Lately I’ve been eating a lot of food because I’ve been visiting with friends and family. Even if you eat a little of this and a little of that it adds up quickly. The next day I wanted to eat as little as possible to make up for the feast yet food called to me with its nagging pains. How could I be hungry after consuming so many calories? I shouldn’t be, but I was, and so I ate. Small amounts.
This made me think. It was great to spend time with my family and enjoy good food but you end up eating more than you should.
I needed to dig into these feelings and behaviors to unearth truths.
Culturally social gatherings are surrounded by food. Did this tradition originate because people had so little so a bounty of food was a special celebration? I remember in Little Women when the March family gave what little they had on Christmas day to a family down the road who had less. The children had been looking forward to a lavish meal, with foods they rarely had, and they were gave it up selflessly without complaint to those who had less. This was such a lesson to me.
I can go to the store at any time and get what I need. Besides being careful with the budget, I have access to cream, butter, sugar etc. We eat meat more than twice a week. For some these items are for a special occasion and are used sparingly. Some families sacrifice nutrition for frugal meals out of necessity. I was reading Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers and the characters had to be careful to make sure to eat less so that everyone could have a piece of the meal, what little there was. If the main character wanted an extra piece of toast he counted how many were left before he ate it to make sure there was enough. To him food was precious and had to be rationed, which is like during WWII. When you have so little you appreciate what you have, and when you have so much it’s easy to take it for granted.
It’s okay to enjoy food with company. We just need to have more awareness in the moment when that beautiful holiday or celebratory spread looks delicious and calls to us.
Ways to help appreciate and slow down:
Cook fewer sides and desserts. Variety is great but can add to wanting the idea of a little of everything.
Watch your portion sizes. Use a smaller plate.
Say a prayer to be thankful for what you have. Eat slowly.
Give food to your local pantry and those who have less at the approach of a holiday to be more aware of your bounty and those who have less (of course this is wonderful to do year round).
Why do we eat so much? As Abba Dorotheus of the 6th century stated: “Eating is a habit, and one eats what one is used to eating.” So part of the issue was the value I placed on food and how I viewed it. Since I viewed it as a pleasure for the senses, nourishment was secondary to taste. If I ate simply to be nourished I would appreciate food much more: like after fasting on Sundays I’d be happy with a piece of bread, some figs, and nuts.
So I am learning to eat more thoughtfully, more simply, appreciate what I have, have smaller portions, and not give food power. It’s a work in progress and I still stumble every day, but I try.
May you find your own balance in the midst of a culture that says more is better.