must change. I randomly sat next to someone at my WLS support group the other night and she shared what she ordered (and exactly how to ask for it) each time she went to a local restaurant which is a restaurant my husband and I frequent. I was thrilled to get this information because I really didn't know what I'd order the next time we went there. I'm realizing that help and support is literally around every corner if you're looking.
I'm coming to a new understanding that monitoring my food choices on a daily basis is just a part of taking good care of myself. It does not make me vain or hyper-focused on appearance. We've had a few family get-togethers since my surgery. We are making progress on planning and cooking healthier, yet still delicious, meals together. Tomorrow is my first restaurant meal, aside from some soup at Panera and one of the WLS post-op staples, pintos & cheese from Taco Bell. I am heading into this social event armed with lots of advice from TT threads. I love the advice about focusing on the people and the conversation more so than the food. Wish me luck!