Through the miracle of Suppers the Reuben sandwich I ate in a moment of weakness was transformed into a bonified act of Nutritional Harm Reduction, a cause for celebration, not for feeling ashamed. The discussion at the table started with “Your brain is smarter than you are,” a document that makes a case for self-forgiveness and self-acceptance by describing how our urgent impulses to eat are greater than our willpower and for very good reasons.
A few days before, I had been in an emotionally charged situation with my son whose 10 months of sobriety feels fragile to me. I want a happy future for him, and it’s hard to accept my powerlessness over things like where he lives and who his friends are. So after a long stretch of mostly clean eating – green drinks for breakfast and so forth – I got my Reuben. It’s just a sandwich. But it was a sandwich with a meaning, and I needed to talk about it a few days later at Suppers.
We are supposed to be more gentle on ourselves. Sometimes I forget that part. We are supposed to look at our actions and see if we can reframe them in a way that’s more positive, or at least less brutal. Darn, I’m a therapist; I can do that for others but sometimes forget to do it for myself. So while we were sharing over butternut squash soup, scrambled eggs and sauerkraut, it started occurring to me that I am thoroughly conditioned by Suppers to value the fermented foods that aid my digestion. I have chosen dependency on sauerkraut, which is much better than dependency on candy. But it took a few days for me to realize that of all the foods occupying space on my mind the day I ate the Reuben, the Reuben was not only the best choice, it contained sauerkraut, which my inner knowing is now conditioned to desire as a healthy choice.
Everyone started sharing experiences of times when they could have given themselves some credit for closing the gap between unconsciousness and the bud of awareness. Carolyn realized – this was two days after Halloween – that this was the first time in 36 years that she hadn’t bought or eaten candy corn. Had she given herself some credit? No, she needed to be at Suppers where non-judgment is a cultural requirement before some good feelings about Halloween were allowed to bubble up into her conscious mind. “I’m tingling,” she said. Now that’s some kind of shift, to go from self-flagellation to feeling tingling sensations with no change other than closing the gap between not being conscious and being conscious.
Marcia quoted, “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child.” Every one of us at that table could relate; we all have children with health or mental health issues; we all feel the effects of that in how and what we eat. Sarah has two teenagers with chronic Lyme disease and all the social challenges of not being robust. You better believe she needs a lot of support to be there for them and not beat herself up for imperfect food choices.
So what can we do to make ourselves more fertile ground for experiences that close gaps? Consciously prepare for moments of unconscious eating is one. If Dor isn’t in your fridge, there are other ways of increasing the chances of making the fast food the healthy food; you have to have it ready to eat. For me, it’s just as important to make my mind a more hospitable place for tingly feelings of self-approval.