Celebrating Without Food

I got some wonderful professional news yesterday – years of work starting to come together. And that means a celebration, right?

Posted on | Ramani Durvasula, PhD | Comments ()

I got some wonderful professional news yesterday – years of work starting to come together. And that means a celebration, right? 

Shortly after receiving the good news I was scheduled to attend a meeting with some colleagues. It was as perfect as a day can be – while the rest of the country digs out from snow and bundles up against the cold, in Los Angeles, it was a balmy 85°. The meeting on this summer’s day in January was at a bakery/restaurant. We sat outside, sipped iced tea, and had a spirited interchange.

Yet, I was distracted. I was distracted by the case of bread and baked goods inside the window (ironically, I was with men who were occasionally distracted by the impossibly beautiful women who walked by our table – we all have our poison). Despite my distraction, the meeting went well, but it gave me pause.

I had accomplished something good that day. It was celebration time. Wasn’t I entitled to at least a macaroon? A tarte tatin? I then tried to convince myself that I could purchase a BOX full of treats to take to my daughter’s soccer game to pass out to everyone and we could all celebrate (rationalization is one of an addict’s slyest tricks).

But I knew me and baked goods in the same car made as much sense as dropping someone fresh out of rehab in front of his favorite bar. I had a pit in my stomach as I tried to talk myself out of this: “If you get them, you will eat them and you won’t be able to stop … if they are in the car, you will eat them mindlessly in traffic … but you deserve them … it’s a special day … you never get fresh stuff from the bakery … the girls will love fresh bread.” After a few minutes of this, I managed to dodge the bullet. But just as we were to leave, one of my dining companions turned to go inside to the bakery to purchase some things for his wife. One more chance for me legitimately walk in there.

I fought the magnetic pull and headed straight for my car, but looked back at that bakery as wistfully as a lover watching a train holding his amour pull out of a station.

Food as celebration is one of the great pitfalls for those of us struggling with food – and it is often a time when we give ourselves permission to be completely unregulated. We not only crave the food itself, but we also crave the ability to eat it without limits – hell, we earned it! I had to do some quick soul-searching around my triggers in that moment (bakery, eating in the car, eating for celebration), and I had to pull myself out of there. No one else could climb in my head and pull me out – this was all me.

I wish I could say I was self-congratulatory when I pulled away. Instead, I felt deprived, frustrated, irritated – like I didn’t get what I was entitled to. But it passed, and was then replaced with a sense of power. Each time I have a victory like that, it feels a little easier. 

Learn a new vocabulary of celebration – self-care instead of sugar cookies. Then you will have 2 things to celebrate.

Blog written by Ramani Durvasula, PhD
Dr. Ramani Durvasula has over 15 years of teaching, clinical and research experience. After receiving her doctorate in clinical...