I am going to let you all in on a little secret.
I have a problem with food.
No, not that kind of problem. I am nowhere near obese and probably never will be. I love to eat, but I can’t eat crazy amounts.
See, I am really self-conscious when I eat around people. I’m not sure why, so I’m going to attempt to explain it to myself by writing about it. Leave me your thoughts and comments about this topic if you please!
So, I grew up eating alone a lot. My parents worked and after school I would come home and eat a snack or a meal. I eat about 6/7 times a day usually. I can’t have three big meals or I will explode. I eat TINY portions compared to most people. And this is a huge problem for me sometimes, especially because I’m not used to eating with people I don’t know.
A lot of people tell me, ”Oh, I’ve heard that is a good way to lose weight!” or ”It is better for you to eat a little bit all day long!”
Yeah, well. When I go to a restaurant or someone’s house to eat dinner or something, and I am presented with a big thing of food, I usually can’t finish it. Ever. Even if it’s really good. In America, that isn’t such a big deal because I could get someone else to finish the rest for me or I could take home leftovers. In Japan, leftovers are a no-no. You eat EVERYTHING or it’s considered a waste or bad manners. And I have had a lot of friends get mad at me, like I’m some sort of child, because I couldn’t finish my meal.
But you don’t have to live with the pain I feel in my stomach after I eat too much. You don’t have to live with the feeling like you are going to throw up if you take another bite. But I do.
So the portion is a problem.
Also, I am not a very adventurous eater. I grew up in land-locked Tennessee. Occasionally I would have fish sticks, but I am not a seafood person. I got better about vegetables, and since living in Japan I can even eat cow tongue, heart, octopus, etc. But I still can’t swallow big chunks of raw tomatoes, raw onions, cucumbers, etc. Or fish. Or seaweed. Yeah, all of those things come up in Japanese lunches quite a bit.
So I told my schools I would bring my lunch instead of eating school lunch. In America, we have the option to choose between two meals in school most of the time. There are always two lunch lines. We enjoy the freedom of choosing our food. Japanese students must eat what they are given, and must eat all of it, unless they are allergic to something. I’m actually not allergic to anything, so I don’t really have that excuse.
So sometimes I make a lot for dinner, eat half of it because I’m only one person, and take the rest for lunch. Those days are good for me because it is cheap, I get to choose what’s on my plate, and the teachers usually tell me I’m getting in good practice for making meals for my kids in the future haha.
However. Today I did not bring my lunch. I didn’t make dinner last night because I went to the movies and ate at the food court in the mall.
There is a Lawson next to my school, and I haven’t had karage-kun in forever, so I was really excited about getting some for lunch. I also got me some tea and Oreos. Score!
But I immediately thought, ‘Ugh, someone is going to point out the fact that I am eating conbini food and it will be so embarrassing.’
Why did I think this? Why do I care? I had a good meal today, and I don’t mind eating conbini food at all. I did it for dinner nearly every night in Kyoto when I had to work late for my theatre club.
But for some reason, I had the urge to eat alone in the bathroom just so I could get away from the prying eyes in the teachers’ lounge.
I think it’s because I have a fear of rejection. I don’t want someone to think bad of me, or think I am pitiful. I want to seem strong and capable. Not being able to eat kyushoku is already a blow to my ego. When someone points it out, I get more nervous. Then they start asking, ‘Oh, you don’t like fish? So you can’t eat sushi? So raw fish is no good?’ UGH. YES. I fail as a human being. I can’t eat anything but chicken fingers, are you happy???
I think I feel childish when people peer over at my meal and comment on it. I hate it. Growing up, my family knew how I was and got over it. They had to help me explain it to my other relatives and friends when they asked. They would pat me on the head and shrug their shoulders.
But now I am an adult. I can cook tons of things. I can eat plenty more. I don’t want people to feel bad for me or go ‘ふーん’ as they nod their heads.
So there you have it. I don’t each much, I don’t eat a lot of things, and I am afraid of eating with people I don’t know looking at me. Is it something I can change or fix? I am not even sure if it is something I want to fix. I like my meal times. I like my alone time. I like having food I like and eating it how I like with privacy.
As an only child, I am used to eating alone and I like it most of the time. But I will always go through these situations, where I am constantly being evaluated by how much, when, or what I eat, over and over again until I die. And I don’t know what to do about it.
I guess everyone has moments like these, but I feel like I have a lot of them because it has to deal with food and everyone eats around the same time. College was wonderful because I could eat whatever and whenever. But now I have 5 schools’ worth of teachers all looking at me when I eat.
ちなみに（by the way) I once watched a documentary on the symptoms of women with eating disorders, and I have a lot of the same feelings about eating around others as they do. Weird.