Food. So many people have a love-hate relationship with our daily sustenance.
A few, rare souls give very little emotional or mental energy to what they put in the systems because they have the metabolism of a chipmunk on a treadmill and can eat whatever they want. I admit, I don't get these folks at all. I have a complete lack of understanding or empathy for them, and maybe in my meaner moments, even dislike them a bit. But there is another category of eaters I envy—the ones who love and celebrate food and have made a peace with the role it has in their lives. I don’t profess to understand this group any more clearly than the previous, but it’s a concept that resonates with me, and I constantly strive to achieve.
I’ve never had a peace with food or my body. Ever. There have been periods throughout my life when I seem to have triumphed over the scale, but still many more when the scale raised its numerical fist with mighty numbers and triumphed over me. I fully confess, I don’t have a friendly relationship with this adversarial and esteem-crushing instrument.
This "weighty" topic (can I have a groan, please) is fresh in my mind as I both approach the holidays--a season of celebration in the form of delectable feasting--and a trip to Florida in February where I’m hoping the weather will invite the wearing of shorts, tank tops, and bathing suits by the ocean. Oh the conflicted bliss of both events!
I believe special celebrations of feasting are a God-ordained invitation. Throughout the Bible, and in most religions and regions of the world, celebrations are manifested in the form of breaking of fasts, abundant treats, family, friends and creative expression. And what screams creativity more than a plate full of gorgeous holiday cookies decorated with care, especially the kind with colorful little sprinkles or maybe a chocolate kiss in the middle…ahem, I digress. But my point is, holidays are a legitimate time to take joy in culinary treats and delight in those we love and share life with.
The problem, of course, isn’t in the day of feasting. It’s in the season of feasting—days, weeks and in the case of Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together, months of excessive and rich noshing. It’s in the non-celebratory, over-eating that I engage in year-round. It’s in having lost the distinction between joyful nourishment of my body with foods that are tasty and healthful, and eating to stuff my emotions and satiate my every taste desire. Therein lies the cycle of binge eating and dieting I get caught up in, the very one that beats up my self-esteem and makes me cringe if a camera is directed my way. Sad.
The other day I read an online article, Eat Like A Buddhist in 10 Easy Steps. The content isn't anything startling new, but it highlighted a contemplative, grateful and disciplined approach to the act of eating that struck me anew. And it reminded me of the category of people I mentioned above—the ones I wish I could truly emulate—those who have made peace with the delights of food and their body. It suggested savoring the tastes and textures of food, recognizing treats as exactly that—rare exceptions, and entering into a mindful quiet with my eating, which is, I admit, in direct contrast to my usual hasty and distracted snarfing.
Mostly, at least for me, it reminded me that eating is a communion with family and friends, a source of enjoyment in life, not a whipping post for my emotional insecurities and fears or a way to dull my inner pain. Of course, while my head grasps the concepts and my heart longs to be among those who have made their peace, actualizing it--putting it into practice in the face of ongoing temptations like pumpkin pies, gifts of baked goods and eggnog with rum--is the crux of the matter.
I can use Florida as a sunny, warm catalyst for my motivation, but ultimately, I need to make a new emotional, mental and spiritual relationship with my daily bread (and maybe not so much emphasis on the bread).
May our holidays be filled with the mindful and joyful celebration of family and friends and may our day of feasting be a break-- not the norm-- in our diets, a time to rejoice and be thankful for our abundance. And may the new year, full of healthy intentions, begin today.