Monday, February 19, 2007

There's No Free Lunch

In a general psychotherapy group I lead, one patient asked, "Are you an eating therapist?" By this, she meant, "Am I allowed to eat in group?" The answer, for my groups, is yes (provided the munching is unobtrusive). I'm too much of a proponent of intuitive eating plans not to let a hungry person eat (though I might challenge this if it became a pattern). Some therapists, however, look at eating (in group or in individual therapy) as a sign of resistance--to eat is to avoid (usually emotions), and a prohibition of eating, therefore, encourages patients to tackle their reluctance head-on.

But, what about food choices at work, what you eat in front of colleagues and your boss?

In a New York Times article from the Sunday Styles section, wrter Abby Ellin takes us on a journalistic jaunt into eating at the workplace. In her article, "When the Food Critics Are Deskside," employers weigh in about their office policies and thoughts and feelings related to employee lunches. Should you go out or stay in? Entertain clients or nibble at your desk?

And, then what about WHAT you eat? It comes as no surprise that folks are judging our food choices and extrapolating to characterological conclusions. Ellin writes: "No matter how private you think it is, what you eat-and how much--sends telltale signals. People make assumptions about your character, whether you're driven (grilled salmon) or lazy (pepperoni pizza). " It might seem short-sighted, but we make these assumptions left and right. Everyone wants a disciplined politician, right?

But, sometimes it goes too far. According to the article, the most fastidious food critic may your pre-employment interviewer. Steven Viscusi, the owner of a headhunting firm in New York states: "'When I'm interviewing someone and I see their bones protruding, I know it's a good hire. "

Is Viscusi just stating the (typically) unstated--the fact that we all associate dieting and thinness with self-control, which we then associate with a host of other positive attributes? Might we allow a slender woman her pork fried rice, but expect cottage cheese (and, on a good day, a slice of fruit) from our heavy office mate? To me, it's alarming how food choices transcend the kitchen and enter our social psychology--a heuristic for assessing good and bad, right and wrong.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Did You Lose Weight?

Several months back, I had lunch with a friend, whom I hadn’t seen for a while. Walking out of the restaurant, my friend observed, “You look like you’ve lost weight." Lest I forget that thinness equals greatness, she continued, “You look great!” While I didn’t know if I had or hadn’t actually lost weight, her comments spurred an interesting internal dialogue: Wouldn’t it be really great if we didn’t have to have conversations about each other’s bodies? (Apparently, my friend isn’t up-to-date on this little project I’ve been working on.) And, if this isn’t possible, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could comment on people’s weight-gains and –losses with the same emotional valence? In this way, perhaps my friend could see me several months later, notice that I’ve put on a few pounds and offer, if she were to offer anything at all, “Looks like you’ve gained some weight,” and I, recognizing my weight as just one aspect of my appearance (which is just once aspect of who am I) and knowing that my weight and shape have absolutely no bearing on my happiness or success would be able to shrug off her comment as easily I did the last time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More on the Perfect Body

From a print ad from Cotton Incorporated ("The Fabric of Our Lives"): "Nothing complements imperfect genes like the perfect jeans."

At the birth of a baby, most parents will focus on the baby's health, experiencing relief when genetic disorders, congenital conditions, etc. are ruled out. The baby has all its reflexes and 10 finger and toes? Perfect. So, why are "a few extra pounds" considered imperfect later on?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Perfect Body

Perfection. It seems to me, it's an individual concept, subject to our personal ideas and whims.

The perfect partner.
The perfect home.
The perfect job.
The perfect night out.

Chances are, we're likely to find a large degree in variation in our responses. You prefer an upscale condo, I like simple on the beach. You like steady/stable, I like uncertainty and change.

Why, then, do so many of us agree upon the perfect body?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pushy, Overweight Women (and Other Stereotypes)

Seen the trailer for the movie Norbit? New York magazine summarizes for us: "In the recently rejuvenated Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy's latest comedy, he dons a fat suit yet again to play (opposite himself) an overweight, pushy woman who forces him into marriage."

You didn't really think that an overweight woman could land a man on his own volition, did ya?