The holidays are a difficult time for many people. I thought I’d share my experience of a company Christmas lunch on Monday… not sure it’ll be helpful, but at least it’ll show that other people are going through this, too.
This Christmas lunch was held at a pub, was set to be a three-course meal where there were four or five choices for each course. The menu was given to us all beforehand, so as to make our choices. A simple protein with one of the side-dishes would work for me. I requested the protein to be kept plain, simply grilled, and the same for the side-dish (which would have to be prepared separately). Because I would eat only the main course, and only parts of that, my manager decided that I wouldn’t have to pay for the meal at all… a lovely side-effect of eating abstinently!
So, having ordered and made sure that my instructions were understood, I went to the lunch with full back-up, kept separately. In other words, if any of the components of my meal wasn’t OK, I could replace that, without having to forego something that was abstinent. (this may sound obvious, but I always used to combine backup so I’d only have one or two containers… not smart!)
As it was a set menu of three courses, I did struggle somewhat when people were served their starters and I was hungry. I drank quite a lot of water but more importantly, I concentrated very deliberately on conversation with the people around me. The more interested I am in the person next to me, the less interested I am in their food… but yes, it was a struggle, especially because my usual lunch time was now way past.
My protein arrived perfectly abstinent, but they had misunderstood my problem and delivered a choice of non-abstinent, starchy side dishes (they thought my problem was dairy intolerance). I requested a plate of one particular side dish, which arrived within minutes and was also abstinent. Most of my co-workers have seen me weigh my food at lunchtime in the office, but one of them hadn’t and we had a laugh about my “weirdness”. I had kept the clean under-plate from the starter of the person next to me, so I wouldn’t have to request an extra plate later, and this co-worker asked if there was something special about my food, why was I keeping it, wasn’t that strange (all in good humour, I don’t mind it at all), to which the lady sitting next to me just replied that she hadn’t seen anything yet… hehe! I have to say, this sort of thing doesn’t bother me at all; I can tell if someone is being derogatory or just making conversation / having a laugh.
So I weighed, which was a bit of a pain at the table because it was so loaded and the plates were large, but it worked well enough and I enjoyed a beautiful, abstinent lunch that I didn’t pay for. I only had to use the raws backup.
When dessert came around, I was full and satisfied and requested a coffee, which I enjoyed while they had their desserts. More concentration on conversations around me, of course… I just aimed not to “romance” the food but to really be present in my conversations, and to enjoy the coffee.
At the end of the day, this isn’t the sort of thing I would choose to do every day (or even every week!) but the point of it is that I was able to participate, that I enjoyed a social time out with my co-workers and enjoyed getting to know those I sat with a little better. I do prefer to eat alone but I don’t have to have every meal be perfect any more (although, in terms of food quality and taste, this was wonderful). There are many more social functions I have to go to before Christmas, and for most of them I’ll either bring my own food or eat beforehand if it’s not a sit-down meal. In any case, the reason I go is because I want to spend time with the people there, not because of the food there.
This sort of attitude hasn’t come to me within a month of abstinence, or even a year – it’s a new freedom I’m growing into. A new interest in other people. Before I got abstinent, everything was about the food – how much can I eat, how guilty I feel, what will others think of me – and when I first got abstinent, it still was, but in a different way – I can’t have this, can’t have that, how can I arrange that they can cater for me, etc. etc. Whereas now, I found I’m really quite relaxed. I try to make sure there’s food for me, but if there isn’t, there’s always backup and that’s no catastrophe. These events aren’t about food. My food is hugely important to me, but for one meal at a special event, I don’t need it to be absolutely perfect and I can put the purpose of the gathering, i.e. socialising, over the food.