About a month ago, I wrote the second installment in my fitness saga, and was very encouraged that one of the benefits of exercising and eating healthier was that I stopped even wanting the rich foods I previously craved.
Ahem. Over the last month, an irresistible force began to reassert itself – a force powerful enough to stop my success in its tracks. It is present in many families, especially ethnic families where the words spoken most often are some variant of “Eat! Eat!” Embedded deeply in the DNA of my husband’s family is this connection of food to famiglia, love, respect, tradition and a whole lot more.
The Eat Mediterranean website puts it very succinctly – in fact, the name of the article this excerpt is taken from is “Mediterranean Lifestyle Principle #1: Eat to Live, Eat to Celebrate.”
“The Mediterranean Lifestyle is about much more than just diet. It is a way of being.
“It is hard to really understand it unless you actually go to the Mediterranean region, get away from the touristy areas, and spend some time in small villages. Here, as you walk down the road, you will be invited into people’s homes and offered food and drink and cheer. You will see people gathered to help their neighbors pick olives or grapes for wine. You will watch families getting their exercise by picking greens or herbs for teas and then you will be invited to eat with the family and the extended family. It is a good way of living and it is something to aspire to not only for our physical health, but also for our emotional and spiritual well-being.”
I would not trade the last 28 years as a member of this wonderful family for perfect health and a weight loss of 100 pounds. I am an only child, and my husband has more close cousins than I have members of my entire extended family. I have learned unconditional love here, and have many wonderful memories of meals and holidays and laughter. My mother, on the other hand, knew how to make exactly five things – the elements of a traditional Southern Thanksgiving, a traditional Southern heart attack breakfast, Chickasaw green beans with fatback, Southern fried chicken to die for (and gravy!), and Chef Boyardee spaghetti from a box. I kid you not. After my dad passed away, she ate out for every single meal. Food was not a big deal in our family.
So while I think of my Italian family as the place where I learned to eat, I clearly already had some bad habits of my own that were forged in my childhood but did not manifest themselves until I started associating food with famiglia, love, respect, tradition and a whole lot more.
The recent whirlwind of activity in my business left me too busy to do a lot of cooking. So my husband, who is an amazing cook, took over in the kitchen for a while. And I remembered why I have had so much trouble losing weight in the past: in this family, food is not about just nourishing your body, but is an expression of love and respect, both to cook and to eat. It is a gross insult not to eat what someone has cooked for you, particularly when they have done so in a sacrificial way. And so this month, I have found myself eating foods that I really didn’t want when I didn’t really want to eat them.
The good news is that I have been eating much smaller quantities of these foods than in the past, so between the smaller portions and exercise, I have managed not to gain any weight. I just haven’t lost any more. Unsurprisingly, I have not been as diligent on the treadmill this month either. And yet, I am still seeing some changes in my body and realizing that just because progress is slow does not mean that there is no progress.
Healthy habits that promote weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle begin in your mind. Deliverance occurs when the object of your desire meets your willingness to do whatever it takes to obtain it. You have to want it more than whatever pattern you are stuck in that is holding you back. I AM committed to making fitness happen in my life.
I know I am not the only one battling entrenched habits arising out of this connection of food, family and love. Fit After Fifty would love to have your comments if you have had success overcoming family patterns, particularly if you can give me some practical steps to take next!
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