August Tip: Appetite

When I worked at Boeing, you could always count on some new initiative being foisted on us as the newest way to improve, engage or sell. They might be directed at our customers or at employees. Compared to old-timers, I was almost gullible in granting some validity to each new campaign. But the longer I was there, the less I believed each new enthusiastically launched idea.

I remember one of the yearly and almost instantly abandoned marketing ploys was aimed at determining how to develop a customer’s ‘Appetite’ for our product.

The word and the concept niggled at me. I knew that in health care, having a good appetite was a good thing. A good appetite in babies, invalids and other who needed care was a sign of hope and possible improvement. “She still enjoys her food…” is a sentence I and others use as we watch friends and family in health crises.

However, for me, and for many women I know, the word ‘Appetite,’ when applied to food intake, is fraught. We can feel watched and judged when we demonstrate that we have a ‘Good’ appetite. We feel it whether we carry extra weight or not – according to a constantly changing standard of what we should weigh or how we should look. Demonstrating too great an enthusiasm for food can seem unseemly or, in some situations, uncomfortable.

It rarely helps strengthen relationships to make someone else feel defensive about the words they use. Instead, consider using a ‘stealth strategy’ rather than direct confrontation for changing the language commonly used and thus reframing how we think about ourselves. You can say how that word impacts you. For me, when I hear what feels like snide comment about my ‘healthy’ or ‘big’ appetite, I counter by saying I enjoy my food and consider it one of the reliable pleasures in my life.

I might follow by saying that my healthy appetite extends to more than my food. It shows up in the interests I have, the people I want to know, the books I read, the shows I watch.

I do my best not be defensive or apologetic. First, I try not to take the comment as criticism. Then, I counter by asking what they have an appetite for. What makes them happy to ingest in whatever form it shows up.

As is usually the case, people like talking about themselves, often discovering something new in the conversation. Who knows, they might develop an appetite for something they’ve never tried before!