Trick or Treat! This is usually the time of year when I write about emotional eating – and why it’s actually good for you. This is the time of year when every magazine, blog and morning talk show features “experts” with “tips and tricks” to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain – and when I write about how the underlying premises and assumptions of all of these tired, re-hashed strategies offered by said experts keep you stuck in your diet and exercise drama. This is the time of year when we have a tremendous opportunity to heal ourselves of our pain and dysfunction surrounding our bodies and our weight. And this year, the healing is even more meaningful – it is the healing of a legacy.
My Grammy passed last weekend. This is significant for Happy Calories® because this entire methodology grew out of healing my own painful relationships with food, exercise, my body and my weight – relationship dynamics that I (and many others in my family) learned from her. Now I can’t give Gram the full credit – or blame – for the food crazies. I’m sure they didn’t start with her – she must have learned them from somewhere. But most of us inherited them from her.
I think I was five when one of my cousins proudly exclaimed that Grammy liked her better than me because she was skinnier than I was. Now of course, in my “grown-up” mind this is hearsay. I don’t really know that Grammy ever said that. But my grown-up mind also wonders what type of environment would cause a six year old to even conceive of such a statement in the first place. And yes, the comment hurt the five year old me. That may have been the moment when I first became conscious of my body and my weight.
But just in case I wasn’t fully aware of the “consequences” of food, I got another big lecture when I was ten or eleven. This one was over breakfast. Gram must have spent a full fifteen minutes warning me that this was a “critical time” in my life and that I had to be really careful. If I didn’t start to watch how much I was eating, I was going to get fat. She then ended that discussion by asking me if I’d like more oatmeal.
These are my memories of Grammy. There are others too – but I always have to dig a little deeper to find them. I have to reclaim the innocence in my childhood when Grammy and Grandfather’s house was a magical place. The perfectly manicured flower gardens. The expansive vegetable gardens. Picking strawberries and blackberries. Playing tag with my cousins in the front yard. Playing softball with the uncles in the lower fields. The old swing on the willow tree. Chopping wood and hauling it in Grandfather’s tractor. Cupboards and closets and hiding places all over the house. The wood room. And the kitchen. The cupboard with the magic-shelf that held the mixer, and the drawers that were really huge bins for flour and sugar – bins so big that you could hide dolls in them. I even thought she might be a witch! After all, she had a bottle of Witch-Hazel in the bathroom!
I seem to have had three Grammys. There was the fun-loving, cookie-making, costume-sewing Grammy. There was the Grammy synonymous with shame, pain and never being good enough. And then there was the Grammy in the last days of her life – when she held my hand and looked deeply into my eyes in a moment of forgiveness and communion.
At the service the pastor spoke about how important family was to Grammy. And this is true. Gram went to every graduation, recital and performance. Her home was the epicenter of family feasts and celebrations. And of course, everything revolved around meals – lumberjack breakfasts at 7:00 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at six.
The pastor also talked about how Gram was frustrated at the end. She was frustrated because her body simply broke down. She lived full-out and after ninety-four years, her body just couldn’t keep up anymore. Gram was a fighter who lived life on her terms. (I hear she even planned several escape attempts from her assisted-living facility!)
So yes, I may have inherited some crazies from my Grammy. But I also inherited another legacy – her strength, her courage, persistence and resilience. And these traits have allowed me not only to survive all of the food and body drama – but to heal and transform the pain and thrive. Gram’s legacy lives on in Happy Calories, and in her honor, dinner tonight will be at six.