Food. A double edged sword.
On one end, food is how our restaurant men and women fuel their purpose. Finding and serving plates of deliciousness to the masses in the hopes of finding that winning combination that will have customers coming back, time after time. It’s propelled so many chefs to stardom, giving so many others the North Star to work toward, in their careers.
You watch a seasoned chef with the food he or she is handling; there is an almost intimate comfort and familiarity when dicing and manipulating it that is liken to both, a couple whose swirling in the energy of lust as well as that comfortable feeling you see in a 50 year marriage. You almost feel like you just walked in on a make out session sometimes, when your restaurant man/woman is in the zone of what they’re preparing.
The other woman.
On the other end…food is a topic that is swept under the rug when it’s in the context of their own personal health and wellness. Food, when being discussed by way of what is appropriate for maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is where most restaurant men/women lose their sense of reality and they feel like they have to defend their now exposed love affair to the death. Literally.
And because this love lorn relationship with food is usually so intense, it’s almost like most of their lives, their interaction with it is experienced like a sex scene in a movie… lights are low and the music is relaxed… wine has been drunk, the room is silent as they get to doing what they came there to do.
Then WE come in and throw on the overhead light.
When we remind them that what their eating (and HOW their eating) is causing them to be overweight and unhealthy… WE are seen as the one who has just committed a crime. Like a dog who defends his bone, his territory with a ferociousness and rage… standing over their prized possession in a way that would make anyone question if they REALLY needed to go in there. We know we are in dangerous territory.
Still, so many of our restaurant men and women are turning a deaf ear to the fact that what they LOVE…. can cause them additional pain in their bodies and possibly en route to an early death. While most of us are already constantly having to consider what their eating and where they’re getting said nourishment, our beloved restaurant men and women only have to turn to the walk in for what suits their fancy that day. (AND… they most likely don’t have to cook it themselves either if they don’t want to – BONUS)
Now, I am the FIRST to admit that food can be a way that we emotionally escape from things we cannot control. The flood of whatever comfort food does to our bodies, helps numb us out when we are not able to deal. I KNOW that when stressful situations happen, when I am feeling out of control, I eat. I reach for whatever is comforting as a way of coping. It’s important you know that I know I am not a poster child for “Eat Healthy and Exercise”. As one who has resisted giving into the thought that I myself, am a ‘big girl’, I’m not attempting to say “Do as I say, not as I do.”. It’s been an issue for me, as well, most of my life.
But this website isn’t about me.
The same way some restaurant men and women turn to alcohol and drugs, others unconsciously turn to the food their creating as a way of numbing out and because they are so intimately intertwined with it, they are almost oblivious to the damage their doing.
I have no magical advice on how we can begin to shift this paradigm around, I am writing this to expose it, to bring it to light for the MANY of us who are unsure of how to tackle this subject without causing an earthquake to take place in your relationship.
I have enough evidence to say with confidence that I can understand why it is challenging to eat regularly while making sure everyone is ready at their stations before dinner service. I UNDERSTAND that they cannot just sit down with a plate and carve out some time to eat lunch like most of us 9-5′rs. I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself. It’s a GO GO GO type of atmosphere that doesn’t allow for one to slow down enough to be conscious about what they put in their mouths. (Was once helping my husband at off site event for dinner, was STARVING and got all these angry stares from the other servers who were saying “Why are you sitting down? It’s your JOB to feed everyone else.” An eye opening experience for me, for sure) I’ve gotten into heated arguments with my chef husband when I ask if he would just make more of an effort to stop and eat lunch. It’s like I’m asking him to somehow suspend gravity for 30 minutes.
Because of this evidence, I know that the only time they ARE able to really focus on what their eating, is when they get OFF their shift, and this is usually10pm or later. To ME, this nocturnal eating is the primary cause of unhealthy eating for our restaurant men/women. While I understand it, I have a resistance to accepting it and leaving it alone. I have heard many chefs speak of the exact same habits, so I know it’s something you most likely, are dealing with yourself.
This career is already hard on our restaurant men/womens bodies. Standing all day and under such immense heat, they are no stranger to having knee issues and back pain. Add to that an unhealthy lifestyle, whether drugs/alcohol or food, and that puts added stress on an already stressed out body.
Personally, there are times when I feel I am strong enough to face the man I love with an annoying persistence LONG ENOUGH to create an short term awareness in his life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get to the ROOT of it and doesn’t end up lasting long. With the relationship between health and what we eat being a topic for every single one of us, to some degree, I know I’m riding a fine line between focusing too much on HIS habits when maybe I’d make the most impact if I focused on my own.
At the end of the day, it’s really about choice, isn’t it?
I cannot MAKE him focus on what he’s eating as much as he cannot make me do the same. It has to start with us, individually. YES, as a wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend of these restaurant men/women, we want to see them healthy and making choices that will allow them to enjoy their careers long into the future, for ourselves and for our families. That’s why we feel so at a loss with how to lovingly turn on the light without stirring the protective dog within. We know that WE dont’ like when our insecurities and triggers are exposed, so how to handle this already sensitive subject with the men and women we love.
At the end of the day, here are three suggestions that I can see as being viable ways we can help make an impact in the overall health and vitality of our restaurant men/women: (NO guarantees though. What works for one person might not for another.)
- Pack “On the Go” snacks/meals for them to take to work - Take the worry out of what their eating during the day and while you’re considering what your eating for yourself… consider making food (or sending them off with quick snacks to grab) for your other half to take to work so that it’s one less thing they have to think about. *I know… you’re thinking “One more thing I have to think of? I guess it’s a matter of what you know will or will not work for your man/woman. If you think it will work… why not give it a try?*
- Have food that is healthier to go to when they get home - You already know they’re going to be ravenous when they get off their shift, if you know they’ll come home and want to raid the refrigerator for something to satisfy them, why not have something that is… well, I don’t know – healthy, already in the house. If all there is to eat is a bowl of cantaloupe and NO chips… They’ll eat the fruit or go to bed with an empty stomach. (Cause you know they’ll do that too… NOT eat.)
- Be an example - Yep, sounds kinda obvious but for most of us, all we need is to have someone who is willing to lead the charge and reach out their hand to show us that we can do it too, to be the catalyst for change. For most of us, those topics that we feel stuck in, is usually the case because we dont’ know HOW to do something. Have someone not only show us but are there to be an example to what they can accomplish themselves, and magically they’re on board with whatever you’re instituting. Help them by being an example.
You never know… it might be all that they need.
At the end of the day, what all of us want is the best for our restaurant man or woman. Sometimes we work so hard to find SOME way to help, but time after time, end up feeling defeated and if we were being honest, a bit panicky about the future life of our chef men and women. I know that FOR ME… there is a delicate balance between willing to do whatever it takes… AND letting go of the outcome. We have NO idea what is going to happen. We are not in control of our circumstances (as much as I even resist writing that, I know it’s true) At some point, we have to LET GO of the things we can’t fully control and TRUST that change will come it is intended to. Easy to do? Uh, yea no. I am always working to find that sweet spot where helping him and accepting him for where he is meet.
What stands out for me is something I said during my vows at our wedding. I told him that I promised to be strong when he was weak. I have found that repeatedly, he is strong when I am weak and I do my best to enourage him to make healthier choices in his health (yes, which includes bugging him if I have to) when he cannot do it himself.
If anyone knows this, you do – While he might continue to be seen as Superman at work and completely misunderstood by most people who have NO idea what it’s really like… we who love them, know he is mere human and while his passion and calling in life is to help the world be more delicious, we know that he needs just as much help as the next person. How I do that and to what intensity, will be a topic that will always be on my ‘To Do’ list to figure out. Probably yours as well.
Tell me… how do YOU handle your chefs relationship to food when it comes to his health and vitality?
Like this? Read the FIVE Values of a Thriving Restaurant Relationship HERE: