You know how you’re really good friends with someone, and you want to be around them all the time? You want to go places with them, introduce them to all your other friends, and hang out with them.
Well, food was that friend for me for a long time. It was always there. Popcorn during a movie, a midnight snack when I couldn’t sleep, or a quick trip through the drive-thru on my way home. When I was happy, it was right there enjoying the moment with me. When I was sad, it offered a comfort that I thought I needed.
Both of my parents taught me about food.
My Dad taught me that food was a reward. Junk food was a treat. When I was growing up, I was rewarded with ice cream when I got good grades. It worked. I worked hard to get them. I remember lots of trips to Dairy Queen and later Baskin Robbins as I was growing up. Food was a reward for me when I was good and did as I was supposed to do.
My Mom taught me that food was not to be shared. The more the food cost the more of a hold you should have on it. When there is very little food, it should be hoarded. Hidden. Kept to yourself. She would get mad when I would share my lunch with a friend. She would get mad when my dad would make breads and homemade goodies to give as gifts at Christmas. She was always afraid that there wouldn’t be enough for us.
Sometimes food was a rarity in my house while I was growing up. When we had plenty, we ate all the time. When we had little, we ate when we could. We ate what we could. Sometimes it was even food from the food bank. My mom would always say, “Beggars can’t be choosers”, and I knew, from early in life, that we were poor (most of the time) and that I’d better eat all that was placed in front of me. I remember skipping meals when I was a kid. I remember eating the same thing a lot. I remember a lot of pasta and breads and very little meat. I remember eating weird combinations of things or having bizarre amounts of food in our house. I remember that our church had a donation room with freezers and refrigerators. My dad worked in our church, and at the end of each month our pastor would let my dad clean out whatever was left. This meant #10 cans of food. This meant 5 lb. blocks of bleu cheese. I don’t remember fresh fruit or veggies. Always canned. Fruit cocktail was my idea of fruit. Veg-All was my moms’ idea of vegetables. There were reasons we didn’t have fresh fruit around, but I won’t get into that here. Mostly it was a cost issue. Fresh cost more than canned.
Don’t get me wrong, I still like food. We still talk occasionally and text from time to time, but we aren’t best friends anymore. I miss food when it’s late at night and the house is quiet. It’s a fight to try to stay in bed (especially when I’m not sleeping) rather than get up and munch on something. It’s a fight not to pull into the drive-thru and get a burrito or burger rather than have something at home. I’m not perfect. I still call food and ask it to come over and play from time to time, but I’m feeling better each time I don’t call. Each time I realize it’s not hunger, and walk away. Or stay away.
My dad died before he was 60.
My mom died before she was 70.
Both were unhealthy. Both had a love affair (whether in public or private) with food. Both taught me lessons about food. Some were intentional. Some were not. Both died unhealthy. I want to change that. I want to be healthy. I don’t know how much time I have on this earth, but I want to be capable of taking care of myself and able to do what I want to do…what I feel called to do. Whatever that may be.
I want to set an example of smart, healthy eating for my kids. I’m really late. But a little is better than none at all.
Food is not a reward. Food is a necessity. The right foods are required by your body to live.
As long as the good outweighs the bad, I feel like I’m doing ok.