05 July 2005

Food Fight

For those who are unaware, I recently joined both Nicozan and Weight Watchers' programs. It's been an uphill battle, changing my habits, because it wasn't something I wanted to do. Rather, it was something I was told I must do, and both programs were given to me as birthday gifts a month ago from people who have the possibly mistaken opinion that another 45 years of my company would be a Good Thing.

I knew, going into my vacation, that using my time to return to the family bosom would either be the best thing I could do or the worst for my overall health agenda. The best, because I've always felt supported by my family and there would be a surfeit of family around who would care about my health and help me through the long hours of down time that come with 10 days off work. The worst, because my mother's side of the family are farmers, which means food is an ever-present member of our social structure. The latter ruled.

I understand the psychology behind what happened. When you belong to a small, poor, rural community you share what you have with everyone. When you are farmers in that community, you share food. Thus, whenever someone is getting married, feeling poorly, has just lost a loved one, or has moved in or out of the neighborhood -- and sometimes just even because -- the appropriate expression is food. Food is celebratory, food is sympathy, food is comfort, food is love. By extension, to reject the food offered is to also reject the love. I get it. Really I do.

Now maybe my aunt and cousins can work off a high dairy (read: high fat, high cholesterol), 2,500 calorie per day diet working in the fields, gardens, and barns for hours, but I, who am chained to a computer desk job, cannot. Nor can I bring myself to go up there for 1 week every 2-4 years and reject their offerings. Probably I could if I were a part of their lives more frequently. But I know the symbolism behind the gestures and I have a really hard time rejecting it out of hand. They are telling me they love me and I am telling them I love them. Food is the language we have to use as a substitute when what we both would really like is more time together. Because it's basic, it's integral to our communal mindset, it's understood. And yes, I know that's lame and I accept my own wussiness in this matter. But, really, what would you do in that situation?

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