Over the years I have found solace in food. In making it, in reading about it, and certainly, in eating it. I have also had varying success in managing the consequences of my eating choices. I have many friends who have shared their beliefs, opinions, and judgments about my food choices and its impact on my health. I am also familiar with the key tenents of good nutrition as well as some of the fads and fantastic theories that are in the blogosphere. All of these contribute to what I know and believe about food.
When I am stressed, I have my favorite go-to foods. These are primarily carbohydrates and include salty/sweet things that are crunchy. When I am feeling grounded, I find myself eating lots of leafy greens, grains, and quality protein. And then there is chocolate – always chocolate.
There are times when familiar foods offer me comfort. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup come to mind, as do holiday treats. I can step away from the meal feeling as if I am full and re-charged. Too frequently these days, however, I am finding that comfort foods are no longer comforting. I am losing interest in trying new things. I am falling back into bad habits of just eating whatever is around instead of paying attention to what I consume and planning my caloric intake.
Central to making lasting change is the need to accept there will be temporary discomfort as new and different things are introduced and new routines replace old ones. That discomfort frequently feels extreme and it is understandable that reassurance will be sought and welcomed. Who we turn to in these kinds of transitions is key to our success in making it through the temporary period and succeeding on our new path. Encounters with nay-sayers or those who express fervent opinions may undermine or even stop any change from happening. Doubts can be planted by well-intentioned cheerleaders. Those inner voices may find amplification in external models, both good and bad.
Strategies for managing these changes are many and include partnering with others who are similarly engaged in seeking change. Reading about others who have been successful. Journaling about the experience. Forgiving the slips and re-committing to the long-term goals. Taking things one day at a time and celebrating the wins.
We are entering a time of year that is incredibly challenging to those of us who find food to be more than just sustenance. We will be offered meals that contain no nutrients whatsoever and told to be grateful for even having been offered something to eat. We will be guilted into participating in social events that have only one purpose – to over-consume. We will be expected to honor traditions past and create new ones without questioning whether they are worthy of their legacy. And at the end of this marathon of consumption, we will be expected to return to “normal”. Some of us will be able to withstand the temptations and others of us will not.
These observations also apply to our current political buffet. We need to pay attention to what we are being fed by politicians as well as the media, and the consequences of consuming what they are serving. For example, when I am stressed, I find I seek out sources of information that confirm my beliefs, don’t challenge my tastes, and have a satisfying, albeit temporary, effect of reassuring me that everybody else is crazy, but I am all right (comfort foods).
When I am feeling secure and know I am in charge of my predictable life, I am far more willing to listen to new and possibly vastly different ideas about things. I can pause and reflect on whether such thinking might be useful to adopt or whether it is based on evidence or pseudo-science.
There are trusted sources I turn to (e.g., the PBS Newshour) that provide me with guaranteed results. These represent the familiar foods and good nutrition that should be the staple of my diet. Then there are fringe sources that make for fun reading, but are so far from reality that they cannot and should not be taken seriously (e.g., Q-Anon). These represent the tasting menus that include things I have never heard of, nor once tasted, will I ever eat again.
We are now being given a steady diet of opinions about who is going to be elected, predictions of what will happen when so and so takes office, and lofty promises of how things will change after it is all over. For those of you who are fans of the Great British Baking Show, this is the signature challenge!
We are seeing multiple numbers of people taking basic ingredients and turning them into fantastical presentations that have no long-term nutritional value. Because it is a contest, we are seduced into picking winners and losers. We are given opportunities to express our opinions on our favorites and whether the judging is fair or not. There is a time limit, so our excitement will build and our tension will be relieved when the winner is announced. And, just like the Great British Baking Show, very few of us will actually see how the sausage is made or who has to do the cleaning up.
Please do not be angry with me, dear reader, for having used a food metaphor to remind you that what you are consuming in terms of the future of our nation depends on what is being served. Our democracy invites us all to the table, although that table is set differently depending on your age, economic status, your level of education, the color of your skin, and any allergies you may have. What you choose to eat at this meal depends on the kind of hunger you have and what you believe will satisfy it.
There are consequences for what we consume. And, we are all going to be involved in cleaning up after. The only recipe for change that I know of requires us to undergo some distress until we can acquire new habits and beliefs. That is true regardless of whether we choose to change ourselves, or whether change is thrust upon us.