Remembering to Be Kind - Thoughts Before the Holiday Season Ensues

TW: ED Mention

I, like so many others, have a strained relationship with food and an equally strained relationship with my body. While this relationship has become much less strained over the years, October through January are my long, slow trudge through huge feasts, never-ending sweets, the pressure to gather and eat exorbitantly, and little natural exercise or hiking trips as the months get colder. For months, society talks about gaining and then losing holiday weight, and exercise classes are geared towards "getting in shape after the holidays". The unhealthy relationship extends far beyond my own doorstep, and it is hard to ignore in Westernized society.

Past our unhealthy relationships with our body as a whole, the dichotomy between sitting down to meals much larger than the gathered can consume in a single sitting, or even two or three, and the amount of hunger in the United States in relation to poverty is deeply unsettling. Poverty and homelessness are not a single individual issue, but rather the brokenness of a system of corporations that at once reminds us to donate and volunteer, and also profits off of the vast consumption that occur on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day alone. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens often have too many volunteers on these days, and are left wanting the rest of the year. Meanwhile, many families are paying for Thanksgiving dinner on credit, to impress or uphold a tradition they may no longer believe in.

When we live in a world in which we can both hate ourselves for consumption, celebrate consumption without moderation, and still lack either the resources of the policing of corporate greed to house our homeless, feed our impoverished, and assist our citizens especially in the midst of a pandemic, it is the sign that we live in a broken system. That on its own isn't exactly a radical conclusion, just an observation by someone who has become disillusioned by the US "Holiday Season" as she presses forward into adulthood.

My conclusion, moreso, is this: Kindness and empathy, true empathy, are often the most radical avenues you can pursue. When you are kind to your body, you begin to re-learn eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full, sharing food with the people who come into your home because you love them, and a home-cooked meal is love. One of the things you learn about recovering from an eating disorder is about the practice of moderation. Eating disorders speak in absolutes, and you must unlearn binging and purging, learn that exercise is meant to strengthen your body and not punish it.

And on the other hand, when you are kind to the stranger that walks by your front steps asking for $.42, when you are empathetic to the people in your community year round and not just when thankfulness comes with a serving of turkey and mashed potatoes, when you think of others not just when the Christmas service tells you to, you will strengthen your heart, too. I sometimes wonder if selflessness is something that we have had to relearn in our recovery from being raised in a place that puts profit ahead of people. There are many people, myself included, that are unlearning the immediate response to avert their eyes unless it is convenient on their terms.

I reiterate, one of the most radical things you can do in this current Western world is to react, to yourself and to others, with open and unbridled empathy as much as you can. And truly, I hope you do.

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I appreciate your candor, and I agree with you. I haven't struggled with an eating disorder, but I am acquainted with people who have, and I know it isn't an easy road. I try to be generous throughout the year, by donating or volunteering, and not reserve goodness for the holidays. And I try to keep holiday meals reasonable in size, so nobody overeats just so they can try everything on the table. Besides, a shorter menu means less work for me!