IF IT SERVES YOU, NOT IF IT’S SERVED
By: Lauren Anderson
Last night I performed at a fundraising event for the Twin Cities Horror Festival.
There was a spooky show taking on the seven deadly sins, a silent auction featuring any number of witchy and wonderful art pieces, and interactive events like getting your very own monster name, and your runes read.
I had a wonderful time taking on “greed” performing with my good pal Mike, and the overall show was killer! (Pun intended.)
But perhaps the scariest part of the night? Dun dun duhhhhhhhh… THE DESSERT TABLE.
I mean that thing was LOADED you guys. Every kind of cookie, and treat and brownie. And the mother of all mothers—two gigantic chocolate cakes.
It was beautiful and decadent, and pre-Solcana Lauren would’ve probably called that table “sinful”. (Which, come to think of it, was probably what they were going for.) But I don’t like to use that kind of language anymore when it comes to food.
Say it with me now! “Food is not good or bad. It has no morality. I am not good or bad based on the food I eat. My only question about food from now on is: ‘Does it serve me?’”
In my head, we all just said that together the same way we were forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school. All monotone, with our hands over our hearts.
I know I sound like a broken record gang, but I gotta keep the mantra alive. Otherwise it creeps back like ghoul from a grave. When I first arrived at the event, I checked in with those in charge, and then I scooped the loop to say my Hellos, and see the shake down of what this event had to offer.
When I saw that dessert table fro the first time, I stopped and admired it. I appreciate all art, and dessert definitely counts as art IMHO. Because that’s part of what dessert is! It’s purposefully decadent. It’s unnecessary by it’s very nature!
I actually have a whole philosophy on the subject, that I’ve likely shared before, but let me re-cap for the newbies. I like dessert for the same reason I like jewelry. IT’S ONLY FOR FUN. YOU DON’T NEED IT. I wouldn’t call myself a total hedonist, but I am always on the pursuit of pleasure, so these things are real “on-brand” for me.
Yes, in the society that I live in, it is expected that I cover up at least some parts of my body with clothing when I’m in public spaces. It’s a MUST. But there is no reason to bejewel or bedazzle myself in bijoux. I do it, because I LIKE IT. Wearing jewelry is fun for me! The “extra” part of it is what makes it so appealing. It’s what makes getting dressed feel like a celebration as apposed to a chore.
(See what I mean? LEGIT PHILOSOPHY.)
Same goes with food. Yes yes, we all have to eat to survive. We all need a certain mix of fats, carbs and proteins to get these bodies to work. But dessert? That’s extra! Even though I have on occasion opted for ice cream for dinner– for the most part, desserts are extra! We don’t need them to survive. They are just there for fun and celebration.
But if any one of you out there reading this has struggled with your body, or your relationship to food, you know as well as I, that dessert is sometimes a ZERO FUN negotiation.
We have been taught that if you have a less-than-perfect body i.e. a “bad body”, that you don’t “deserve” the joy of dessert. And if you choose to eat it anyway, you are “being bad”.
Just typing that last sentence made me furious. I used to think that way. Part of me still thinks like that if I’m being totally honest. And then I have to walk myself out of that EFFED UP way of thinking with the mantra again. (Commence monotone voice/ hand-over-heart!)
“Food is not good or bad. It has no morality. I am not good or bad based on the food I eat. My only question about food from now on is: ‘Does it serve me?’”
Before I go on, let’s chat about the idea of “Does it serve me?” again. Because I think this is still confusing sometimes. Even though I’ve been practicing it now for a couple years, what constitutes service in terms of food?
Well, the way I think about it is still the 80/20 style of eating. Meaning 80 percent of the time I’m eating for fuel and nutrition. And 20 percent is reserved for all the other things that humans use food for, like comfort or celebration.
And then there’s this other idea… since I took the nutrition classes that involved going off sugar and other major well-known inflammatory foods, I have learned a lot about my body. I know now that if I eat a lot of refined sugar, my blood sugar SPIKES and then promptly crashes about 20 minutes later. Leaving me feeling sleepy and lethargic.
So… what does that mean for me in terms of the dessert servicing me?
Well, let me walk you through the rest of my night.
The first round of checking out the dessert table I just stopped and admired. I didn’t take anything yet, because I knew I had to perform in a half hour, and if I ate dessert now, I would surely crash by the time Mike and I were slotted to perform.
In that instance, it would not “serve me” to eat any dessert.
BOOM. This is significant, because the pre-Solcana Lauren would not have known that about herself, probably would’ve grabbed a cookie, and then would’ve been mad at the low energy in her set, and not known why.
Cut to intermission. The Hosts of the evening remind the guests to visit the dessert table. Mike and I performed in the first act, so the rest of the night is mine! I head over again to check out the goods.
There are lots of viable options… pretty much anything on that table is something that I would enjoy. But then I see it. It’s got about 4 layers. It’s got classic icing. The mother of all chocolate cakes.
There is a risk with cakes this dark and chocolatey… because they can easily be TOO MUCH. Too thick and dense and you know…But I decide to risk it.
Before I take a slice, I say to myself, “If it’s the type of chocolate cake that I don’t enjoy, it’s okay to throw it away.”
This moment is significant to me for two reasons.
First, I surveyed the table and opted for the dessert I actually wanted– THE CAKE. As opposed to the old Lauren, that would’ve looked at the table, wanted the cake, but then I would’ve denied myself, thinking that “I don’t deserve it.”
And then I would’ve proceeded to eat a million cookies and other treats, and would still be left somehow dissatisfied, because I didn’t eat what I actually wanted.
My nutritionist calls this “Eating around your craving.” Sometimes my body really tells me what it wants, and I would deny it the craving because I thought it was “bad”. Then I’d end up eating a bunch of other food I’ve labeled as “better” to fulfill the craving.
But I’d always be left unsatisfied. And usually, this habit makes me eat more calories etc, then if I just would’ve given in to the craving in the first place.
The second moment, is I gave myself permission to throw out the cake if I didn’t like it.
This is significant because there is still a bit of the “Clean Plate Club” Kid in me. And that I don’t want to be wasteful. Especially with something as lovely and rare as chocolate cake!
But then I’m reminded of something my old life coach told me. She said, “You can either throw it way in the trash, or throw it away in your mouth.” This always stuck with me because when I eat something I don’t want, just because I think I should, I’m essentially still throwing it away. Because there is no joy. It’s not servicing me.
So, cut to the cake.
It was SO FRICKING GOOD you guys! I’m not kidding. I walked around with my slice laughing and talking about how good the cake was. I ate that cake up with joy and admiration for the genius that created it.
This is what service feels like, I thought. Even though it’s dessert and not really nutritionally viable in a significant way, that cake added to my overall enjoyment. That cake was serving me, because it added to the celebration.
This is significant, because I felt absolutely NONE of the guilt and the “I’m bad” feelings that I used to associate with eating cake. I had made an intentional choice, and was rewarded for it.
And I felt powerful.
I know that sounds kinda silly er whatever, but here me out.
I have been practicing this type of food self-talk for awhile now, and I rarely get that old familiar twang of guilt that I used to get every time I ate anything at all. But the practice used to kinda consume me, and take up a lot of mental energy.
But I’m happy to report, that this round with cake was easy.
I mean, I still had to be intentional of course. But it wasn’t the white-knuckle-hold-on-to-you-hat type of feeling that I usually get whenever I try to employ a new practice. Because, I guess, the practice is no longer new.
Perhaps the practice has become a “normal”.
And if that’s the case, I feel like I just won the mother-ducking lottery!
Not only was the evening fun, but the chocolate cake ended up being a celebration in a few ways.
A celebration of the night, to be sure. But more significantly, a celebration of my new normal.
I was in calm control of that food negotiation. I was intentional. And it felt easy.
I wasn’t eating cake because it was served.
I ate that cake in the service of me.