The Food Life: Love and Hate

written by Charity Keita 26th January 2016


It can be difficult to find a balance between loving and accepting ourselves for who we are and making the right choices in life, finds Charity Keita as she decides to go on her first ever health retreat in India.

I’ve signed up for an Ayurvedic retreat in India with my dad. By the time you read this my body will be mainly composed of Ayurvedic water and doing yoga contortions in its sleep. To be honest, I think it’s an excellent idea as I can’t think of a better way to spend time with my dad—who I don’t see nearly enough, get fit and untangle myself from the stresses of daily life. It’s the kind of thing I personally won’t be able to afford until I’m rich and famous, but my Grandmother died recently leaving my dad a bit of spare cash, so I can’t think of a better way to spend the money she worked so hard to make!

It’s never easy being a spectator to one’s parents interminable fights. I’m lucky because after 45 years, they are still together, but it saddens me that communication is so bad that sometimes they seem to lack any form of empathy towards one another. My mother was born with great genes: she has long legs, a swift metabolism, loves sport and sees food as a form of sustenance. My dad and I on the other hand are quite the opposite: we have short appendages, like sport but not to excess, have a tendency to gain weight simply by looking at food and a consummate passion for cooking for the people we love. I love my parents and believe they complement each other magnificently; however their differing approaches to the art of nourishment has been a bone of contention for the better part of two decades and it seems to be getting worse not better.

Modern life offers us all the choice in the world: gone are the days in which we lived off one kind of starch, two kinds of vegetables and a meaty feast served only on special occasions. Today we can can gorge ourselves on different delicious meals three times a day every day of the year. But abundance has gone hand in hand with the rise of obesity and diseases which are closely linked to these excesses. The easy availability of unhealthy choices is coupled with a saturation of images of toned and healthy people who serve to constantly remind us of our failings in the food and exercise department. It can be hard, when bombarded by such conflicting messages, to find it in ourselves to love ourselves for who we are.
I look at my dad being depressed about his weight and it saddens me because I see this form of self loathing reflected in myself. I want to reach out to him and tell him it’s ok, it’s just his body’s natural course. But of course I understand where my mother is coming from when she chastises him for helping himself to seconds or that fifth glass of wine. I just wish she wouldn’t be so judgemental in her approach.

The general feeling is that we indulgent ones have a moral failing when compared to the ones who abstain. But surely there should be a way to separate the superiority/inferiority element from the process? While she is undoubtedly right about the second helping, I feel the chastisement feeds into the cycle of self hate. It is my strong conviction that the more we hate ourselves, the harder it is to make the positive decisions that will lead us to shed the extra pounds (because we aren’t arguing they don’t need to be shed) and so the cycle continues. No one is arguing that obesity is good, but do chubby people really have to spend their lives hating on themselves?

There must be a balance somewhere… love yourself first and then find it in yourself to say no to that extra piece of pie and whipped cream! Moral of the story? Daddy and I are off to India to find ourselves. I can’t believe I just said that….

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