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.