It is just days before one of the most identifiable eating holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. For those of us who can “afford” buying the turkey and the “trimmings”, this is a day we all look forward to “pigging out”. For those of who are both in need of losing weight but are still “attached” to eating all of the delicious dishes that accompany such an extravaganza; it is a day fraught with anxiety and elation, even a combination of both, as we make our way through the buffet line.
A few years ago when I decided that “now” was the time that I make some serious changes in my dietary habits, I decided, along with many other weight lose friends, that I would “re-do” the traditional turkey meal. It also coincided with my adult child visiting me who has been a vegetarian for half of her life. In the past, as she was making the transition from being a carnivore to a herbivore, when she did the “rounds” of visiting her relatives and extended family (her father and I are divorced), she would tell me that she would end up eating buttered buns and mashed potatoes. I used to feel that was so “sad” since I was thoroughly enjoying my second or even third helping of turkey soaked in gravy along with green bean casserole, jellied cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes and, of course, the piece de resistance: pumpkin pie with a huge dollop of Cool Whip.
Since those days, my beliefs on what constitutes a Thanksgiving meal has shifted. One reason was the fact that I had discovered that my excess weight was causing me some serious health problems. I had a new perspective to consider: is eating all of this excess really worth the impact it has on my health? The obvious answer is “No” but the question also asks of me, what about my emotional and even spiritual health? How is this largess impacting those two parts of my being?
Okay, I realize that is getting “heavy handed” over “one meal a year” but for anyone who is truly struggling with their relationship with food, that one meal of the year is just the tip of the iceberg. We all know it isn’t just one meal because it bleeds over into several days that follow. Black Friday brings us front row center to all of the food court “temptations” at our local Mall. Then, there are the “leftovers”. If you drive by McDonald’s on Black Friday and the weekend after Thanksgiving, you will see their drive through busier than a “one arm paper hanger” . There is something about having eaten turkey for a couple of days that makes you want to have a Quarter Pounder with cheese. There just is!
Suddenly, what starts out as one meal ends up being several wrong turns down dead end streets. Even more importantly, it puts all of the emphasis in the wrong place. Thanksgiving need not stop at extra food and extra calories. It has the potential to be so much more….if we allow it to be. Today, I make choices that celebrate both my good fortune in being able to purchase food to share at my family table but also that I can choose to make that meal more representative of the other meals that I have throughout the year and not just “that one day”. In fact, in spite of this being a quintessential American holiday tradition, a “day of thanksgiving” can be universal, if we only allow it to be. It is also about being thankful for having choices we can make.
This year Thanksgiving follows on the heels of a national election here in the U.S. For most of us, we feel pretty much the same way we feel after a Thanksgiving meal: uncomfortably replete and just wanting to find the nearest place where we can “veg out” and put the experience behind us. However, I am reminded that, although there are obvious flaws in the way our system works, we do have the freedom to elect who governs us. My husband and I had many lengthy discussions about this freedom that we have. It will have been 40 years since the first time that I was able to exercise my right to vote. I will admit that, in the past, I “had made up my mind” long before the two individuals were squaring off at their first public debate.
This year was different. This year I decided that my vote would speak for more than myself: I wanted the person to sit in that office who would best represent and do the most for the greatest number of people. My individual vote no longer represented “what was best for me” but what was “best for the rest of us”. Now, I have mentioned in my past entries that I am one of the 42 million Americans who does not have health insurance. I would benefit from having health insurance but, unfortunately, as I have told my friends, “I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid (usually people who subside on government programs), I am too young to qualify for Medicare (usually for our senior citizens 66 and older) and I am not disabled enough to qualify for Supplemental Insurance through Social Security.” However, I did not want to make my vote be “a one issue” vote either. It took a lot of thought, prayer and deliberation for me to make my decision but, ultimately, I knew that the person I choose to best represent the American people(s) was the person I wanted to “stand behind”. Although it was a tough decision, I am thankful that I also exercised the freedom of choice to make that decision.
So, what does this have to do with making choices regarding food and eating? Actually, a lot more than I realized at the time. I have come to realize over the past couple years as I change regarding my relationship with food, that everything in my life is a matter of “exercising my personal choice”. Rather than bemoan the fact that I may have to choose to not eat that extra piece of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving or, if I do, know full well what that will mean to my blood glucose, I can celebrate and give thanks for having the freedom to make that choice. I can choose to make choices that support renewed health and well being, including mental and spiritual well being.
I am slowly learning that my weight lose journey is not “all about me” but it does clearly impact everyone that I come in contact. If you recall your American History, the first Thanksgiving was made possible because the Native Americans shared their maize crop among other food staples with the starving new settlers who has just survived one of the worst “first new years” of their existence. Unfortunately, it was a lesson of brotherhood got lost over time but it is never too late while we are giving thanks for the abundance of choices we all can make on this day as well as the other 364 days of the year that we also extend our hand to someone who could and may benefit from the choices we make today.
After all, we do have a choice.