WARNING: Get yourself a glass of water or a cup of coffee because this is a long one!
I have this posted on my frig, in my car, on my bathroom mirror. I recently changed my Spark Page to represent the upcoming season. But I didn't change my profile picture. I love my profile picture. I like the colors and I like the message. "I CHOOSE to make the rest of my life, the best of my life."
I read my SP pal, Cathy's (aka 111BUTTERFLY111) blog this morning about her choice to abstain from white flour and white sugar and how her well-meaning friends are desperate to come up with some kind of cake she will be able to eat for her birthday next month...flourless itself won't work because it still has sugar. They are baffled that she is not going to "cheat" because it will be her birthday.
It made me think and reply about something that I have participated and actually made good money doing. I help people celebrate the special events of their lives with massive quantities of expensive food. I finished high school in 3 1/2 years. My parents were divorcing so I took a job as a Chef's Apprentice in the biggest hotel and convention center in the nearest large town before I turned 18. My parents had been in the restaurant business for more than half my life and I had been cooking in my dad's restaurant all through high school. I cooked the breakfast shift before school and the closing late dinner shift after school. My sister and I worked both weekend mornings. She was the waitress and I was the cook. I loved the Hotel Restaurant Journal like some of my friends loved Tiger Beat magazine. I wanted to work for Wolfgang Puck in 1974 when most people had no idea who Wolfgang Puck was. So I loved the long days and early morning hours prepping finger sandwiches and special dips and arranging heavy trays of meats and cheeses and roasting the Prime Ribs and peeling massive amounts of shrimp. Learning ice sculpture and banquet presentation. But even then, I was appalled at how much money people spent on weddings. We charged horrific prices and the hotel charged for the rental of rooms that were poolside as part of the facility charge because they couldn't rent those rooms to regular guests if there was going to be a band and late-night party going on outside them.
I remember my boss saying "They are spending $10,000 to have the wedding of the season for their kids when that money should be a down payment on a house." It's a choice.
I've done lavish buffets for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter. We try to put every possible edible delight on the table. People have their own "special" dishes, like the green bean casserole or Christmas goose. We will accommodate. All these celebrations center around the food. We overeat and complain how stuffed we are. We overeat because it looks so good we just have to have a taste. We overeat because we paid a pretty penny and we're going to get our money's worth. We've lost the meaning of the holiday or the event itself. It's hidden behind the food.
Halloween is coming. I love the costumes. I love dressing up and passing out candy and going to the nursing home and helping them pass out candy. I love working in the haunted house for 5 nights before Halloween. I love carving pumpkins. I'm "over the moon" because just last night I got links to Montana's upcoming 5K's and found a Zombie Chase that is doable. Magazines have pictures of all kinds of Halloween food. Drawing spider webs on the top of cakes and pizzas. Using strips of cresent dough to wrap hot dogs like mummies. 2 aisles in the food section of my local WalMart have nothing but Halloween candy and in case you miss it there, 2 more aisles of Halloween candy over with the costumes. Every year they report how much money we spend on Halloween candy. The funny part is that most people don't even let their kids go door-to-door trick-or-treating like we did when I was a kid. How come we spend more money on that candy if we aren't giving it away? I know lots of people who buy "the good kind" for their family and the cheap selections for giving away.
Then we'll be planning the huge Thanksgiving dinner WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS. That's how we advertise it. Did the Pilgrims have that? Was that the purpose? And Christmas with all the cookies and candy we don't see any other time of the year. Did the Wise Men bring the Baby Jesus candy canes? rosette cookies? boxes of chocolates? And it's football season. When did that become synonymous with Tailgate Parties and all that food? Super Bowl Sunday is about the food and the commercials now, not about the game itself. And if gluttony is a sin, why do churches have potluck suppers and advertise free donuts at the fellowship hour? When did we choose to have every event in our lives center around the food?
I was a Food Network junkie! I could pretend that it was in the interest of working knowledge...but that isn't the truth. I just enjoy watching all those shows. I even call it "the porn channel" and explain that the Food Network is like porn for fat people. Paula Deen and Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri are bigger stars than my old beloved Wolfgang. They sell magazines and their own brands of cookware and put their names on soup and frozen food. They sell tickets so people can see them up close. Celebrity Chefs? Who would have thunk it?
I have been thinking of the over-commercialization of Christmas for many years. It's only in the last 2 or 3 that I've been thinking of the over-commercialization of food itself. We don't need Halloween candy or 5 kinds of Thanksgiving pie. We don't need all the cookie-laden trays and candy-filled stockings at Christmas. We don't need the candy-filled Easter baskets or all the boxes of chocolates for Valentine's Day. We don't need food beyond the chili for a foot ball game. We don't need special dinners and huge pieces of cake to celebrate our birthdays. It's a choice.
We've forgotten the meaning of all the celebrations in our lives. We made the food the center of our holidays instead of celebrating the real event. Every day I chose to leave the donut or the Cheetos and chips alone. I want to lose this weight on my aging body so that walking is easier. I chose to do a Virtual 5K in support of my best SP pal, Sassy instead of going out for the special birthday breakfast. I don't always chose the best. I slip up. But the next choice is the right choice. What I want the most vs. what I want at the moment.
As we head into all the upcoming celebrations I hope you will think of healthier ways to celebrate the events. Looking back on the celebrations and holidays of your life, is it the food that you remember? I know, for me, it's the people. I choose to not let the food be the main event this year. I choose to stay on my eating plan and think I have chosen one that I can stick to for the rest of my life. The lifestyle and not a diet. I love vegetables and the farmer's market. I love the aroma of soup simmering all day long. I choose every day to fuel my body with healthy food so it will keep getting me where I need to go. I choose to keep swimming and walking and riding my bike so that my muscles don't atrophy and I can't swim or walk or ride my bike. I try to chose what I want the most over the food I want at the moment.