There’s cake in the office. It’s placed down beside me and one of my colleagues who is gluten and dairy intolerant. Judging from the rich smells exuding from said cake as everyone passes by it has gluten and dairy in it.
I’ve just eaten so I don’t fancy cake but that doesn’t stop my mouth salivating at the thought of taking a piece … or four. And then Voice kicks in and starts questioning me, why do you want the cake? I don’t. What are you feeling? Not much, I am full and contented. I’m about a 6 on the hunger scale so I’m good. Then why are you thinking about the cake? Because everyone is eating it. Am missing out on something … No, I’m not. It’s the same Sainsbury’s cake they bought in for Mark’s birthday. I’m good, I am not missing out because I’ve had that cake before.
I’m resolved. I don’t want cake.
Casually four or five people start swarming around the cake like locusts ready to feast. Idle chit chat ensues while they cut off a slab one by one and return to their desks. You can hear the odd mutter, ‘Mmmmm just what I needed’ and ‘this would go perfect with a cup of tea.’
And then The Voice starts again.
Are you sure you don’t want some cake? I’ve heard it’s delicious. No, no thank you. Nothing has changed since you first asked me. But Jess said it would go well with a cup of tea and you’re drinking a cup of tea? Yes, I heard her say that but this is green tea and I know chocolate cake doesn’t go well with green tea. Can you please be quiet I am trying to work and I don’t want to eat.
‘Hmmpphhh,’ says The Voice.
At this point I’m not fighting The Voice. This is what I would call a conversation between The Voice and myself (or my stomach). This isn’t like how it used to be. It used to be demanding and restrictive. The Voice now has my best interests at heart but is still primitive in the fact that she hoards food for times of famine and she genuinely believes that any time I am not eating is a time of famine.
And then everything changes.
One of the men in his Capri pants strolls over, takes a piece of the cake and says to me, ‘Isn’t this tempting? Aren’t you on a diet? I suppose you can’t have this?’ And right in that instant, I want cake.
Not because I fancy the cake. Not because The Voice convinced me it could go well with my tea. But because someone in the office came over and opened their big mouth. They ASSUMED I was on a diet and they ASSUMED I would be tempted by something so sinful and off limits.
I can feel my pride and ego burst through my conscious mind and flare up like fireworks on bonfire night because I am NOT on a diet, and I can eat the cake if I choose to!
Suddenly the once calmed Voice is in protest and wants to rebel against this persons passing comment because somewhere in the comment it believes that person was judging it. The Voice believes that this person wasn’t being considerate or concerning but rather judgemental and suggestive that I should be on a diet.
‘How dare he,’ my she shrieks. ‘I will show him, Marnie hand me the cake.’
At this point the stomach, although a little miffed is still in protest against eating.
‘Common, there’s no space in here. Gimme a break!’ he sighs.
‘A break? A break?! Didn’t you just hear him? He said you are fat and intolerable and should be on a diet. He said you can’t have cake! He said you shouldn’t have cake! GIVE ME THE CAKE BECAUSE I WANT TO PROVE THIS FUCKER WRONG,’ cries The Voice.
If you go back for a second and re read what was said you might notice a lot of what I heard was not actually said.
I can now see what’s happening so before it goes any further I ask The Voice a few questions.
What are you feeling? Angry, frustrated, annoyed, challenged, fat, unworthy, judged.
Why are you feeling that? Because I’ve changed and someone made judgements on my PREVIOUS eating habits. I did used to be on a diet and I did used to turn my nose up to treats in a bid to ‘be good’ but I don’t do that anymore!
Did this person know you had changed your eating habits? I don’t know. It’s possible they didn’t.
Did this person offend you? Yes.
Do you think they meant to offend you? No.
Do you think you took offense when it wasn’t intended? Maybe.
The Voice knows now that it is in the wrong.
For a second it was propelled back to when I was 12 standing on the patio eating sour cream and chive crisps while my Dad and his friend are having a beer. After a few large handfuls from the bowl my Dad stops mid conversation to focus on me. He says, ‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough?’
I immediately reply, ‘No!’ and continue to shove crisps in my mouth except now I am not doing it because I am hungry and enjoying the crisps. I am eating out of rebellion and embarrassment at what my Dad has just asked. I was doing it because The Voice took offense to a comment that was never meant to be offensive had mirrored what I thought about myself in Dad’s words.
Nine years later and I know that my Dad would never have asked that question if he knew how much it would would have stuck with me. If he had known what it was like to be a young girl dealing with immense body issues and that one small statement could have the power to control his little girl for many years after. But the blame doesn’t lie with him and it certainly doesn’t lie with the man who had just asked a question about cake.
The blame lies with The Voice that never got past being an uncomfortable teenager who felt judged by her Dad. The same voice that spurs my ego to life like a peacock presenting its best tail feathers any time it feels challenged or judged. The Voice that still mirrors what it truly believes about me and my tendencies in the things other people say.
If The Voice truly loved me it may have heard my Dad say, ‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough? Because your mother is cooking your favourite dinner and I know you won’t want to miss out.’ It might have also interpreted my co-workers comments to mean, ‘Geez sitting next to the cake area all the time would be so tempting if I was on a diet. I know I wouldn’t have your willpower.’
A week ago in my old food restricting ways I would have been able to see my reflection in this one small comment and I would have let it completely destroy me. The Voice would have given in the instant it felt challenged and eaten out of spite. I am sure the longing for more than one slice to numb the feeling of unworthiness would have grown too strong and I am sure it would have lead into a fully fledged binge. But that would have been me then, before I stopped restricting and counting calories and basing my worth around the numbers on the scale.
The me now has given up these things and is learning that past experiences really do have the power to affect you but only you can give them the power to control you. I feel so relieved to know this is one focal point in which I can work on to become one with The Voice. After all, my biggest critic (and I’m sure the same applies to you) is my own Voice. The one that acts on primitive instincts and tries to shield my feelings like an older brother to a sister.
In this instance I think all I need to remember is, at the end of the day people aren’t judging me half as much as I think they are and no one really cares if you eat cake.
NOTE- If someone is judging your food choices its either because they are concerned for your health or a fatist/health extremist who secretly despises you for eating the things they restrict in their diet.