Over the years, especially during the times that our little family was experiencing the most difficulty and trauma, the people in our lives have often chosen to show us the most love and support by offering food. Meals, coffee, desserts, sweets… I’ve always received it the same way--deep thankfulness. One less thing to cook and the reminder that people around me deeply love my family and care about what we are going through.
But, as I’ve started on this journey of finding freedom around food and leaning on God to be my source of comfort and strength, I have dealt with many situations in which food wasn’t the offering that best supported my life even each and every time it has been a sweet reminder that I’m loved, seen, and not alone.
I want to share with you three ideas that can help you in situations when others offer you love via food.
1. Receive it Well
First of all, you actually don’t have to put that food in your mouth and consume drinks if you aren’t hungry or you feel the food isn’t going to support your body well. And, honestly, how you receive food offerings can be more about the relationships that come with them. If someone drops by a casserole, express your admiration for them taking the time and let them know it makes you feel seen, loved, and cared for. If someone brings you a coffee. You say thanks, but realize that the liquid in the cup is also an invitation for you to chat so if you need to open up or let someone into your head, here is your chance.
I remember that however I respond to these gifts should be more about our relationship than just the food. These are people who are showing me love and I receive it because it is always needed.
2. Know Yourself Better
Here is the kicker, for years I really didn’t know how to take care of myself in any other way except by having desserts or treats. When I restricted myself from these foods I felt like I was in diet prison. Therefore, in all honest truth, there wasn’t a lot else besides food that made me feel loved and comforted. I had to get to know myself a lot better and figure out other things that make me feel relaxed and loved.
Now, if a friend asks, I can tell them I need to go for a walk, vent to someone, write in my journal, spend some time outside, watch a funny movie, or organize something in my house. I have a whole list that doesn’t involve food. Recently, one of my favorite people in the world gave me materials for my bullet journal: washi tape, stickers, and pens and I felt so uniquely loved and seen. Plus, she was contributing to good self-care habits that I use to take care of myself even within my very chaotic season.
If you don’t know what else besides food will comfort you then you can’t expect the people in your life to know it, too. End of story.
3. Let People In
It's confession time. I struggle with letting other know what I need. For example, right now I’m teaching full time. And one of my students is my eldest daughter. In truth, what I want is time alone, even for a couple hours, without being on duty as a teacher and a mom. But, I also have this ridiculous belief that no one, not even my husband, can care for my younger special needs daughter like me and therefore I need to stay close to her as much as possible. I can see that when others look at my life, even those who are incredibly close to me, they might be confused as to what I might even receive as help or love. As I grow on this journey, I’m learning to let others in more so that a casserole isn’t the only thing they can think of to bring by.
I once heard that we have to train others as to how to treat us, and this is true. In retrospect, I trained others for centuries to offer me love through food. How in the world can I expect them to suddenly understand that I don’t want that any more.
So, here I have a curious question for you: do you know how to love and support others without food? I have to say that this is an area I need to grow in too. As a mom and a life coach, I’ve become even more aware of this in recent years. I am so guilty of pulling out sugar as some sort of bonding agent when it comes to my relationships, however, that really isn’t what usually creates the most meaningful memories or conversations. So, I’m learning to opt for a board game or a walk outside with my girls instead of sitting ourselves in front of the TV with a plate of cookies.
Now, I want to go back to teacher appreciation week and the food that was provided by various people throughout the week. It was amazing and yummy, but most of all it provided opportunities for me to hang out with my coworkers, laugh, hug members of the community and really bask in that feeling of being seen, loved, and appreciated. It really wasn’t about the food at all. I did, however, eat some of the food each day. For these situations, I like to do template eating. I plan my meals around templates. For example, my lunches generally consist of lean protein, healthy fat, and fruit or vegetables. So, instead of throwing in the towel because EVERYTHING was being offered, I enjoyed some of the food as closely as I could to the type and portions on my lunch template. It wasn’t perfect, but I also didn’t eat things that made me feel bad physically or that triggered cravings. This solution might work well for you, too. I use this concept when I eat out, visit people's homes, attend potlucks, etc.
So, there you have it, when you are trying to make some changes to your eating choices consider three things: Be a good receiver and receive the love, get to know yourself better so you can start to show those close to you that you like other things besides food, and let people in to your life so that they know what you need.
Before I sign off, I want to update you on my workout. It is going really well. I have really been enjoying my runs and tend to do more of that than strength training, but either way, the fact that I am working out consistently, feeling stronger, more energetic, and emotionally and mentally healthy…that is feeling like a huge win. My hope is to begin more strength training whenever school ends and summer is here and I’m not teaching.
Next week I want to talk to you about what to do in the moment that food seems like the easy fix for how we are feeling or what we are dealing with. As a parent of a special needs child there are so many times that I feel stuck and food is my only “out” or relief. We’ll dive into that and I hope my loving honesty is helpful. Love and blessings to you! Good bye for now.
by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.