I had to do something to soften the blow when Vera shared her brutal take on our concept “It’s not just about food.” I’m supposed to create a safe environment for sharing. Sometimes it’s hard since I can’t always support the speaker and the listeners at the same time. My best hope the day Vera spoke was damage control, wielding my magic wand like the Good Fairies – after the fact – undoing the worst of Maleficent’s curse.
Vera: “I know where you’re going. You’re giving me the chance to share what drives my compulsive eating. Vanity. It’s all about vanity for me. If it were fashionable to be fat, I’d be fat and fine with it.” Maybe I should have stepped in earlier, but I couldn’t predict where Vera was going, and she was finally speaking her truth. “I am vain and not expecting to change. Since I was a child, I have wanted to be the prettiest woman in the room. My father and mother used to come home from parties, Dad saying, ‘Your mother was the most beautiful woman in the room,’ and she believed him. No matter how much I wish my wiring were different, I have never succeeded at changing. I still want to be as beautiful as I can be, even if it reduces intimacy.
“This is my culture’s standard of beauty. Even though intellectually I don’t subscribe to it, all the rest of me has internalized it. I meditate daily, and I can’t change how I feel.”
I didn’t have a magic wand, just a “talking spoon”. So I asked the rest of the group to share their thoughts on what needs had to be met so they could transform their health. Hank needed professional help; he’s working on mindfulness with a coach. He said if he ate according to his impulses he’d be eating all day. Penny felt like a “meditation failure;” she needed social support from people with similar health goals and not to be judged. Sharon said, “It’s more important what I don’t eat than what I do eat. I get so sick on fermented foods, I’ll never let them pass my lips again.” And a newcomer shared that she needed help finding safe people to eat and be with because she has to avoid exposure to pesticides and herbicides to support her immune system.
For me, the judgment-free environment is key. As a universal allergy reactor, I just need to be around people who don’t fault me for all my experiments, flights, and food fads.
“My food choices are all about the current understanding of what keeps me thin,” the talking spoon came around to Vera. “Flavor and enjoyment are way down the list of reasons to eat. There are times I would like more rapport with women, but I don’t have it because being thin trumps everything. One day my father hugged me and said, ‘You’re too thin’. I perked up, ‘Really?’ Then he said, ‘Well, no, but that’s what women want to hear.’ The only redeeming thing about this sick vanity is that it gives me something to bond over with other women who share emotional issues, particularly around food. I think I’m right about this.”
I hope people understand that Suppers facilitators work on meeting everyone’s needs. It’s hard to get it right. But if the Good Fairy Merryweather flew in with a magic wand, I’d probably ask to trade it in for a talking spoon.