The holidays are upon us, and food is the focal point of many of our gatherings. There is nothing quite as lovely as walking up to a table laden with rich sweet treats and savory trimmings. However, for some people, food is an issue, and this time of year is more challenging than ever.
For a person like myself who has lived with food-related illness for many years, the holidays and all that rich food can be a minefield of disaster. Family and friends are dying to share their home-baked goodies, but I have a very strict diet and have to be careful. When I look around at all the tempting dishes, I wish that I could eat whatever I want without any ill effects, but that has not been the case for a long time.
Those who want to share good food with you around the holidays don’t understand this notion. They think you are making it up or being rude. That makes it even harder for those of us who need to set boundaries and eat our safe foods to be okay. If I eat something that my body rejects, I could be sick for up to three months, not just a day or two. The holidays for me are often fraught with trepidation and worry.
I also have two people in my life who suffer from serious food addiction. Unless you have seen this one in action, it is hard to imagine. One of them is my dear friend who helps a lot of people in AA. The other day he talked with one of his sponsees and told him how well he was doing this year with food, diet, exercise, and temptation. He was proud of it but also relived. Directly after hearing this, the man on the phone said: “I am going to drop by tomorrow and bring you some food.” It was as if he hadn’t heard my friend at all. Later, when we discussed it, we concluded that the man is obsessed with people eating his food and then him receiving praise. It is simply part of his illness.
I questioned how an addict could willfully place temptation in front of another addict and not understand the dangers. It was no different than him lining up a bunch of shots on the table and saying, “here, Merry Christmas.” My friend was much more forgiving and understood it better. I was upset that the man did not respect my friend’s boundaries and that his desperate needs overrode common sense. In the end, my friend threw the food out, so he didn’t have to face temptation and ruin his week and successful streak.
There are others in the family who “push” food on us in the same way. I am curious about the motivation of this. I believe it might be the same as for the man, an obsession where they need other people to eat their food and then praise them. Some of these family members are relentless with their need to have you eat what they have created. It’s can be very stressful if you constantly have to remind them of what safe food vs. unsafe means to you. The word “no” doesn’t seem to register with them. I am trying hard to embrace the charity of the season and be more forgiving for this overstepping.
I am a big believer in “live and let live,” but these obsessions conflict with our food issues and create a problem. Where they overlap is in boundaries. In both cases, we have to be the ones to set those boundaries. No one will do it for us. These people with their own food obsessions will crash right through our boundaries if we are not strong and remain vigilant. In the end, it always comes down to how we want to handle it.
So, this holiday season, whether or not you have any food challenges, enjoy the time with family and friends, and stay true to you, hold tight to your own boundaries and be well.