Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guest Blogger Julia Denton: Fellowship without food? Really?

I would like to introduce my great friend, Julia. We met at a writing conference last summer. Since then, she has been a terrific friend and mentor. She lovingly took me under her wing--editing my work, encouraging me to persevere, and praying for me. Her writing sings, and her ability to make people laugh is incredible!

OK, cards on the table first: Despite coming from an earlier generation, I am not a really great wifey-poo to begin with. I don’t cook all that well, am not especially enamored of housekeeping, and haven’t the slightest interest in any sport but baseball, which I follow about once a decade. But one thing I’ve always been adamant about is preserving the family dinner time, where we all sit and eat our main meal of the day together at approximately the same time every day.

This worked well for about the first 20 years of our marriage. Then it got a bit dicey when the kids became teenagers who began every meal with “Are we having THIS again?” But we weathered that era with a healthy dose of tolerance and a lot of take-home fast food.

In our mid-fifties, however, my husband and I have come to a sort of tacit agreement that meals for people our age are probably not supposed to be the multi-course calorie-intensive affairs they were when we were fueling two teenage appetites along with our own. Gradually my husband, who dislikes any kind of change, has gotten accustomed to the new reality that many nights, I am not going to be eating what he and our son eat. In fact, I may not eat any dinner at all, depending on how much I had to eat earlier in the day. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it took awhile to get used to it.

We were raised to believe it’s rude to eat in front of other people unless they are eating too. And part of being a good guest at anyone’s table – even your mother’s – is voicing enthusiasm for the food and, preferably, going for seconds. Many of us have grown up linking the words “food” and “fellowship” so inextricably that we can hardly imagine one without the other.

I had noticed some time ago that the more I ate later in the day, the more uncomfortable I felt. Lots of articles I read vouched for the wisdom of doing most of one’s eating earlier in the day. But my husband and son arrived home every evening hungry and ready for dinner, and it somehow felt anti-social not to sit at the table and eat with them. I had to get over that, and receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, along with “official” nutritional counseling to eat smaller amounts earlier in the day, gave me just the push I needed.

I still sit at the table with my husband and son most every night at dinner time. My husband reads from a daily devotional book (or two) every night. Sometimes I eat the same meal they do, but not always. Nowadays it’s no big deal if I sit and chew a few carrot sticks or sip some tea or water instead of eating. If I’m not hungry, I don’t eat. If I don’t particularly like what is on the menu that night, I don’t eat. This change in perspective has probably made more difference in my long-term weight than anything else I do.

It’s very liberating to be able to skip dinner and not have anyone take offense or feel like they need to skip it too. And my husband has even joined in this new normal, skipping dinner on evenings when there has been a luncheon at work where he’s eaten more than usual. All this may sound obvious to many of you, but in our eating patterns, more than almost any other aspect of life, we are creatures of habit. And sometimes habits are hard to break, even when they are no longer useful.

Julia Denton enjoys reading, writing, photography, gardening, travel, and pretending someday she’ll have time for all of that. Meanwhile, she lives with her family in Virginia.


Laura said...

This topic really hit home with me - thanks for writing about it, Julia! It's so true, I definitely feel guilty if I'm in a social situation where someone else is providing food and I don't care to eat any of it ... that's something I'm going to need to chew on for a while (so to speak) to try and figure out what prompts those feelings of obligation, and what I can do to address them in a healthy way.

Barb Winters said...

I think that's true for many of us Laura. It's a delicate issue - some are offended if you refuse what they are offering. But, knowing you, you'll be able to figure out a gentle, polite way of rejecting food without rejecting the person. ;-)

Molly said...

I've changed too now that I'm 45 and not as active as when younger. I always sit down with my husband and three teenagers too, but if its the end of the day and I've been in front of my computer, not physically active, then I adjust what I eat accordingly. Maybe half portions, definitely no bread, or just a few vegetables like you said. I'm trying to listen to my body more and not eat when I am truly not hungry. It's made a difference, and they don't seem to mind!

Barb Winters said...


Thanks for chiming in! It's great that your family enjoys your company and doesn't mind the fact that you aren't eating.

For some of us it is difficult not to eat even when we aren't hungry. So I applaud you ladies for your self-control.