Things—identifiable objects, products, goals with clear labels and price tags, men you’ve known for five minutes—make such a handy repository for hungers, such an easy mask for other desires and such a ready cure for the feelings of edgy discontent that emerge when other desires are either thwarted or unnamed.
-Caroline Knapp, from Appetites: Why Women Want
I spent Thanksgiving 2009 in the emergency room—terribly sick with the Swine Flu. Much to my surprise, the emergency room was packed. The doctors explained that Thanksgiving was their busiest night every year; people overindulge in food and alcohol and suffer from heart attacks, gastrointestinal problems and alcohol poisoning.
At this time of year, we are encouraged to think about the good things in our lives, to express gratitude, and spend time with loved ones. Yet, so often, as the doctors in the emergency room told me, we overindulge to the point of harming ourselves. Why? What are we overcompensating for?
A few weeks ago a friend lent me Caroline Knapp’s book—Appetites: Why Women Want. Knapp’s book is a heart-rending and powerful memoir, in which she explores the connection between food issues and desire. She posits that it is our disconnection from our deepest selves that drives us to deny our desire outright (seen in anorexia or other forms of asceticism) or to overindulge our desires to excess (seen in alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia).
As someone who has suffered from food issues, I have great sympathy for anyone dealing with food-related issues. But, maybe when we feel that hunger—rather than indulging or denying—we can listen, engage, validate, nurture and truly love all of ourselves. Maybe we can find the source of our hunger and find healthy means of expression. So, on this Thanksgiving we can give some thought to our authentic desires and how we can mindfully nourish our minds, bodies and spirits.
Many blessings on this Thanksgiving!