One of the things I heard recently while visiting an African-American church to learn more about its healthy cooking class has really stuck with me.
Bishop Crystal Bush, senior pastor at New Zion Tabernacle, had asked members to find the health lesson in a Bible verse, Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but a companion of fools will be a fool.”
The answer the group came up with that day – “Sometimes we eat the wrong things just because of the people we’re with” – struck me yet again over the weekend, when I found myself in a Cracker Barrel, surrounded by obese Hoosiers shoveling heaping mounds of home-style food into their mouths.
It was 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and I’d wrapped up my eating for the day hours earlier. But my parents had made the trip to Fort Wayne to see Colleen’s jazz band performance, and they had planned to eat afterward, so we joined them.
Just because I was sitting in a restaurant full of furiously masticating humans didn’t mean I had to cave, though. If anything, locking in on an enormous couple a few tables away who spoke not a word to each other, gazing at their phones as they shoveled it in, I felt my resolve grow stronger.
“Nothing for me, thanks,” I told our server, having previously ordered coffee and water.
Once I made the decision, it just wasn’t that big of a deal. People had other things on their mind. Nobody was obsessed with, or even all that interested in, what I was or wasn’t eating.
Yes, there might be a bit of peer pressure to indulge if “everybody else is doing it.” Food pushers are real. Just living in the American Midwest can sometimes feel like being stuck inside a never-ending food orgy.
But the other night at Cracker Barrel, I realized that none of those voices have ever been nearly as loud or insistent as the ones inside my head.
I’m still working on learning to quiet that interior noise. But my days of blaming the people I’m with or the situation I’m in are over.