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Thanks for What?

Yesterday I was driving and listening to a show on National Public Radio featuring a popular chef. Of course, the talk was all about Thanksgiving foods—recipes, marketing, meal preparation, and table presentation. I was stunned when the interviewee commented that “Food is what Thanksgiving is all about,” and even more astounded when the host agreed with her.

Is this what we’ve come to, that Thanksgiving is all about food? Or did the chef make her remark because she’s, well, into cooking and selling cookbooks? I’ve been thinking about her words ever since and wonder if that’s not the major problem of our food-fetished culture: that every occasion has actually become “all about food.” We can’t hang with friends without chowing down, can’t have a work party, birthday bash, or holiday gathering without consuming and imbibing. Then there’s munching our way through movies and now even performing arts centers have a snack bar in the lobby. Is there anywhere that we’re safe from food butting into our lives?

As you can tell, I admittedly am not a foodie. I used to binge and overeat on a regular basis, but since recovering from my food problems half a lifetime ago, I’ve gained a different perspective on eating. And on holidays as well, including Thanksgiving. Frankly, I don’t give a fig about what’s being served for the holiday dinner. Sure I have my favorites and look forward to enjoying dishes I don’t often eat. Don’t get me wrong, I like food, but it’s far from what Thanksgiving is all about for me. Rather, it’s about getting together with friends and family, having a day to consider all the wonderful things in my life, delighting in a day off from work, and taking pleasure from the fact that, if they are fortune, most other people are doing the same thing all over our country.

I know how hard disregulated eaters struggle to eat “normally” on Thanksgiving—they’re frightened of temptation, scared of bingeing, starving or purging, worried about being out of control or exerting too much control over their appetite, and tired of being preoccupied with food and weight. Moreover, many are dreading the day after Thanksgiving which they’ll spend assessing the perceived damage they incurred. Well, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, why not buck the cultural trend and make food the least important part of the holiday? Focus on people you want to talk to and subjects you want to talk about. Think about how lucky you are to be having an abundant spread before you. I know it might be difficult, but try starting a new holiday tradition and fight the urge to make food the centerpiece of your day.