Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving, Food Freedom, and a Giggle

Thanksgiving Day, 2020...what an altered and opportunistic kind of day this year. I rest with a cup of coffee, newly showered (me, not the coffee), lots of energy but also a beautiful and now familiar weariness from a partner workout with (socially-distanced) CrossFit peeps this morning. Push Jerks, med-ball cleans, V-ups, and up-downs-over-the-bar. It’s a quiet day of gratitude in my small bubble of two-and-a-half (Brian and our dog, Nala, who tolerates the ½ designation)...some writing, jigsaw puzzling, knitting, finishing Season Four of the Crown, a festive meal of lamb, brussel sprouts with bacon, mashed potatoes...preceded surely by cocktail hour and concluded with maple-walnut pie from Betty’s Pies, off of Lake Superior! (Thanks, Kate, for lead into! Brian loved the surprise of it all!) It’s a gentle day of gratitude.

I am thankful for so very much, not least of which is good health, even a high level of fitness in these pandemic days. For the CDC-guidelined-ways to stay active and strengthen in body and mind. And, the hidden intention of this post...I’m thankful for food freedom, which is a phrase I’ve used to try to name my experiences these days with foods of all kinds. It seems a good day to describe a bit of what I mean…

At root, food freedom means I no longer live in a driven, sub-conscious or conscious dance with food choices anymore. There’s an old folk-tale called the Red Shoes, a story warning against vanity and judgment in a young woman with a fancy pair of red shoes. Without going into too much detail, the shoes become a curse--shoes that never come off of her feet, shoes that will never stop dancing her. No matter how weary she gets, or remorseful she gets, these shoes dance her. Eventually, a woodsman amputates her feet and the shoes go dancing off with her feet still in them. (Charming, eh? Hans Christian Anderson getting back at his troublesome and vain sister, so the story goes…). 

Food used to be red-shoes for me, in many ways… I grew up with a ready fear about food, for one thing. Would there be enough? a fear inherited from my mother, whose childhood was pretty rough. Don’t eat too much! a shaming fear inherited from a beauty-obsessed/ thin-obsessed culture with power-over my often-hyperglycemic body experiences from a diet high in carbs, sugar, fat and salt. Food was also the favored response to stress in my family of origin. Nervous? Something salty and high in fat. Celebrating? Something high in sugar and carbs. Bored? How about a pizza, after a long day of work? Slim Chance in a Fat World--the title of the book that began the Weight Watchers movement--described it well. There are so many external ‘triggers’ for food-cravings--billboards or sides-of-semis with larger-than-life pictures of processed/fast-food food-stuffs--which would then “dance me” to focus on food to ease my subconscious fears or respond to whatever emotional weather was raging inside (and out). The food-marketers know this in spades, of course, and so food danced me for decades of my life.

The ways that I experience my body and the need for fueling it today are nearly completely free of ALL of that. I no longer get my mind hooked on some “temptation.” I rarely stuff myself to avoid feeling something anymore. I’m therefore more in touch with whatever emotions or felt-senses that might arise, in response to outside events. Cutting out sugar has meant I experience cravings so infrequently that they are now a noteworthy signal I can pay attention to with curiosity and wonder. Instead of being a nearly constant daily experience driving my next infusion of sweet/sugar, the sensations are slow, curious, can be tended to from within a different sense of wisdom, experience. I know from the outside, this choice looks like one about “being on a diet” or “deprivation” for the sake of “good health.” That suggests a confinement or an unfreedom... which does not match the steady wholeness I now know in my body. The experience of no-sugar is freeing, which has increasingly worn away any sense of drive-for...or fear of any kind. The low-carbs bit is intricately involved in this too, with the same basic result. 

None of this would have worked if the food that fuels me so well weren’t tasty for me, of course. My husband cannot stand nut-butters, for instance, which I enjoy every day. I love the foods I get to eat, and the practice of food-prepping meets my own love of ‘kitchen activity,’ which used to be baking. I still get to work with my hands to create tasty things, in other words. I still get to share the fruits of my efforts (now only with Brian, of course, but eventually, sharing with others (Mike Weaver :)) will return…). 

But all of it now courses through a fearless ease, a steadiness of energy and drive that no longer dances me. I get to dance when I choose to--like on a day of Thanksgiving, with a celebratory meal--then I get to rest when I need to. The celebratory meals are even more tasty, special...because of this freedom from foods driving me. 

It has consequences for my overall level of fitness, I know, but for me, it’s an emotional and spiritual thing. I’m a better human being with all the human and sentient beings in my life because I’m free, steadied, at ease, and curious. Much gratitude. So very much to be thankful for...even in this Thanksgiving Day 2020. Love the feel of a giggle in my stomach with all I GET to enjoy in this life. Blessed be, and blessings to all of you and yours...

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