You’re at a fabulous Italian Restaurant…there’s live music in the background. You’re seated on the patio. It’s about 74 degrees and there are twinkle lights flickering softly above you because it’s dusk. A fountain bubbles in the background and the air smells of roasted garlic, basil and cream. Your server brings out a steaming, round loaf of freshly baked bread. You drizzle the olive oil into a shallow dish, add a few glugs of balsamic for good measure. Turn after turn you grind the black pepper on top and sprinkle it with the tiniest bit of freshly shaved parmesan. Amidst the laughter of friends you rip yourself off a piece of the crusty golden disc, the steam dampens your fingers slightly. With absolute abandon you dunk the bread and the joy of what you put into your mouth is, in that moment, the joy, nay, the essence, of life itself.
I’ve been on a diet.
It’s actually a 28 day metabolism reset, not something I’m doing exclusively to lose weight. The weight loss is supposed to be the “added bonus” to resetting my hormones and metabolism. They can dress it up all they want to. They can call it a cleanse, a lifestyle, a restart; but in my mind, any words used to describe the taking away of sugar, honey, corn, wheat, dairy, soy, peanut butter, caffeine, dried fruit, juice, bananas, potatoes, and anything fat-free or processed is, in fact, a diet.
It isn’t a diet of deprivation. I’ve eaten more in the past 3 weeks than I’ve ever eaten in a day. A portion of vegetables is three cups on this plan! And, I’m eating full servings of different things six times a day. I’m not hungry.
Only I am. My soul is hungry. I love food. Food is my drug of choice. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I eat. Well. And in excess.
When I want to be silly with the kids, I pull out the tubs of ingredients and we cover the kitchen with flour dust and laughter. Then we celebrate the mess by eating burn-your-tongue-hot cookies with icy milk.
And, then, when I’m sad, I stop in at Rhonda’s Pies. She gives me a meat pie that she made herself that morning before the sun came up. She gives me kind words and I give her 2.75.
In the summer when I’m covered in dried sweat and flip flops, when I have a baby on my hip and filthy kids, it’s time for Pina Colada snowcones. We get them from the same place I got them when I was 17 and beautiful and the world was bursting with possibilities.
If someone is hurt or sick or dead and I am so full of despair and a lack of control–when I don’t know what else to do to help–I make a meal. Shepherd’s Pie, Enchiladas, Stroganoff, Lasagna. I cry and pour all the love I can into that food. I offer it with a here, take this meal but what I’m trying to say is I love you and I’m sorry.
When I’m feeling amorous I shed the mommy-maxi-skirt and graphic tee in favor of heels and perfume to head out with my husband to some fabulous place to eat, usually somewhere we haven’t tried before. We eat for hours and pretend that we don’t have bills or kids or obligations. We exchange bites of our decadent meals with each other and then we share dessert. Raspberry Orange Crème Brule. Chocolate Habanero Ice Cream. And I’m not going to lie, at the end of the date we usually go home together. Wink.
See, food is my drug and I have a different drug for every need.
Over the past 23 days I’ve been forced to look at my dependence on food. To take it apart. To examine it. To decide… If it’s really a bad thing to love to eat. If I really have to be 126 pounds. If I can still be happy without butter.
Hunger is a reminder to be humble. A reminder of need. A reminder of God, of Christ. It’s an invitation to feel humility, gratitude, comfort and nourishment. Food can also cause me to be selfish, gluttonous and numb. Every yin has its yang. I travel through my life with the challenge of finding balance as my constant companion.
In her brilliant book, Bread and Wine, author Shauna Niequist says this:
“I’m working to find a middle ground–some fasting, some feasting. At some points, gobbling up life with every bite; in other seasons, mastering the appetites and tempering the desires. My work these days is to find balance–allowing the senses to taste every bite of life without being driven by appetites, indiscriminate and ravenous. Some days I get it right, and some days I don’t, but I do know that along the way the process is healing me.”
So there you go, a little fasting, a little feasting. Balance. I want to get to the place where I can enjoy one lovely cookie but not the whole box. I want to enjoy a gut-busting Thanksgiving dinner–once a year. I want to use food not just to nourish my emotions, but to remember that with every bite I’m nourishing or not nourishing my body as well. I think one can only be whole when they are at home in their soul, which I define as spirit and body, together, at the same time.