Mealtime manners become crucial to social success at each of these. How much should you take? Which fork should you use? When should you take the first bite? Should you blow on your food if it’s too hot? And of course, remember not to talk with your mouth full, use your napkin, and chew with your mouth closed.
Being a picky eater complicates matters socially (or being a life-long non-coffee-drinker like me). But I’ve recently experienced another significant complication, which is impacting me not only physically, but also socially. Last month I was diagnosed with allergies or sensitivities to gluten, dairy, yeast, eggs, nuts, corn, soy, and many other grains, fruits, and vegetables. My response when anyone offers me food? “No, thank you.” When I am invited to business meetings or social gatherings at restaurants, I typically have to politely decline the opportunity to partake of the meals or snacks that everyone else is eating. So my physical and emotional frustration at no longer knowing what to eat is compounded by the social frustration of being “different,” and often being perceived as rude or picky.
I tell you this, not to incite pity for me (OK, a little pity might be appreciated), but to indicate that I empathize with many of you who are walking a similar road. People’s eating habits vary widely, whether due to allergies or intolerances, cultural customs, religion, upbringing, sensory issues, or personal preference. It can sometimes be hard to “fit in” where food is involved. I am very thankful for the wealth of information online that guides me toward understanding how the human body works, and what can be done when it doesn’t work the way we want it to. I’m thankful for companies that strive to produce healthy, delicious foods that are “free” from the many things I can’t eat, and of course, I’m thankful for people who encourage (and put up with) me when I have to eat drastically differently than they do.
My experience over the last many months has led me to better understand why people eat the way they do. It’s also helped me to appreciate the many symptoms that might accompany issues with the food we’re eating. (If you’re not familiar with this concept, I encourage you to ask questions or do research on the foods that could be causing undesirable digestive, inflammatory, respiratory, neurological, or behavioral symptoms).
As we work on making healthy food choices and using good mealtime manners, I hope we will be incited to also be gracious to each other, giving each other “space” to eat differently as needed.
How about you? I’d love to hear about your food challenges, whether they’re similar to mine or different. Hopefully we can all be an encouragement and support to each other!