A Note About This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent some time in my life, TOO much time in my life, doing things for other people and not for myself. Let me be clear, I don’t mind doing a favor or helping someone out, but what I mean is that I’ve made decisions and took actions about MY OWN life because of what someone else said or did or asked or wanted and without the foremost regard for what I wanted or needed to do at the time. Some of these things were pretty minor and irrelevant in the long run and others . . . not so much. Regardless of how big or small they have been, the fact remains that I have made decisions about my life for the benefit of others, at least occasionally, at the sacrifice of my own well-being.
I probably will again in the future, too. I’m not perfect and, at my core, I like to contribute to making others happy and content. But, here’s the thing, I’ve sort of figured out that I like to make myself happy, too, and to top it off, that’s actually what I have the most control over. Funny how that all works out.
So, what does this have to do with food? Quite a lot, actually, as doing things for other people has often manifested in eating for or because of other people. There are so many times when I have eaten things that I didn’t want or enjoy or have interest in, in some sort of attempt to: fit in, not be rude, get an emotional uplift, be defiant, be compliant, [fill in ridiculous reason here]. If you’re thinking you want an example or two to understand how this works, I’m happy to provide them:
I’ve eaten food I didn’t like or want because it was offered to me and I didn’t want to appear rude or ungrateful.
I’ve eaten food after I was way too full because I didn’t want to be wasteful when there are others who go without.
I’ve eaten food not out of hunger, but out of anger or pain when I’ve been upset (food is more comforting and safer at times than dealing with the person and problem at hand).
I’ve eaten food I couldn’t afford because I was trying to fit in with others who could afford it and encouraged me to join in.
Like so many other things in life, our food choices can turn into so much more than hunger, nutrients, or enjoyment, and can become about something else entirely. This is a problem. It is a problem because all choices have outcomes and all of this eating for reasons outside of myself had way too many negative outcomes for me personally.
Sometimes I felt sick, stuffed, too full. Other times I suffered undue stress, working to pay off credit cards because I’d spent money I didn’t have. There were times when I felt bad emotionally about it afterwards – guilt, maybe even shame or embarrassment set in. There were extra pounds gained and a dissatisfaction with my level of energy. There was the knowledge that my health was being compromised – getting too much food, yet not enough of the vitamins and nutrients that I needed.
When I decided, almost two years ago, to make changes in the way I eat it was about more than weight or appearance. It was about owning up to the fact that food had power over me in ways that it shouldn’t have and that other people had power of me in ways they shouldn’t have. I didn’t want to eat out of anger or guilt or to please someone else. I wanted to eat when I was hungry and interested in food. I wanted to eat what I wanted, try new things, and say no to things I wasn’t interested in, regardless of social pressure of any kind. I wanted to eat with pleasure and enjoyment and to provide nourishment to my body and mind.
On my terms.
I’m not perfect in my goals with this, but I am certainly much improved with them. As a result, my relationship with food has totally changed. It is a relationship that is built on more knowledge and respect for both myself and for food systems and production. It is a relationship that is much healthier than it has ever been before and one that is more exciting, too. It’s filled with possibilities and boundaries – possibilities of exploring new things (sometimes I try cooking new things even if I may be the only one in the house that likes it!) and boundaries that suit my best interests, tastes, and preferences (I say no, politely but without guilt, to food that doesn’t fit into my lifestyle).
So, maybe in this way I am selfish – but I’m okay with that. When I look closely at the plethora of food issues our world faces (obesity, malnutrition, starvation, depletion of resources, food borne illnesses, food-related diseases) I think we could all likely be best served by being a bit more selfish in these areas. I also think that making decisions about food driven by knowledge and a selfish desire to be mentally and physically happy and healthy isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, I’d encourage just about anyone to practice a little selfishness in this regard.
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