It's Not About the Ketchup...But It Is

photo-38 "Use this ketchup sparingly. That's all you're getting." "That's too much ketchup". "Take that away from her." "You need to watch what you eat." "You're not even hungry." "You're looking a little 'heavy'." "You can't have that, it's fattening." "Enough with the Ketchup, already."

I can still feel my Mother, my Father, my Grandmothers (both of them) and a couple of aunts peering over my shoulder as I tap the bottle. To be honest, it didn't matter how much or how little ketchup I put on my was always too much and it was always ridiculed. But then again, everything was too much; too much cheese, too much challah, too much pasta, too much brisket, too many slices of French Toast, too much sauce. I was born into a family that, for the most part, don't trust themselves with food. Therefore, I was not to be trusted around food, either. Friends, it's not like I flipped the ketchup bottle upside down, opened my mouth and squeezed. I mean, JEEZ!

On each and every diet I've been on, ketchup was always the first thing to go. Brand new bottles of ketchup tossed into the trash, to ensure I wouldn't "cheat." It was a horrible time, those eight years; knowing in my mind I had to be on a diet until I could gain 'control' over my portions and knowing in my soul, that I was to be trusted with food. That I was to be trusted at least with my ketchup. That I'm okay. That I'm indeed a normal eater.

When I was in the very early stages of recovering from my eating disorder and adopting the Intuitive Eating Principles, ketchup was the first thing I invited back into my fridge. It sounds nuts, but it was a glorious moment. By buying something as simple as ketchup --a food I love as much as I hate the beach-- I was saying to myself (and maybe eventually to my family), that I'm allowed to have ketchup, that I am allowed to pour however much I think will satisfy me. And sometimes I will pour a little more than I expected and sometimes I'll need to use a little at a time, throughout a meal. That's normal.

All this to say, it was is wonderful learning how to trust myself with food. And to me, the hardest part of giving up dieting, being okay with my body and my food choices, was then being able to eat with confidence around my family and the people in my life who had LOTS to say about my food, my body, etc. ESPECIALLY during holidays. I'm the only grandchild to have grow up 3,000 miles away from the rest of the family (on both sides). And as excited as I was (and always am) to visit my family in New York for the holidays, I'd often feel a wave of panic and anxiety over them having not seen me in a year; What do I look like to them? Have I gained weight? Will they still make comments about my food? Will they still pull my Mother aside and express concern about my weight...even though I'm a grown ass woman? This is arguably one of the most challenging components of recovering from disordered eating, in my opinion.

So, what is your 'ketchup'? How do I navigate this component of Intuitive Eating? How can you navigate it? Here are a couple things to keep in mind as the holidays approach:

  • NO ONE KNOWS WHAT/HOW MUCH YOU SHOULD BE EATING. Part of having an unhealthy relationship with food is the tendency to allow others to decide/put their two cents in to which foods are healthiest for you. No one knows how much food your body requires or is hungry for. And NO ONE knows what kinds of foods will truly satisfy you. Only you can know this.
  • EVERY COMMENT MADE ABOUT YOUR FOOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Therapists, Hippy-Dippy Healers and Spiritual Chiropractors will be the first to tell you that when someone passes judgement on you (and in this case, your food and body), they are actually projecting their own insecurities on you. When someone, whether it's a family member, a stranger and everyone in between, expresses concern for your plate, it means they have immense concern about theirs. I know this, because I've done it myself. ;-)
  • (ALMOST) EVERYONE IS IN THE DARK ABOUT FOOD AND BODY. If the amount of misinformation and untrue statements that the diet industry puts out into the world were water...California would not be in a drought. (That means there's a lot of it. Misinformation. Not water.) Anyway, unfortunately our society, in a lot of ways, is structured on a "do this, don't do that", "eat this, DON'T eat that" mentality. So your only job this holiday season (and, well, every season) is to really listen in to what foods are truly going to satisfy your physical hunger, your taste buds and the eating experience as a whole. Your body will tell you when it's time to eat and when it's had enough.
  • YOU ARE ENTITLED TO ENJOY YOUR 'KETCHUP'. That's all. And if anyone has a comment about your food or makes a face at your pile of mashed potatoes at the family dinner table, you tell them that some chick who's blog you read on the internet says it's okay for me to eat this. That'll shut 'em up!


Just a little clip from my favorite show <3