They kept us corralled in the dining hall after breakfast while the gates were opened. Parents, siblings and friends were all filing into camp not only to see their kids after 4 long weeks but to witness the incredible transformations they had. Leaving the dining hall, was a giant (I’m talking giant) hill you had to climb in order to get back up to camp. We always joked that it was punishment for the food we’d just consumed. Today, we all took it at a sprint. I remember running to my bunk with exceptional speed to get to my parents a little bit faster. My mom was standing in the center with our U-shaped community of bunks around her and she was crying. I ran toward her and gave her the biggest hug and both her and my dad were in awe of the weight I lost. Parent’s Day meant off-camp time to eat whatever we wanted and do whatever we wanted. Nutrition class after nutrition class, we were supposedly prepared to live life on the outside of camp’s walls. That day, we went to Friday’s for lunch and I remember ordering a side salad with ranch (on the side), chicken fingers (fried, duh) and French fries. I talked non-stop about camp and all the fun things I was doing and we caught up about stuff I was missing at home. I was so distracted by conversation that I looked down and all my food was gone. I remember wondering if I had let my parents down. They spent so much money to send me to camp and had I learned nothing? Was this just a pre-warning that old habits would settle back in once I returned home? I vividly remember being embarrassed. Embarrassed and ashamed that nothing had changed. Yeah, my clothes were baggy but I was the same.
We followed up lunch with shopping and some new clothes. Saying goodbye was hard but my 6 weeks were almost up and I’d be home in no time. Later that night in the bunk we all showed off our shopping finds from the day and talked about all the food we ate. In our next nutrition class, they asked how it went and several of us confessed that we sort of blew the day out. The nutritionist told us that it was okay because we had that plan going into the day. It’s not like we planned to eat right and then were tempted by something and went off the rails. We knew going into Parent’s Day that we were going to cheat and that dinner back on camp was going to be back to healthy ways.
Food shaming is extremely real, kids. I don’t know anyone overweight who doesn’t feel like everyone is staring at them when they order something unhealthy and dig in. It’s a good thing fast food places have drive thrus because they allow for a sense of anonymity. I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve eaten and then hidden the evidence of. Burying stuff in the bottom of the garbage or finishing McDonald’s before I reached my destination and stopped at a random trash can to throw it out. Yep, been there multiple times! I’ve even taken food to go because I was “too full to finish it” but then just went home and ate it immediately. I prefer to sit in booths while dining out because they’re usually off to the sides and hidden away. Tables are too exposed—the food you ordered in site of everyone walking by, your muffin top isn’t hidden by the high-back booth wall, etc. Heck, I’ve even been ashamed to order certain things or multiple courses for fear of judgement from the server. I wish I were kidding but these are all REAL thoughts and feelings.
Overcoming food shame and the embarrassment of eating out is a slow process and I’m still not out of the woods. So if we’re ever out to eat together and they ask, “Booth or a table?” Let’s say table and order cheesecake just to prove that the opinions of others don’t bother us.
Who am I kidding? It’ll be booth, please, and I’ll have the salad.