On Tradition: Food Thoughts
I wrote this on Christmas Eve morning and because I was with my family and trying to focus on being present rather than updating blogs, I waited until today to post it. Read on.
I woke up on this Christmas Eve morning thinking about the power of food and tradition. I woke up thinking about my coaching practice, which is really my own life practice and story turned into something I wish to give the world or, really, anyone who seeks change in their mental and physical health so they can remove the weight of their habits from their lives and understand themselves better. I began coaching and writing with a hope that if I expressed the truth about food, habits and my emotions - coming clean about all of it, especially the not so pretty parts like eating full bags of chocolate chips in front of the bright lights of my refrigerator - others might feel comfortable doing the same and, from there, I could help people become their healthiest selves.
The truth shall set you free. The truth can be ugly. The beautiful truth is inside each of us. It's one of my core beliefs that the more truths we hold inside, the more we drown ourselves in feeling unwell.
I got to thinking about everyone's food story because we all have one regardless of weight or where we are with our health. Each of us came from a family and that family passes onto us our story. I'm talking about tradition and our childhood - where we're from, what makes us who we are today. We all have a story and that story, whether we recognize it or not, sets the stage somewhere along the line for how we care for ourselves and this includes how we view food, from cooking to eating. These memories are hard-wired in our brain, I see it in my father at age 73 with his mourning of food, family meals and tradition - the way he holds on to memories of meals past because the food doesn't die and people do. I've done the same. I do the same. I've held on to food and the story of my family, wrapping myself inside of it because it's comforting when alone. Food has a power to bring back memories, to evoke emotion but also to suppress emotion. The more weighted down I was with food, the less my light and truth could come out. The more I held back my feelings.
When I think back on childhood, I hid food, I snuck food, I shielded myself and my emotions with food. I was taught food is love and a little more of it would take away loneliness and anxiety. And coming from a food driven home, an Italian home built on tradition, a home of excellent cooks and unlimited access to food - there was an absolute belief that food was in fact love. It took building awareness for me to understand how I related and still relate to food. We don't have a perfect relationship - me and food - but we're in an excellent place with one another.
And, today, on this Christmas Eve, as it's tradition to feast on 7 fishes, eat Panettone, struffoli, my mothers 15 varieties of cookies - I no longer feel scared. I no longer need to overeat all of it to protect myself, I eat it because it's delicious and I can stop because I know next year will come again and there will be more fish, Panettone, struffoli and cookies. I've stopped placing the value of my time with the people I love on food. I've stopped shaming myself for eating cookies - I enjoy what I eat. I keep in mind what makes me feel good, stopping when I feel myself getting full and knowing when I make the choice to eat more - it's all good so long as I'm truly loving every last bite. No food is good, no food is bad - it's in the way and how we consume and relate to what it's giving us.
Eat for enjoyment. Eat to live. Eat real food. Eat in color. Live in color.
And keep the good words of my lady Virginia Woolf top of mind: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
What does dining well or eating well look like to you? What’s your food story?