This article first appeared on Good Vibrations Magazine.
According to a new research study in the UK, more than 60 percent of British women in relationships do not feel comfortable eating in front of their partner, and almost half get shy when undressing. Also, four in ten women feel as though they are ‘always dieting’ or are ‘constantly concerned about their weight’.
I remember being feeling bemused when I read the first statement. Just why would a woman not feel comfortable eating in front of their loved one? But, in the very next moment I had to reassess my initial reaction, when I recalled how I was the exact same way previously, (though admittedly many moons ago).
I was very sheltered growing up and did not socialise with my classmates outside of my housing estate, Toa Payoh, until I was seventeen years of age. The seventeen-year-old me was an awkward young person with little pocket money and very self-conscious when eating at the western restaurants we would go to. The only thing I knew how to order was the green salad – and even then I didn’t crave salad all that much. I could read and pronounce the word ‘salad’ and also knew for a certainty I wasn’t going to end up with something inedible.
So, in that way, I can relate with women who end up not ordering what they really want to eat. Like it or not, the food we eat does speak volumes about the kind of person you are – whether you order a hearty steak, a burger with soup, or just salad. Besides feeling like being on a constant ‘job interview’, worrying about what your partner thinks of your meal choice and therefore, influencing their impression of you, there is question of table etiquette. Is your food likely to get stuck between your teeth? Are there awkward fish bones to remove while you are in mid-sentence? Then if you ate onions, would your breath smell bad? Would that ruin your make out session – if it happened at all?
At one etiquette class I attended as an impressionable young lady, the instructor told us ladies to never, under any circumstances, eat a banana in public, as there was no correct way to eat them without reminding men of a certain sexual act, and thereby appearing obscene. If we found ourselves in some situation where, for example, our lives were in danger if we did not eat a certain fruit and we absolutely had to eat a banana, we were to slice open the skin length-wise with a knife, and consume it one small piece at a time. I could not believe the extreme lengths a ‘proper’ lady had to go through to eat a banana, and was indignant at the blatant unfairness of men eating bananas in public any way they chose without fear of evoking homosexual yearnings in the other men around them. More than ten years on, I cannot see a banana at any public event without thinking of her.
I recall now the reaction I received from one date when I polished off my plate of food. He said he was impressed that I had a healthy appetite and was not afraid to show it. I asked him what he meant. He elaborated that most girls pick at their food and never finish their meal the way I just did. I was embarrassed. How else was one to eat when hungry then? The point was further driven home when he boasted to his friends later on that I was quite the keeper since I can finish my food. To him, it was a big deal that I was comfortable enough to be myself. Rather than take it as a compliment which it was intended to be, I wondered if I was a strange person as there seemed to be some code of conduct when it comes to eating which I was never let in on.
It appears that there is hope for those of us who are on a perpetual diet. Another study in the UK has shown, paradoxically, that day-dreaming of a delicious meal actually reduces one’s desire for it. The trick is to visualise gorging non-stop on the food, rather than conjuring up an appetite-whetting single image. This spurs our natural mechanisms that control consumption and prevent over-indulgence, said the researchers.
So, for those who feel they can’t eat the food they want to because they are on a diet or are self-conscious of eating in front of their partner for whatever reason, now one just needs to daydream of a feast until you actually feel like purging.
It does not take a nutritionist to tell you that one needs to be realistic about dieting. You can eat anything, just in moderation and in a balanced manner. Having said that, I have been a vegetarian for two years, and I have just started on a three-month low-carbohydrate diet which was suggested by my husband. He is not making me do it. Asians really do eat too much rice and noodles for our own good. I actually feel lighter, healthier and more energised even though I have been experiencing cravings for carbs. Banana, anyone?
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.