I don’t much like the number I see when I step on the scale these days. But so it goes for many women, and probably many men, as well, if they care to acknowledge it. And it’s a terrible time of year to start trying to nudge it back toward a more desirable incremement above 100, what with all the upcoming festivities, family gatherings, sweets, and rich foods.

I love those rich foods. I love the sweets, and most of all I love the festivities. Food is important to me. I’m reading a wonderful book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist, and I have essentially wanted to underline the entire book so far. Yesterday I read a segment where she recounts hearing Lynne Rossetto Kasper, of The Splendid Table on NPR, say that there are two types of people in this world: those who wake up thinking about what’s for dinner, and those who don’t. Like Shauna, I am one of those who does.

These are definitely must-eats.
Photo Credit: Olenka Kotyk via Unsplash

In many ways, this serves me quite well. It’s what inspires me to meal plan, to shop and eat frugally. It’s what enables me to put a home-cooked meal on the table even after working a full day out of the house. It’s what keeps me from mindlessly consuming unhealthy snacks because I’m not sure what else to eat.

But in other ways, it can be a burden. It can lead to an increased sense of guilt if I end up eating out, ordering takeout, or otherwise deviating from the plan at the last minute. It can mean that I’m consumed by thoughts of food, and any attempt to change my habits (e.g. diet) can quickly tend toward the disordered.

I know that I am capable of denying myself certain foods and restricting how much and how often I eat. I have done it before, with some success. Yet the bottom line is, I don’t want to, especially not at this time of year.

Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another. ~Shauna Niequist~

I get panicky when I think about never allowing myself to eat some of my favorite foods again. I feel sad when I think about missing out on relationship-building social opportunities in favor of healthy eating. The moderator in me says there must be a balance you can strike.

And so I’ve concocted a mental Do Eat list, rather than a Do Not Eat list. The Do Not Eat list could quickly grow to epic lengths. The Do Eat list is shorter, so it’s easier to honor. And of course, Do Eat includes the built-in Do Not Eat Corollaries.

I will eat good chocolate.
I will eat dessert from fancy restaurants or that was made from scratch with love.
I will use Stevia and the occasional flavored creamer in my coffee.
I will indulge around the communal table.
I will imbibe quality drinks in good company.

I won’t eat the crummy free candy at work just because it’s there.
I won’t eat the grocery store layer cake, no matter how tempting.
I won’t drink fake-flavored, $5 lattes.
I will limit myself when left to my own devices for my meals.
I won’t drink crappy cocktails or beer for the sake of drinking a drink.

I’m no angel, and I’ve yet to follow this perfectly. There’s likely more to the Do Eat list–I think I’ll know the contenders when I see them. The flaky croissant, the crusty bread with butter, the handmade pasta. But I was recently reminded by a splitting headache the morning after eating WAY too much sugar that it can be an addiction just like anything else, and I think I’ve got it. The more sugar I eat, the more I want to eat.

I won’t expect to lose 10 pounds over the holiday season. I don’t want to make the life choices it would take to do that. But I will savor what I choose to eat, and relinquish my panicked hold on the rest of it. (Coincidentally, Niequist’s next book was called Savor, so I think I’m on to something there.)

I will savor the table, the food on it, and the hands that prepared it. Because that’s what food is about to me.

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman