Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate

This morning I dropped my daughter Maya off at day care, walked back to my car, glanced at my smartphone, and saw something that sucked me right in.

I sat there, in my car, staring at the screen, for over an hour.

Then I stared out the window for another thirty minutes, processing.

When I finally got to my office, I spent another two hours carefully constructing a response.

Now, looking back many hours later, I can see that I got a bit carried away by drama, and today I try not to be about drama.

I try to be about principles.

Principles, connections, and feelings.

And I think they all deserve to be voiced.

Let’s take the feelings first, because that’s where my heart is.

For much of the day today, I’ve felt sad.

Sad the way a mom feels sad after her innocent little kid witnesses something that will make her grow up abruptly.

The sad fact is that the world is what it is, and there’s value in developing calluses on your feet if you like to run around in the summertime without shoes.

Wisdom has its bit of hardness to it.

It just does.

I’m feeling the emotional aftershocks: heavy and achy.

And that’s okay.

Feelings aren’t facts, and they always pass.

The brilliant thing is that I don’t eat over them anymore.

Mostly, I don’t even THINK about eating over them anymore.

But I have to admit that right here, smack in the middle of the afternoon, the thought did occur to me that I could sneak off and eat a crazy-early dinner.

But I won’t.

I don’t eat over feelings today, so when those thoughts come, I pat them on the head and send them to their room with no further discussion.

However, when the need for connection rises up, I really try to honor that.

Sometimes I just need to be real with the people in my inner circle and let them know what’s going on with me.

I did that today.

And I’m good now.

So, on to principles.

The principles involved all pertain to the title of this blog: Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate.

First of all, I want to thank my dear friend Julia who suggested this blog topic. I had something else I had planned to write about today, but after getting sidetracked this morning, my heart wasn’t in it. I always find it easier to write about what’s REAL for me, right at that very moment, than to try to opine about something theoretical and remote. You’re so right, Julia. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate is what it’s all about. One of my favorite sayings ever. Love it.

Anyway.

Some history.

I was first told to keep my eyes on my own plate when I was in a 12-step program for food addiction, and my sponsor was counseling me about how to approach gatherings where I’d be eating with other people.

Funny enough, it applied more to gatherings with other 12-step food addicts in recovery than gatherings with family or friends.

You see, in that program, there were differences in how people ate. (Aren’t there always?) Some sponsors said that all fruits and vegetables were okay. Some said all fruits except mangos, grapes, and cherries. Some said corn was a vegetable, some said it was a grain, some said it was not allowed at all.

You get the idea.

So the only way to stay sane and unruffled in the midst of it all was to keep your eyes on your own plate, and pretty much ignore what other people were or weren’t doing with their food.

I quickly learned to apply the principle to what my friends and family were eating, too.

Ironically, I find it relatively easy when other people are eating sugar and flour, or other things that I simply don’t eat. I’m like the non-smoker who accepts that there are smokers in the world. It’s not my issue. So long as no one else is forcing food into my mouth (which, in all my life, has never happened once), other people’s junk-food eating doesn’t bother me.

What can sometimes bother me, though, is when other people decide to do Bright Line Eating™ and then don’t do it the way I do.

Ain’t that the thing?

So funny.

I’ve been doing Bright Line Eating™, or some form of 12-step food program, for twenty years. During that time, most of the people I know have tried to apply Bright Lines to their eating at one point or another.

Hardly any of them have done it the way I do it, which is full-on, with no exceptions.

Ironically, one or two have decided to do it MORE full-on than me, and I find that equally challenging.

The fact of the matter remains that keeping my eyes on my own plate is the only way for me to stay sane and happy.

What other people do is none of my business.

And as I show up in community with other people, the saying applies equally well. If I post something in a discussion forum and people comment on it, do their comments reflect on me or them?

How I answer that question will largely determine my inner peace, and my ability to stay connected to others in a rich and diverse community.

Today, I choose to recognize that what other people say and do is, always and fundamentally, about THEM.

It’s not about me.

Sometimes people tell me I’m too thin.

Is that a statement about their reality or mine?

If I want to, I can check some external metrics. I’m healthy, happy, and I feel great in my body. I’m smack-dab in the “normal” range of the BMI chart and my doctor has no concerns.

So I just smile, thank them for their concern, and move on.

When someone says, “You’re not going to eat my XYZ? I baked it especially for you!” Is that about me or about them?

What if I were deathly allergic to XYZ? Can I go through life harming myself in order to avoid hurting everyone else’s feelings?

So what do I do?

I just gush about how terribly sorry I am and how it smells wonderful and I’m sure it’s delicious and I so totally regret that I can’t partake.

But inside I am calm and safe. Their disappointment is theirs. My integrity is mine. I can detach with love.

And similarly, when someone expresses support for me in overtly religious language that is different, maybe even counter to my preferences, background, or worldview, is that about me or about them?

It’s about them, so I take it as support and move on.

I’m not distracted by the lamp. I’m focusing on the light.

I am responsible for how others’ words affect me.

I am responsible for my interpretation and the narrative I spin about what’s going on.

No one can make me think or feel anything.

People will show up in the world as themselves, and that’s okay. I want that. There’s variety in the world, and it’s gorgeous. I don’t need to censor what they say or do, I just need to tend to my own reactions and perceptions.

Here’s what I’ve learned. If I find myself getting thrown off center by something someone else has said or done, I must take that as a cue to dive deep inside myself and find out what’s going on. The opportunity is mine. There’s a lesson there. It has nothing to do with the other person; it has to do with me.

So, I keep my eyes on my own plate. What other people say and do is about them and their journey, not about the state of my being.

Luckily, there’s plenty on my plate to hold my attention. I have enough to work on for one lifetime. Maybe several. I can’t do anyone else’s work for them, and resenting them is like drinking the proverbial rat poison, and waiting for the rat to die.

So, for today, I will keep my eyes on my own plate. What someone else eats, says, does, believes, or values, is not mine to change or regulate.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

With love,
Susan

Comments

  1. Sage

    Love how real you are, how much you share yourself with us. I can relate to so much of what you share. Beautiful. Thank you

    Reply ·
  2. Willi Eggerman

    That was a thoughtful take on what throws many of us off course. Thank you for the read.

    Reply ·
  3. Linden Morris Delrio

    Love is the only sensible answer in all of this and “keeping my eyes on my own plate” fully and completely” encompasses that. Such a large gift of wisdom and kindness for ourselves!.. as well as for all of the people we interact with!

    Reply ·
  4. Peggy

    Lesson learned<3

    Reply ·
  5. Joseph Fleischman

    “If I find myself getting thrown off center by something someone else has said or done, I must take that as a cue to dive deep inside myself and find out what’s going on…It has nothing to do with the other person; it has to do with me”.

    That’s a big one! I love it! Thank you Susan!
    On a side note. I would add that I think that being affected to the point of becoming emotional (angry, loving, excited, despondent) over something said or done by someone else, can in some cases be a response that is appropriate and healthy. Natch!
    Joseph in Missoula

    Reply ·
    1. Joseph Fleischman

      I too look inside to see what’s going on when I’m thrown off balance. Often times a couple of minutes is all that’s needed to figure it out, but it could take months in extreme cases. But it’s in there…just needs to jarred loose with some introspection and honest questions.
      Joseph in Missoula

      Reply ·
  6. Francine Posa

    Growing pains and tremendous love from all….so great to see…my nose is down on the grindstone and doing what I can to keep myself and the group healthy happy and free.
    Gratitude plus plus yaaaay!

    Reply ·
  7. Emily

    Susan, you have me pondering not only how I’m affected by what others say to me, but what I say to others. Buddhists define Right (or Wise) Speech as speech that leads to peace and happiness in oneself and others. You’ll know that what you’re about to say is Right Speech by answering two questions: Is it true? Is it useful?
    If it’s not both true and useful, it’s often best kept to ourselves.

    Reply ·
    1. Joseph Fleischman

      I would add “growth”, such that true speech that generates peace, happiness or growth for all is Right Speech.
      Joseph in Missoula

      Reply ·
  8. Mary Jeane

    You close your blog with the serenity prayer. I came across this , which is supposedly the first version of the serenity prayer (who knows?) but thought I would share it.
    For every ailment under the sun,
    There is a remedy, or there is none.
    If there be one try and find it
    If there be none, never mind it.

    Reply ·
    1. Mel

      According to Dale Carnegie it’s a Mother Goose rhyme – he quotes it in his book on how to stop worry. Pg. 77 in my Kindle ebook.

      Reply ·
  9. Edward

    I am the parent of a 15 y.o. who is overweight. I like the concept of “keep your eyes on your own plate” but I am trying to harmonize that with my duty to try and direct my child toward a healthy path. It is quite a challenge.

    Reply ·
    1. Chava Gal-Or

      What I have learned with both myself and my son is that I only have healthy choices at home. And he learned on his own to monitor himself or give himself parameters that work like one soda when out at a restaurant, but never at any other time. The challenge is huge, but from what I can tell a 15 year old has to make the choice.

      BTW, I was that 15 year old (and child), at 16 years old, I took up running and eating right and did that for years to come. When I was forced to give up running, my diet changed and my weight grew. Today, I am making healthy choices and trying to figure out what bright line eating means to me. The big question is not sugar or flour, it is alcohol and foods that turn to sugar in our bodies. Still have a ton to learn. 🙂

      Good luck as you navigate the teenage years.

      Reply ·
  10. Patrecia

    I like the idea of keeping one’s eyes on one’s plate, and I also like Joseph’s comment that an emotional response can be appropriate and healthy. Thich Nhat Hanh, a buddhist monk, used to say that when a difficult emotion arises, one needs to recognize it, cradle it with loving awareness, breathe with it, and when it passes, to look deeply into the causes of it. I find this practice to be so helpful – when I remember it! :). Some things that some people say or do will trigger difficult emotions in me, and it’s important for me to experience those feelings in a non-blaming way – neither blaming the other, nor blaming myself for having them. Being with the feelings with equanimity is a lifetime project for me. Thank you for your thoughtful sharing.

    Reply ·
  11. Karen

    This was perfect timing!! Just a few hours ago, someone referenced my FB posts and commented that I needed to “back off on that femi-nazi stuff”. The first thing that came to mind was “your opinion of me is none of my business, and frankly, does not matter to me”. Basically, I’m keeping my eyes on my own plate! You’re right, Susan. This phrase is about so much more than food or weight.

    Reply ·
  12. Skye Freeman

    Thanks for addressing this, Susan. I’ve been thrown off balance by a number of people and events beyond my control myself. It’s been a true test of my commitment to my personal growth and health … but I am committed.

    As one of my earlier mentors suggested, I try to remember to repeat this mantra when dealing with the drama and judgments of others: “I CHOOSE PEACE.”

    Several members of my support group set their cell phone alarms for noon each day and we silently join each other in the Serenity Prayer. It does seem to help.

    Reply ·
    1. Monica

      Love this idea of being in oneness, even when not together. A communal moment of silence and prayer. I love the serenity prayer.

      Reply ·
  13. michele montgomery

    Thank you!!

    Reply ·
  14. Linda Palomino

    Thank you for addressing this topic, Susan.
    I think as I get older I more completely understand the value of “keeping my eyes on my own plate”. It do agree that it has been an important way for me to have peace, but it’s also always a work in progress.

    I think an important part of what you said was, “It’s about them, so I take it as support and move on.” So, you not only acknowledge that it is about them, but you also assume positive intentions, or give them the benefit of the doubt. This seems to make the “keep my eyes on my own plate” mantra kind and loving.

    Reply ·
  15. Maria Palumbo

    Thanks Susan for an inspiring & honest post. I love the comparison of focusing on the light vs. being distracted by the lamp. Very helpful & worth remembering.

    Reply ·
  16. lee silverstein

    The person I love is in remission from leukemia and has kidney disease.He has been advised to drastically reduce sodium and eliminate alcoholl.His legs are swollen and his energy is reduced.Watching my plate is all I can do.I am a vegan and his plate at times has things I am better off not seeing.I have to say its the toughest thing I have ever done! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply ·
  17. Marianne Marsh

    What I find helpful about the concept of “keep your eyes on your own plate” is that it is applicable for so many other kinds of non-food “plates” in lives. Other people’s “plates” are none of my business–their actions, relationships, you name it–unless they invite me in. And even if they do invite me, I have the option of declining if it doesn’t feel right. For me, keeping out of other people’s business is not only healthy, it’s a relief. Thanks for this post, Susan!

    Reply ·
  18. Monica

    Susan, another masterpiece. You put your heart and soul into your inspiring words every week. There is so much for me to take from today’s edition.
    Much love to and from the whole wonderful community.

    Reply ·
  19. Chava Gal-Or

    Anne Lamott talks/writes a lot about navigating what serves you. I have learned to say, “______ doesn’t serve me well, so why go there. This philosophy has helped me tremendously!

    Reply ·
  20. Peggi Hurley

    As a kid, I was told not to be a busy body. Mind your own business! Mind your own plate!
    Logical basics!
    Thank you, Susan, for the gentle reminder!

    Reply ·
  21. Becky

    Susan, what you wrote about people not following the Bright Line System the way you do really hit home with me. Four months ago my sister introduced me to your video series about Bright Line and I decided to try it. I immediately gave up flour, sugar and artificial sweeteners. And that’s all I did. Even though you clearly told me that the system only works if I follow all four steps I decided just to follow the first two and see what happened. And what happened was this: in four months I gained 10 pounds! Well of course I did. I was not eating three meals a day, I was eating whenever I wanted. I was also eating what ever I wanted (sans flour, sugar and sweeteners). Nachos with corn tortilla chips five times a day? Sure! Why not? Clearly any sane person would not expect to lose weight on this diet. And any rational person would expect to gain weight. But my food addiction was such that I was completely irrational and insane. I finally decided to quit messing around and gaining weight and have put together a weekly menu of three reasonable, well-balanced meals a day. I have posted the menu in the kitchen. Having it there relieves quite a bit of my food anxiety. I am only one week into this but already I feel much better and more in control. Thank you for your good advice even though it took me four months and 10 pounds to listen to it!

    Reply ·
  22. Michele

    I loved your post Susan! I’m going back through all your posts because I’m new. You are a breath of fresh air. I live by the Serenity Prayer daily, and One Day at a Time. Both are on my desk at work. God bless you always, Michele

    Reply ·
  23. Cynthia

    Hi Susan: I really have no idea how the promotion of your videos for this years bootcamp came to me, but, I am not to question the Universe why, I just went ahead and view them. I believe in signs and boy was I asking the Universe to bring me this one.
    Thanks to the Universe that has giving you a calling and the purpose to help people like me that are searching for answers on how to get healthy, thin and be free of anything that causes us harm. Thank you very much.
    I am going back through all your posts, not to miss anything. I know this are the ones from last year but I am new here
    This post of Keep your eyes on your own plate has been an eye opener.
    Many Blessings Susan.

    Reply ·
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