The Fourth of July, Freedom, and Food!
July 4th is a time when we come together as a national community and reflect on the value of independence and freedom for Americans. It’s hard for me to talk about this national value without acknowledging that there are many inequities in our society that make the concepts of independence and freedom mean different things for different folks. Maybe for some it means the freedom to marry whomever you want, and for others it means the ability to live in a place where you are not concerned about being shot by police for the color of your skin. It could also mean being able to wear religious garb without being called a terrorist, or being able to express your gender identity in whatever way makes sense for you, or not being forcefully separated from your family. These are all ways in which freedom and independence continue to be values to strive towards, and reminders that we have a lot of work to do as a nation.
July 4th also conjures up memories of barbeques at the park, elaborate fireworks displays, and time spent connecting with family and friends to celebrate this value of freedom and independence. Given all of the inequities that exist in our world, one thing that remains constant for every human being on the planet is the need to nourish yourself through food. Have you ever been to a July 4th barbeque or celebration? I am sure you may have noticed that a standard at all of the different celebrations happening across the country is food. One of my favorite things about food is that it brings people together, it aids in human connection and relationship. While it does serve as a connector, it can also be a difficult part of celebrating holidays if you struggle in your relationship with food.
Finding freedom in our relationship with food is a process, it does not happen overnight. There are a few things you can start to do today that will help you begin to lay the foundation for a more peaceful and nourishing relationship with food. One thing that I find to be helpful is to think of food as nourishing to your whole self. So this means food not only nourishes you physically, but also mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. This is counter to the trendy idea that “food equals fuel.” I believe that food is SO MUCH MORE than just fuel. Sure, it does fuel us from a physical perspective but it also gives you the freedom to enjoy life in its entirety.
When you nourish yourself, it gives you the freedom to be focused on the other things that are important in life such as celebration and connection. As I mentioned food brings us together. Can you think of a time that you have gathered with any group of people and it did not involve food!? Pretty uncommon, right!?
Food is also great for aiding in our emotional expression. Have you ever felt down and wanted to eat something comforting? Or felt the joy and happiness of celebrating a big accomplishment and wanted to go out for dinner or ice cream? Food can be a tool for connecting more deeply to the way that you feel. This is actually another key to developing more freedom and peace in your relationship with food. You must give yourself permission to eat not only to meet your physical needs, but also to express emotions at times. That means that when you go to the 4th of July barbeque today you can acknowledge that it is ok to eat and celebrate and connect through food!
One way you can get to a place where you see food as nourishing to your whole self is to focus on removing any labels on food such as “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Different foods certainly provide different nutrients, but that does not make any food superior to another. ALL food provides nourishment. Yes, you heard me right – ALL FOOD. That means the hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, chips, cake, ice cream, or whatever else your family and friends may be eating for your July 4th celebration.
In an effort to create space for more freedom and peace in your relationship with food today and everyday, can you try to nourish your whole self, express emotions with and through food, and remove any labels from food that you notice you have been adhering to? If not, maybe you can reflect on what gets in the way and let us know in the comments. Freedom and independence in your relationship with food is actually a right that all humans deserve to have. On this 4th of July, what can you do to create more space for freedom in your relationship with food? What can you do to strive towards creating a more equitable society where the 4th of July has the same meaning and celebratory vibe for ALL? My hope for ALL people today is a day of peace with food, and in all other aspects of life.