Kindly Shut Up!

I mentioned earlier that I was at a friend’s birthday party over the weekend, and it was a lovely day… that was marred by my friend trying to get me to eat something that I should not eat. In this particular case, he was telling me how good the blood sausage was. I told him that as a practicing Jew, I cannot eat it because it is not kosher. My friend, who was born Jewish but has never practiced the religion, told me something like ‘I know… but today it’s okay to eat it.’ I was truly offended. My friend knew me before I started observing many of the dietary laws of my faith, so I suppose he knows that I would like it.

It is amazing that thirty-three years after I graduated high school, I am still subject to peer pressure… and this, from an 82-year-old man.

My relationship with G-d is nobody else’s business, and it is my responsibility alone to eat or to not eat in accordance with my faith. My friend did not hold me down and force non-kosher food into my mouth. I had to make the decision on my own… and I made the correct decision.

Where I made the wrong decision was when the deserts came out, and I was handed a piece of birthday cake. Again, as someone on a diet, it is up to me to eat or to not eat what I should or should not be eating.

Where that argument starts to weaken is when people try to tell you ‘Oh, you can diet tomorrow!’ or ‘Just take a break… one piece of cake won’t kill you!’ The (ironically phrased) icing on the cake is ‘Oh you are doing so well! Just have this, it is so good!’

Let’s put this into context by replacing some of the words:

‘Mitch, you are a heroin addict, but you have done so well kicking the habit… one shot won’t kill you!? Just have this, it is so good!’

Do you see where I am going with this? Food is an addiction and getting off the foods that are so terrible for us – and not just for a day, but for the long term – is extremely difficult, and requires a discipline that many people just do not have. I have been overweight for nearly as long as I have been out of the Army and kicking those terrible habits that I learned for so many years (from people who I thought loved me) is the hardest thing I have ever done. How hard? I have done it twice… and each time I ended up back where I was and am not on my third attempt.

What is worse is that so many of the people who encourage you to take a day off from your diet are the same ones who told you that you needed to lose weight (or more often made fun of you behind your back). They are often the same people who tell you how great you are looking, and that you should keep it up. They are too often the people who claim to be your greatest advocates for success.

By the way, some of these people are not actually trying to sabotage your diet… although that is exactly the result. Many of them think that after so many weeks or months of work that you actually deserve that piece of cake, bowl of ice cream, whatever. They do not know what temptations you were exposed to or succumbed to yesterday because they were not there. They do not know what will happen tomorrow because they will not be there. They assume that you can be on a diet 100% of the time… when you are not with them, but when you are with them you should enjoy the same foods that caused you to need to diet in the first place.

In the end I did not touch the blood sausage, and my religious dietary discipline was maintained. However, the negative advice from my friend consumed my mind, and when it came time for birthday cake, I was not paying attention to the fact that I was doing so well on my diet; I ate the cake and a couple of pastries. While I am always responsible for what I put into my mouth, I was driven to distraction by the negative encouragement. Yes, it is on me… but my friend can claim an assist.

Let me be clear, and this applies to both religion and to weight management: You can either be my advocate and ally one hundred percent of the time, or you can kindly shut up and keep your critiques and opinions to yourself. Do you remember how well you said I was doing? I did all of that without your advice and I am certainly not going to follow any advice to stop doing well. Some would say that your negative encouragement is counter intuitive. I say it is stupid and offensive, and I don’t want to hear it. Take your ‘advice’ to cheat just this once and shove it up your ass.

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