Another Trip Around the Sun

Chef Gretchen Hanson

another trip around the sun

I have always been deeply dismayed at the idea of starting the New Year in a deprivation mode. The list of resolutions I have made over the last few decades includes literally every goal you can make and fail at repeatedly.

I shall lose weight. I shall work out. I shall quit drinking too much. I shall get out of this relationship. I shall quit this crappy job…

If I had to guess, I would bet that more than one of you has done the exact same thing.

So I have decided to not look at this New Year as one more year I must whip my ass into shape (literally and figuratively), but as an opportunity to embark on a new adventure. I am at the point in my life where I am finally deciding what I want to do when I grow up. I am rethinking the path that I have walked up until this point, and I am trying to decide who exactly I am going to be.  Just because I have always been in the restaurant business, doesn’t mean that is what I am destined to do forever.

My decision to take a gap year and spend it with my children has given me the opportunity to strip my life down to the essentials. I have struggled with an intention (or mission statement) for this year, the same way I have struggled in the past with a New Year’s resolution. Through my early young adulthood when I was in the throes of a raging eating disorder, I looked at food as the enemy to be conquered. If I could just beat my appetite and cellulite into submission and get down the next smaller dress size, then my life would be perfect. I would wear the tiara, find the glass slipper, slip on the diamond, and live my fairy tale happy ever after, while dancing off into the sunset.

I bet you can guess how that worked out for me.

So I started every New Year in a deprivation mode, where I thought that food was my enemy, and I was weak and flawed. I began every single year of my life believing that there was something wrong with me. I began each year thinking I was a failure.

In the past, most of my resolutions have sounded like a cover of a tabloid magazine.

Must lose weight now! Get your ass in skinny jeans! Get bikini ready! Join a gym! Do spin or Pilates daily!

You get the idea.

Demanding an action to make my abs, thighs, and ass smaller or shapelier, right? If you are anything like me, you have made the same resolutions a hundred times. You have bought the latest workout magazine one hundred times. You have read the same article one hundred times. You have accomplished the goals you set forth (after being thoroughly shamed and humiliated by yet another failure) a grand total of never once.

I have learned from women far smarter than I that the importance of setting a positive intention before you embark on any project cannot be overstated. When you frame a goal, it should always be one which uses positive action words. I am not saying that there are not things now that I don’t want to change. There certainly are, but I have learned that the way I attack my projects should be with an ‘adding in’ model, rather than one of deprivation. For example, one of my goals this year is to learn how to say ‘no’ when asked to participate in too many charity fundraisers. On the surface, this looks like a perfect example of taking something away. Remove the constant drain of commitments from my life, right? Don’t add anything more on the ‘to do’ list and just say ‘no’ when people ask, right? But the way, I am framing this change to allow myself to commit when I want to, but equally giving myself the permission to block time on my calendar for what is truly important to me. For every weekend I donate to a ‘just cause’, I will now block two weekends off; one for myself and one for my children. I can still say ‘yes’ when I want to, but then the minute I do commit to a charity event, I schedule the other two weekends immediately; one as a writing block for me, and one for day trips with the children doing something they have always wanted to experience.

Everyone wins.

Let’s take something that is a little bit harder to frame as a positive, like weight loss. The very term is steeped in deprivation. In order to lose weight, we must give up something pleasurable. Everyone wants to lose weight on January 1st, right? I am certainly no exception to the desire to be thinner, more fit, and healthier. I too have made the yearly resolution to lose weight countless numbers of times. So how do we do this in a way that doesn’t make us feel inadequate or like a failure? How about instead of taking away food, we ‘add in’ health? This year I shall treat my body in a way that promotes my health and happiness. This year I shall recognize that the wholesome food I eat is the best way to become healthy. This year I shall love myself. This year I shall recognize that food is love and I can work to repair our damaged relationship.

So, on this trip around the sun, I am going to explore how to love myself the way I am. I am going to heal myself with food and words and actions, and I invite you to come along on the journey. I shall start this next adventure by being completely transparent about the negative messages I learned as a young woman, and how I am constantly berating myself for not being ‘enough.’ The journey is sometimes about standing still and discovering where the path needs to lead to next. I shall listen to my body and my heart, and I shall follow the voice within.

Gilda Radner, one of my earliest heroes, said, “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…” It’s an amazing mission statement about a life well lived and one I wish to adopt as my own. Whether we want to admit it out loud or not, we all want to look back at our lives with a sense of accomplishment. We want to leave behind a hit parade of “I did” and “I was” statements that matter to us in a deep and profound way

How about this year we begin our journey by adding in love? This year we learn how to love ourselves in the healthiest possible way, so we can look outward and forward through the lens of a different perspective. This year we work together to be our best possible selves. I shall be writing and posting on my progress, and you can tell me about yours. Tell me what you need. Tell me what would help you heal yourself. Let me teach you how to cook your way to healthy. We can teach each other that it is OK to sometimes just stand still.

This year I shall embrace the delicious ambiguity of where I am, not where I think I should be.

This year I shall write my own story.

This year #foodislove.

7 Responses

  1. You had me at the beginning, well because you are you, but you got me at the negative messages learned as a young woman.

    Recently my daughter said she had never seen me with such a defeatist attitude after gaining 40 pounds in three years, advanced arthritis, degenerating disc in neck and back – I am afraid to walk without support and used wheel chair at the airport.

    I will applaud your journey and take inspiration, not in your successes only, but in your revealations and introspections.

    Does the vision come to you writing and lecturing on how food can heal? Maybe the blog is a starting place, but I keep seeing myself eating your meals daily that are customized for my needs.

    Know you are loved and touched my life I such a positive way.

  2. This lights up my thoughts as well as the first day of the new year
    The words are tasty, the thoughts are clear
    With this energy, we need not look to the rear
    Instead we look ahead, clear-eyed as we peer


  3. So many times we expect so much from ourselves, and pick out our flaws when all we need to do as you said “love myself the way I am”. Advice everyone can take going into the new year.

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