LET’S TALK TURKEY
By: Lauren Anderson
Look, let’s be honest here. We all know that Thanksgiving is problematic. We don’t fully know the story of what went down that “meal” between the settlers and the indigenous people, but I think we all can agree it’s not the story they told us in school.
It’s no where close I’ll bet.
But the IDEA of this meal–separated from it’s origins–I think is pretty extraordinary. At it’s core, it’s people coming together, sharing a celebratory feast. Maybe it’s traditional with a big family. Maybe it’s you and your cat and a bowl of mashed potatoes. Maybe it’s three friends out for noodles. In my opinion, it’s all Thanksgiving. It all counts.
It’s a day dedicated to eating and being together. However that may go down. And at it’s heart, I think that IDEA is a wonderful one.
I have learned so much about food and my body, and I’m happy to report, my family has learned right along with me. But I’d be a liar with my butt on fire if I didn’t admit that any holiday centered around food and family didn’t still have it’s share of potential triggers. Especially if you’re like me and have a complicated relationship with food, and probably always will.
And that’s okay! It’s something I carry. The more I accept that this relationship with food exists, and try to understand it, the lighter it seems. So with that spirit in mind, I wanted to share a list of things I now say to myself to gear up for the holiday:
- THERE WILL BE LUMPS. In the gravy and in the conversation. Perfection is not an option. I will accept the lumps and assume best intentions. Someone is going to say something that I might take the wrong way. I can decide if I want to address it, or let it go. Both options are valid.
- I CAN EAT WHEN I FEELL HUNGRY. INCLUDING BEFORE/AFTER THE MEAL. In my family we don’t eat until well into the afternoon. It’s okay to eat breakfast. In fact, I eat breakfast everyday and am able to regulate my blood sugar better when I do. Why stop for a holiday? Also, if I get hungry again after the meal, it’s okay to eat at night too. It’s okay to eat when I feel hungry.
- I CAN SAY YES OR NO TO ANYTHING THAT’S OFFERED. If I am not hungry or do not feel like eating something, I can say no to it. I don’t have to eat out of obligation, or guilt knowing how hard someone has worked to make it. I can also say yes if I want to! Yes to dessert and yes to more gravy. It’s a celebration! And if I am offered seconds and I am still hungry, I can have more.
- I WILL RESPECT OTHERS WHO SAY YES OR NO TO WHAT IS OFFERED. It’s always more fun to share a drink, than to drink alone. Same goes for dessert etc. But if someone is full or abstaining, I will not pressure or cajole them into joining me, as a way to alleviate my own guilt. I will ask or offer once and respect whatever decision they make. I will remind myself that their decision is not a judgement on me.
- I WILL ACKNOWLEDGE ANY FEELINGS THAT COME UP AROUND FOOD. I am very happy to say that after years of concentrated effort, I rarely have guilt feelings about food anymore. HALLELUJAH!!! BUT! If they were going to bubble up, Thanksgiving would be the day to do it. SO… that being said, if complicated feelings show themselves, I will say hello to them. “Hi guilt. Come on in.” And then investigate. “Where is this guilt coming from?” I will allow whatever feelings I’m having about food stay for as long as they need to. I understand that the only why to release negative feelings, is to first accept that they are happening.
- I WILL NOT POLICE HOW OTHERS TALK ABOUT FOOD OR THEIR BODIES. When I was newer to this journey, I was downright militant about the language that was being used around me. It made a safe space for ME, but I can admit I was no fun to be around. Now that I’m a few years in, I recognize on a deep level that everyone is at their own pace on the journey. And some people have no interest in growing in this area at all. I am free to share my opinion, and so are they. And I can accept that these opinions may be different. I will accept that I cannot control others. I accept that the only thing I can control is what I say/think about myself. And if others comment on my body/eating without my consent, I can and will directly address it.
- I CAN TAKE TIME TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. I am a 100% extrovert, but even I can get a little overwhelmed on the holidays. It’s okay for me to excuse myself to the basement, or linger in the bathroom to get some alone time. And after the meal, some people like to nap, but I prefer to go on a robust winter walk instead. I can invite others to join me, or go alone. It is okay to take care of my own needs.
- AND LASTLY, I WILL PLAY MY FOOD MANTRA ON REPEAT. I will say it enough so I don’t forget it. I can play it in my head, or I can share it out loud if I choose. My family KNOWS this mantra cause they’ve heard me say it like, a billion times now. But I am free to share my deep belief in it again if I need/want to. Say it with me now!!!
I AM NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD FOR THE FOOD CHOICES I MAKE.
FOOD IS NOT GOOD OR BAD, IT JUST IS.
FOOD HAS NO MORALITY.
So there you have it. Eight things I’m going to employ to help make this holiday the best it can be for me. It can be so complicated, especially if you’re feeling fragile or you have a hard relationship(s) that you’re also navigating on this day.
I have no control what others think, do, or say. And that can be a real bummer. But I find great solace knowing I have absolute power over what I think and do and say.
I am the Captain. And I get to say what goes down when it comes to my ship.
There may be rough waters ahead, but if I can set clear enough boundaries and expectations for myself, I know I can steer that gravy boat into victory.