Friday, April 19, 2013

How diets can ruin your relationships

{Smoky Mountain National Park, By Craig Borchers}
A Dating Story

I met this great man and was immediately attracted to him.  Soon, he asked me on a date.  To make a long story short, I accepted after a few tries on his part.

This beginning is a predictable boy meets girl story – except for the fact that I struggle with an eating disorder.

Typically, a first date consists of going out to eat, which is exactly what we did.  I have a hard time eating in front of people, so I barely ate anything at that fancy restaurant.  After dinner, we went ice skating.  Because I was so nervous and so hungry, I barely remember what we talked about.

Fast forward several weeks; we’re official.

Commonly, dating revolves around food.  There are three meals a day, so if you want to spend time with someone, you are going to have to share at least one meal with them.  Also, meals and food enhance conversation.  A meal can take the pressure off an awkward situation by giving you something else to focus on.  It also gives you a neutral topic to talk about.  Food can bring back memories of the past and can initiate all kinds of discussions.  Food is so much more than we think.

In our early dating experience, I was often a party-pooper by vetoing the late night ice cream runs.  I avoided going on dates with him because I knew I would have to eat food that wasn’t on my “safe” list.  I avoided having dinner with his parents because, by Sunday night, I didn’t want to eat anything else that weekend.  I wouldn’t hang out with him unless I got my workout in for the day.  And, we rarely celebrated anything because I didn’t want to eat.

Needless to say, that kind of relationship could easily fizzle out.  Looking back, I was zero fun to be around.

At that point, I did not admit that I had a real eating problem.

I truly believed that I had to look a certain way in order to be loved.  I didn’t love myself the way I was, so how could anyone else love me?

My boyfriend (at the time), however, challenged me to face these questions and seek answers for my troubles.  Had I kept all my food/appearance concerns to myself and resisted help, the relationship might not have lasted very long.  But, he was patient, and I am eternally grateful.

Fast forward several years; we’re married!

As a result of facing my fears and my eating disorder, our relationship grew stronger.  I thought I had to be on a diet, had to be thin, in order to be loved.  I thought that I would never get married being the size I was.

In reality, being loved for the way I am – the size I am, with all my imperfections, flaws, and failures – is so much more meaningful than having to “change” to be loved.  It is an incredible feeling.  It is joy beyond all explanation.

Diet food is not fun.  It is often gross, restrictive, bland, or weird.  Dieting is not fun.  If you are on a diet, you will make different social choices than you would if you were not on a diet.  If you want to diet, in a certain sense, you have to be “mean” to yourself.  You have to believe that you are not good enough the way you are and that you need to change yourself in order to be happy.

I believe that food can nourish relationships.  Fitness and women’s magazines will tell you to avoid celebrating with food.  But, I think that celebrating your one-year anniversary with a nice dinner out is a wonderful thing to do.  I think that sharing in the excitement of hunger can bond people together.

Just think about how food can contribute to community.  Pot luck dinners, bring a snack to share, try my homemade cookies, stay for lunch, breakfast chats, parties, holidays, celebrations, birthday cake, etc.

Think about all the great things you would miss out on if you kept trying to avoid food or if you felt like you always had to be on a diet.

Disclaimer: Like most things, moderation is the key to success.  If you celebrate with special-fun-food every day, it ceases to be special, right?  Special turns into common.  Yet, if you never celebrate or eat special treats, you’re life will be quite dull.  You may argue that there are other ways to celebrate without incorporating food.  Yes, that is true, I’ll give you that.  However, food has a unique place in our lives and no other substance can replace it.  Even Jesus taught this lesson while He walked the earth.

Our Catholic faith is so cool.  Built into the church calendar there are times for fasting and times for feasting.  We are now in the Easter Season, which is a universal time to celebrate.  Catholics all over the world are celebrating Christ’s rising from the dead.  So you don’t have to feel religious guilt for eating dessert!  After Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to the apostles and filled their hearts with peace.  One of the first things He did was eat with them!  He ate fish and honeycomb (Luke 24:41).  Do you think Jesus would do anything unintentional?  Why did He eat with His apostles?  Ponder that question this weekend as you are eating meals with your families.  …Just some light dinner conversation. J

Challenge of the Day:  Celebrate with your spouse/fiancĂ©/significant other this weekend by eating non-diet food.  Celebrate that you are together.  Celebrate that Jesus died and rose again so you may be happy in this life and supremely happy in the next!  Make a cake, drink some sparkling grape juice, go get milkshakes, or whatever!  Don’t let diets ruin your relationships.

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