Note: Part of my series on Feeding with Love
This time of year can be very rough for people trying to be careful of their weight and what they’re eating, because food is everywhere. Potlucks and holiday gatherings and food in the office and people giving you cookies and holiday fairs – it can be quite overwhelming.
What can make it even harder is that many people like to prepare food for those they care about. That can be wonderful, providing joy to both giver and receiver if it’s truly wanted and appreciated. But it can sometimes put uncomfortable pressure on the receiver. You feel like you’re obligated to eat because you know they made it for you. And if you try to politely decline, I’ve heard stories about the giver saying things like, “I made it just for you!” and “If you love me you’ll have some.”
I fully understand the desire to make food for people you care about. I discovered this joy in college, when I first made chocolate chip cookies the way I’d learned from my dad for people at work who had helped me through my initial rough adjustment period. I couldn’t have asked more from their reactions.
“Are you sure you didn’t use magic to make these taste so good?” one of the guys asked, after about his sixth cookie.
“Oh my God, they’re perfect!” another woman enthused. “It’s like eating a little piece of heaven.”
“They’re so moist and gooey,” my manager added. “They’re great.”
Hearing it made me feel warm and melty myself, and I realized how happy I was to be able to make good food for people that I liked. It’s something I continue do, particularly this time of year. My Christmas presents for the past few years have always included pumpkin muffins (made with pumpkin I get at the Farmer’s Market in the fall and bake down then freeze), often a variety of cookies, and sometimes, if I’m feeling adventuresome, things like caramel.
And I don’t just stick with the sweet. I recently made some soup and roasted root vegetables for a friend who has brand-new twin boys. I’m also on my church’s list of people to contact to provide meals to those who are ill or recovering.
The key for me is make sure that the people I’m giving the food to actually want it. I know that the goodies I make people for Christmas are appreciated and consumed, so I continue to make them. Baking things for church events (like the Holiday Fair) satisfies my baking itch while also providing something they’ve asked for. And I know personally how wonderful it is to get home-cooked meals when not in a position to make them myself, instead of having to rely on eating out or packaged meals.
And if people try to encourage me to eat when I don’t want to at that time? I may ask to take some home, or explain that I’m just too full from all the other good things and wouldn’t truly appreciate it just then, but maybe I could have the recipe? Or I may take just a tiny portion, enough for a bite to get the taste of it, because sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.
I also try to be careful that making food for people isn’t the only way I choose to show that I care for them. Hugs, cards, e-mails, phone calls, and smiles all help, too. And the times that I do express those feelings with food, I’m as respectful as possible of their wishes and preferences. To me, that is the best way to feed people with love