Christmas According to Suppers

Food and Christmas can be about health and community.


A smart person once told me that the fundamental ailment of the modern world is loneliness. 

He meant it in a very broad sense  - from people who have no social network (exept for facebook) to our food, which can be traced down to one single, lonely crop - the ubiquitous corn.

Once we recreate community and diversity in every aspect of our lives, he said, we will heal as a society and as individuals. Not that incidentally, my diet guru thinks so too

In the world of local food this shift is already happening. Recently I attended a very hopeful meeting with the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance. It is a truly diverse alliance that brings together city residents, college students, community leaders, and local government to build a sustainable and just food system in the city.

In Princeton we already have the Suppers Programs, headed by the one and only Dorothy Mullen.

Officially, “Suppers’ mission is to provide safe and friendly settings where anyone – and especially people with food-related health challenges – can develop and manage their personal transition to a healthier life.“

In my own words, Suppers is a community of people who gather at 35 private homes to cook, share a meal of wholesome food and thus create health. The amazing thing about Suppers is its ability to welcome, accommodate and guide anyone in need of a welcome and some guidance. Community and Diversity anyone?

Dor Mullen has published a book last year called Logical Miracle. It is a collection of stories of hope and healing from members who turned their health and life around with Suppers’ help.

For Christmas, I’d like to share one of those bittersweet stories, A Carol Christmas.

If you want to attend a Supper this Holiday season and enjoy a good meal and non-judgmental friends, you’ll find details on their website;

A Carol Christmas (adapted from Logical Miracles)
Courtesy of Dorothy Mullen, The Suppers Programs

I do much better things with this holiday than celebrate it.

At least, after years of making myself miserable at the holidays, I’ve found a way to take care of myself.   I choose to eat more simply at Christmas than I do all year.  There’s no clearer, kinder amount than zero when it comes to my holiday trigger foods.

In Suppers I have learned to distinguish between treats – foods I can have occasionally – and triggers – foods that I can’t touch because they open floodgates.  My diet program makes no such distinction. So for years I’d trigger binges at the holidays by tasting old family favorites I thought I could control by counting calories.

My formula for a perfect storm is being with my family combined with a buffet table.  I have a history of eating to numb myself.  I have a history of needing to numb myself when the family gets together.  Confronted not only with Aunt Sally but Aunt Sally’s sweet potatoes with marshmallows, I’m likely to cave in and plough right through to the pies.  I don’t even recognize marshmallows as food the other 364 days!

Sometimes I don’t feel related to my family. They seem to enjoy these family recipes without beating themselves up. Not me.  Fortunately I’ve lost the taste for them as long as I avoid triggering situations.  But that’s the key: avoiding triggers.  In normal circumstances, even the sweet potatoes would be too sweet for my taste buds now that I’ve retooled my palate for whole food.  In the old days I used to eat leftover mincemeat pie with hard sauce for breakfast!

Triggering was such a problem that for a couple years I had to avoid work-related parties entirely because I couldn’t manage social anxiety without starting a cascade of unhappy eating.  Now I go but I arrive late and leave early.  What’s the point of staying longer if I’m not eating and drinking myself into a stupor that puts me on the same level with everybody else?  And with my family I’m having a Carol Christmas.  I’ll prepare my favorite almond muffins -- a treat that isn’t a trigger -- to eat before I go so I don’t feel deprived.  I’ll even light a candle and think about what this holiday is supposed to be about.  Then, with a full belly and a kind heart, I’ll go and give everybody a hug, catch up with Aunt Sally, sing a few songs and head home before things start to deteriorate.

This is the best I can do this year to take care of myself.  I don’t want to spend another holiday in isolation, nor do I want to trigger myself into several weeks of eating that require a New Year’s resolution and willpower to stop.  Maybe another year I’ll have the strength to remain with the revelers and not indulge.  Not this year.  My palate is smart enough, but my flesh is still weak.

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