In a previous Truce with Food round, a client I’ll call Veronica shared how she was succeeding at her goal, which was to eat less sugar.
She told us that in sharing her success with her best friend, her best friend replied,
“Oh no! I hope we are still going to be able to eat our favorite pumpkin spice cupcakes together when you come visit for Thanksgiving!”
“I’ve become the dessert girl to my friends and family. This is an identity I created, yet I don’t necessarily want anymore. Especially since now I don’t need desserts like I used to think.”
Can you relate to having identities related to food with your family or friends? Are you the health-nut? The one always on a new diet? Or the “good” eater (at least in public)?
Is your Thanksgiving holiday going to involve navigating how you and others see yourself around food?
The longer food has been a “thing” for you, the more food serves as a bridge of connection to others. Even if these identities feel difficult, they provide feelings of safety and groundedness we’re often starving for today. For Veronica, passing on desserts wasn’t about the desserts. This change created the risk of losing “common ground.”
Think about who you will be with over Thanksgiving: are they conversing with the present you? Or is it the you of Thanksgiving past? Are you only able to connect with Aunt Diane over food ? Do you hit on the same topics in the same ways and then go through the same eating motions?
When’s the last time you had one of those intimate soul enlivening conversations that nourished you for days? You know the ones that excite you and enable you to see life differently?
So this Thanksgiving, yes balance your blood sugar before you head out to eat. I’m a big believer in also eating the traditional foods that remind you are a part of a history greater than yourself. This is comfort to the soul. And then, create a character plot twist. Take the courageous leap to have a deeply intimate conversation with someone you trust over the holiday.
My favorite Swedish proverb notes, “Only dead fish go with the flow.” Yet rather than bringing forth a riskier identity, like not eating sugar or the side of you that is unconventional, it’s safer to go through the (self-sabotaging) motions of meeting for pumpkin cupcakes. Note: this way is safer, not easier. Nothing feels more isolating than being with someone who you should feel a deep connection with but don’t.
So this Thanksgiving, what has deep meaning to you that offers a gateway to the deep connection you crave? And I’m not talking the Facebook version of this conversation. I’m talking about “hey you’re human? So am I! My job this year kicked my ass. It’s bringing up some old issues and I’m not really sure what’s going on” or “Yes, out of nowhere, the relationship ended and it opened up all these bigger questions I’m now grappling with.” Bonus for doing this over an after-dinner walk. One deeply rich conversation can satiate you well beyond Thanksgiving leftovers.
For Veronica, she had an intimate conversation with her best friend about her Truce with Food experiences, over pumpkin spice tea. They discussed how she came to realize all the different reasons she thought she loved desserts which involved courage to own the more vulnerable parts of herself.
Their meet-up went from the normal food and body loathing fest to an empowering experience steeped in intimacy (Veronica’s honesty gave her friend permission to open about similar issues that were flaring up in her life).
Veronica was amazed at how that one change created a ripple effect in solidifying that she wasn’t really a desserts girl and it also inspired her to have more meaningful conversations with her in-laws during Thanksgiving. Oh and yes, she ate the best she ever had during the holiday.
So this year, challenge yourself to surrender. Open yourself up to a new chapter in your own story about yourself, food and the metaphorical nature of what’s eating you. Observe your food thoughts and choices when you deeply connect over something besides food. See how you can circumvent the traditional downward eating spiral not with more mental gymnastics but rather, more heart.
To heart-felt traditions,
P.S. I talked about this in much more depth in a radio interview last night. You can listen here.