i heard a commercial on the radio the other day that started by describing the traditional dishes and recipes served at Thanksgiving and Christmastime. a Christmas song played softly in the background as the narrator listed a yummy menu: "mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, turkey and stuffing, cranberries, pecan pie..." my mouth watered and my heart warmed as i pictured the scene of loved ones around the dinner table sharing a delicious meal together.
and then the rug was swiped out from under my warm and fuzzy moment when the radio commercial took a turn for the worse: the voice-over dropped the F-bomb.
what sounded like a commercial for a perfect holiday menu, actually turned out to be a commercial for a weight loss program. the narrator set us up! bait and switch! annoyed, i changed the radio station and went on about my day. but later i found myself thinking about that commercial.
how many people are hearing that commercial or similar diet related sales pitches this week of Thanksgiving? on the radio, on t.v., on Facebook, in magazine articles, in the gym, in conversations with our friends? is the F-word stealing our joy this holiday season?
i hope it isn't. i hope we don't pull up our chair to the Thanksgiving dinner table secretly (or not) dreading weight gain, consumed with what we'll consume, planning how we'll burn off "all those extra calories." hopefully, rather, we can look forward to a family reunited, having quality conversations, enjoying a special meal cooked with love, and planning how we'll stay in touch with one another until next time. if the table is spread with rich dishes and comfort foods, i hope we can see beyond the carbs to the rich family traditions and legacies among us.
when we use the F-word and diet talk this time of year (and anytime really) we're connecting food and holiday traditional meals with guilt and shame.
the F-word is off limits for me. not because i'm afraid of it anymore, but because the word is a trigger that conjures up a slew of insecurities and fears and lies that i have fought for years to be free from. because of insinuations and undertones overheard and planted into my subconscious, i believed for a long time that food causes a person to be fat, being fat is bad, therefore food is bad. and that, my friends, is how an eating disorder was born.
those generalizations based on condemnatory and diet-aide marketing tactics laid a foundation in my soul for a severely unhealthy relationship with food. i was terrified of fat and food was my enemy. holiday feasts were the worst. instead of seeing the joy in the fellowship and festivities, all i could see were the calories and fat grams taunting me to stay up all night doing sit-ups on my bedroom floor. i overheard once that everyone gains 10 pounds over the holiday season and that was, in my convoluted mind, basically the worst thing that could ever happen to a person.
it breaks my heart to think about the insinuations and undertones that we are still sending out. i hear the F-word mentioned on the radio commercial and i cringe, hoping that it didn't plant a seed in someone's sensitive heart like it did in mine many years ago. the F-word has the potential to suck the fun out of the holiday season. and believe me, the F-word has the potential to ruin our relationship with food.
but we can stop the conversations about holiday weight gain and redeem our family meals together. we can we maintain a healthy relationship with food during the holidays (and always)- for ourselves, for our children, and for everyone around us.
here are my thoughts on having a healthy relationship with food:
// avoid using the F-word. take it out of your vocabulary all together. don't use it as an adjective to describe food, yourself, or anyone. not even babies. don't use it as a verb, either. it's a noun, part of a makeup of food, and it's not all bad. stop giving the F-word any power to change the way you feel about yourself or about foods.
// get educated on the types of fats in certain foods. learn to understand and appreciate the complexity of food and what it does for our bodies. start here: Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans Fats.
// make healthy choices because you love your body not because you fear food. if you want to choose the kale salad over the mashed potatoes, do it because you know kale is good for your body, not because mashed potatoes are the enemy. they're not.
// focus on balance and portions. instead of thinking about calories and fat grams, consider a balanced meal of all 5 food groups in proper proportions.
// no food shaming. "wow, you were really hungry!" "i can't believe you ate all of that food!" "are you really going to eat all of that?" "you barely touched your dinner." "why didn't you eat that?" comments like this seem innocent but can trigger shame and guilt around eating. just don't.
// no body shaming. change the conversations about weight gain, weight loss, starting a diet, or going to the gym to "work off this meal." if you feel like your eating habits need to change, make those commitments on your own. making it the focus of conversation at a family meal time can induce body insecurities among others. making it the focus of conversation also puts a lot of value on our physical appearance.
// pray before you eat. ask God to grant you peace to savor the meal, that the food would nourish your body, and thank him for the blessing of having a meal to share with loved ones. go into the meal with a grateful and peaceful heart. see the food on the plate as a gift from God, don't take it for granted.
food is good. holiday meals shared with loved ones are good. don't forget the reason for the season...hint: it's not about the food. enjoy all of the aspects of the holiday. it doesn't have to be all about how much we ate, how full we feel, and how much gym time we'll need to put in next week. make the most of the time together with family, reconnect with friends and loved ones that you don't see that often, offer to help clean up after the meal, take a walk with the kids, play games, look through old photo albums, make memories, and carry on your family's holiday traditions. don't let the F-word ruin your warm and fuzzy moments this holiday season.
[if you think you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, please get help. tell a trusted loved one, or call the National Eating Disorders Association's toll-free hotline at 1-800-931-2237]