When I was growing up food, especially foods made from sugar and flour, equaled comfort, love and peace. In makes sense, then, one huge barrier I had to jump over on my weight loss journey was a rich family culture centering around the abundance of those types of foods.
Food In Her Blood
Any time we went to my grandmother’s house there was a spread that looked like it was meant to feed a crew of 20 hard-working farm hands. That was true even if it was just our family of five and my grandparents.
The fact they lived on a farm and were both raised in generational farm families dictated the predominance of starchy foods and desserts on my grandmother’s table.
It was literally in her blood. She couldn’t cook any other way. Meals were her job. Papaw worked in the field, tended the animals, took care of the farm machinery and kept the books.
Grandma planted and tended the garden; then, gathered the green beans, potatoes, peas, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables and cooked, canned or froze them. She fed the chickens and gathered the eggs. Papaw would milk the cow and bring the fresh milk up each morning.
Grandma would prepare all the meals, plus churn butter and make cottage cheese and bake bread, cakes, cookies and hoecake When it was time for fried chicken, she’d choose several, kill them, pluck them and cut them up into pieces.
She and Papaw ran the farm like a well-oiled machine. Papaw raised the grain that fed the cows, pigs and sheep. Everything they did revolved around making sure they had enough to eat.
Inheritance of Food
It’s no wonder, then, when Grandma died in 1993 and Mom, six months before her, the main thing I inherited was boxes and boxes of recipes.
The recipes went further back than Grandma because as the oldest daughter, she had inherited her mother’s recipes. I am the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter.
Holding the recipes boxes in my hands felt as if I was holding the lifeblood of our family. All our cultural traditions centered around food.
Big family dinners were held for birthdays, holidays and any occasion. There were family reunions on every side. Each great aunt could have won the state fair baking contest. I lived for those occasions.
Fat and happy seemed to be our motto. I certainly didn’t want to be the one to curtail the full, satisfied and content feeling.
At the time I hadn’t yet had my 40th birthday. I weighed weigh past 350 pounds. I loved eating all of the foods I grew up with. I didn’t have a thought about not eating them.
Grandma’s Kitchen Cookbook
I wanted to share these wonderful women, as well as my great-grandmothers, aunts and others in my family, with my daughter, who was only two when her Grandmas died.
These recipes I loved became Grandma’s Kitchen Cookbook, along with stories and poems about these awesome women. I added their sayings and affirmations.
Some of my favorite pictures of them crept into the book. I dedicated it to my daughter who is also an oldest daughter. I made it available to family and friends.
I would never make these recipes available now. Even though they are part of my family’s history, we no longer live on a farm laboring long hours and needing an overabundance of high calorie energy.
We live in 2015 where we sit and stare at screens all day or work at fairly sedentary office jobs. We don’t need the calories our forefathers needed just to survive.
I didn’t understand until after I was well into my weight loss journey that the foods eaten by my forefathers don’t work well with our mostly sedentary lifestyles today. Today I eat quite differently and would never produce a cookbook with the recipes from Grandma’s kitchen.
Relationship With Food
My weight eventually rose to the life-threatening weight of 430 pounds. I began the lifestyle change journey that today has resulted in a weight loss of 260 pounds.
On the journey, I was asked one of those life-changing questions. Where did you learn your relationship with food?
It’s interesting that I didn’t even wonder if I had a relationship with food. I knew I did and I knew I learned it from Grandma.
I equated food with comfort and love. When I was away from her and felt overwhelmed, sad, angry, lonely, fearful, worried, stressed or just plain old frustrated, I would make something Grandma would have made — comfort food. It would comfort, for a while, until the sugar high wore off and I needed more.
That way of coping wasn’t comforting at all. It was very discomforting. In reality, it was killing me.
Still, to not eat or cook those foods would be like abandoning my culture and dishonoring Grandma. It took me a while to process what was happening in my head and heart.
To believe Grandma had been harming me saddened me. I knew she didn’t aim to hurt me. She fed me out of love. The little girl in me was still emotionally attached to those comfort foods.
To overcome that barrier, I had to forgive Grandma. Grandma was no longer with me, of course, so it felt silly to forgive her. In essence, I was telling the little girl that the adult me understood why her attachment to those foods, which formed a cultural barrier to weight loss.
I just said out loud, “Holy Spirit, I forgive my Grandmother for feeding me wonderful foods that would later become addictive to me. I forgive her for making me feel that food equals love and comfort. I understand she would be sad to know what that kind of food did to me. I know she did not mean to hurt me.”
Then, I renounced the lie the Holy Spirit would comfort me in a way which would be harmful to me. I asked, “Holy Spirit, what is Your truth?”
I really didn’t hear or sense words. I simply felt love and peace invade my being, like being swaddled in a warm, secure blanket, like the heated blankets placed over me when I was in the hospital.
I thought, this is what real comfort feels like. It’s not that overfull feeling, which leads to damaging my body.
It is a peace like only the Holy Spirit brings.
Jesus said this to His disciples. “I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable, good, expedient, advantageous, for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, the Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby, will not come into close fellowship with you; but if I go away, I will send Him to you to be in close fellowship with you.”1
Teresa Shields Parker is an author, coach and speaker. Her books include Sweet Grace, Sweet Grace Study Guide and Sweet Change. She coaches Sweet Change Weight Loss Group and Write the Vision Coaching Group. Write the Vision Coaching Group is a six-month group which just opened Aug. 20. Deadline has been extended just for you until Aug. 31. Then doors close until authors emerge in February 2016. If you want to be one of them there is still time to get in now. Hurry. Go HERE.