Since Canadian Thanksgiving has arrived, I wanted to share a story about family dinners and what can happen when the ‘lose-weight-at-all-costs’ mentality creeps in.
Recently, I met a woman who would like to have a baby. Her family is Portuguese. (That will become important later.) She has been prescribed a particular diet by her doctor in order to lose weight prior to getting pregnant. The biggest challenge is Sunday dinner with her family, which has always been a part of her life. All of her brothers, sisters, and cousins get together every Sunday for dinner.
She spoke with her doctor about this weekly dinner and explained that it doesn’t adhere to the diet’s recommendations. His response was, “How badly do you want to have a baby?” Her doctor put her in a position to choose between the traditional Sunday dinner with all the rich and wonderful ethnic foods and a baby. Now, this recommendation could have been prescribed by other doctors. This could’ve been a naturopath or it could have been a nutritionist or any doctor for that matter. This is not a new thing.
She told me about some of the traditional Portuguese foods that are so high in fat and carbs. Now, what was once was a delightful experience on Sundays, where she could connect with her family and carry on tradition became a source of stress. She was faced with the choice of either not participating or she could participate and bring her own special food and explain to her family that their food was bad for her right now. How could she explain that the food that they made with love, the food that they have served and eaten their whole lives is not healthy. Or she could participate and silently feel guilty and beat herself up for enjoying a family dinner.
This happens so often even when it’s not doctor prescribed. People go on these regimes and they need to forfeit so many parts of being human; parts like tradition, and culture and family. I was listening to my local radio station at Christmas time and the host was saying that his wife had put them on this “plan” and they were not allowed to eat particular foods. They were going to his mother’s home for dinner and his wife said that she would make all the diet items to bring with them so that they could still follow the plan. I am sure that many people are exclaiming, “Hurrah, that’s great! Good for her!” Can you imagine the conflict that this man must have experienced trying to explain to his mother that there was nothing wrong with her food but that he and his wife just needed to eat something different in order to lose weight so that they could be healthy? And imagine his mother not understanding and feeling offended and his wife standing firm. She didn’t care if her mother-in-law was offended; she was sticking to this diet.
Now, I would like to put in a little bit of a disclaimer here. I often bring special food with me because my son has a lot of food sensitivities. They create real physical issues in his body such as discomfort, rashes and all kinds serious health issues. Asking him to eat whatever is served is entirely inappropriate because it puts his health at immediate risk.
You may be thinking that these people are just advocating for their health too. That’s where I’m going to challenge you. When there’s no physiological reason to avoid one meal, it is not worth disengaging or creating conflict. In the long-term, one meal is not going to make or break your weight-loss and I still stand firmly behind my challenge that weight loss and health are not the same thing.
As I’ve ranted many times before, there is an absolutely massive body of evidence that demonstrates that you can be healthy without ever losing weight. Not to mention, it is my opinion that the radio show host, his wife and his mother are unnecessarily creating conflict around a family holiday because of food. Is that healthy? How about the woman enduring every Sunday dinner with her family faced with guilt and confusion. Is that healthy? Let’s find some food sanity here, people! It’s not all or nothing. It’s not this or that. It is about day-to-day checking in and asking what’s right for today. For me, healthy eating is about enjoying wholeheartedly a family feast, eating the food that I enjoy and leaving the food that I don’t. It’s about enjoying my family, hugging my grandma, and saying thank you for the beautiful food you made for me. LOVE — that to me is health!
So keep this in mind as the holiday meals unfold this season. Define health for yourself. And make sure that it includes you living life, loving food, and being free.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.