Do people watch their diets in order to demonstrate their superiority to others?
That doesn't seem like the top reason that someone would deprive themselves of the foods and drinks that they might otherwise enjoy, be it for their richness or their sweetness or their mere convenience. I would guess that reason #1 for dieting is the desire to lose weight, and reason #2 might involve restrictions related to various medical conditions. And having been acquainted with several serious long-distance runners, I know what a serious concern diet is for athletes. But during these weeks of many holiday parties I have once again noticed how annoyed people can be when they see you're not taking part in the typical gluttony. This might be a more understandable reaction if we're talking about someone who offers you food, especially if s/he were the person who prepared it -- In many cultures it is rude to turn those offers down. I'm not talking about that kind of situation. I'm talking about the case where the other guests seem almost offended that you don't have a plate stacked full of desserts--as if your own self-discipline were designed to make some kind of comment about their own (or their lack thereof). And then I wondered -- perhaps their reaction isn't so absurd. I could imagine how a competitiveness could arise when people eat together in public. For example, when I go out to lunch with a group of co-workers, it is common for almost everyone to order a salad (even though with all the meat and cheese they put on those things these days, you're probably getting more fat and calories than you could find in many of the entrees). The holiday party, then, might be characterized by an implicit pact -- if we *all* eat like lunatics, then all of us can feast without shame. One person breaks the pact, though, and it's like a single airline slashing its prices -- Suddenly competition is back, and we all have to be leaner and meaner once again. And it's all the fault of the one loser who wouldn't try the cheesecake.
Anyways, if anyone else has had similar observations or experiences, I'd be interested to hear them.