Put your finger on your mental pause button, because you may need it for this one. This is one of the subjects I’ve avoided discussing casually because I feel so strongly about it, and I knew it would become emotionally charged. I invite you to try on a new idea for a few minutes, and see if you can wear it.
Food has nothing to do with life celebrations. Nothing. Period. Grab a pen and paper and plan out your next holiday celebration without food. List experiences other than eating at the center of the vision. What will the place smell like? What will it look like? What will you do? Who will be there? How much laughter will there be? If you’re not slaving over a stove, what will your time be spent on instead? What memories can you create without food? (Bonus: the next day, when everyone steps on the scale, they won’t regret the festivities.) Tell your family to eat before they come over. Tell them to plan on really getting to know each other and sitting still together. Talk about a paradigm shift, without a clutch, eh? Sit in the thought for a few minutes and consider the idea.
We bought a cabin on the lake last year, and the first words out of my girls’ mouths were “YAY! S’mores at the lake!” My husband said, “Can’t wait for the BBQ and cold beer on the dock.” I was pretty new to this new reality of separating food and experiences, but I was committed to getting the family on board with me.
To be clear, s’mores happen from time to time, but it’s no longer THE reason we go to the cabin. It’s no longer the first thing we think of. It no longer holds most of our attention. Now it’s about family, sun, laughter, music, good books and splashing in the water. Yes, we eat when we’re hungry and drink when we’re thirsty. Typically we eat grilled veggies and drink sparkling water. Sometimes it even includes a few beers, but the focus is US!
What’s it all really about, anyway? Is Christmas about Jesus, or fruitcake? And Easter; is it about Christ or jellybeans? Thanksgiving; gratitude or turkey? Superbowl: football or chicken wings? 4th of July; independence or corn on the cob? Valentine’s Day; love or chocolate? The problem with letting these celebrations be food-centric is that we always have a “reason” to eat. The stories we tell ourselves about what we must consume and when, never end. We pretend that it’s about the holidays, but that’s not the truth. We make the “need to indulge” about the platter of goodies the neighbor made for us, that we don’t want to be so rude as to say “no thank you,” to. Or the fact that it’s Friday night and you’ve had a hard week, so you deserve a little food celebration. It’s ALL garbage and we continue to justify our way to obesity.
There will never be another birthday cake in our home (Gasp! Talk about emotionally charged subject matter! Birthday cake is SO engrained in our minds as a MUST for birthday celebrations that some may find this borderline child abuse). This is not to say that we won’t ever eat cake. It just has nothing to do with celebrating another healthy year of life. Birthdays are about the person.
My mother-in-law lives with a feeding tube. I’ve never told her this, but she brought me an awful lot of determination. I thought, “geeze, if Mom can handle these family events without partaking in the food and beverage and still enjoy the company of those she loves, then I can, too!”
Don’t get me wrong. I like food just as much as the next person. Though what I like has changed dramatically (which is a whole other post). The bottom line is: if I choose something that isn’t in alignment with my healthful way of living, I will have it on occasion and with intention. It’s never because I became weak in a moment that I didn’t plan for. And it’s never twice in a row.
Last year, some friends of ours were expecting their first baby, and attended a new parents series of classes to learn the basics. In one of the modules, the instructor mentioned that around six months, when baby starts to eat solid food, it’s important to let someone else feed them from time to time so they can start becoming “socialized.” Seriously?! It’s at SIX months that we start confusing our little ones with the blending of food and socializing? What are we doing? If your big picture, conspiracy theories are kicking in, you’re not alone.
Food should be eaten with intention. When you are hungry, when your body needs fuel, and not on a predetermined schedule or because you may hurt someone’s feelings when you graciously pass on eating what they are dishing out (no matter how thoughtful or kind or gracious), or because it’s your birthday, baby, and the celebration must be centered around the cake. Food is fuel. Entertaining our mouths is contributing to the highest rates of obesity since the beginning of time and this shift promises to shorten the life expectancy for our children and future generations. I don’t know about you, but nothing I have ever eaten has been worth sending my family down that path. Give your body a break. It will thank you.