Monday, April 25, 2011

Breaking Bread Together

Many of us feel anxious when we contemplate what it will be like to share a meal with others after our weight loss surgery. Will we be able to enjoy a nice restaurant meal? How will we deal with food-centered celebrations at work, at church, at home? What about that Caribbean cruise we’ve always dreamed of, with wonderful food available 24 hours a day? Will we be forced to sip water and nibble on a piece of stale Melba toast while everyone else parties hearty? Should we just avoid social eating altogether?
I’m here to tell you that life does go on after weight loss surgery, a life that includes both food- and non-food- centered activities, but in my case the whole business of social eating is quite different now than it was pre-op. And that’s a good thing, when you consider how much overeating I did and what poor food choices I used to make, especially in my overseas travels. (Let’s face it, what I practiced then was plain old gluttony.) Life after weight loss surgery involves a new and improved approach to eating in order to optimize weight loss (and weight maintenance once you’re at your weight goal), but it should not involve Draconian deprivation, suffering, torture, or entombing yourself inside a brick wall like a medieval nun trying to avoid all temptations of the flesh. Breaking bread together is a vital part of human life that does more than fill our bellies – it fills our souls and cements our communities, be they lay or religious.
What does it mean to break bread together? Although many Christians believe that “breaking bread” symbolizes the Last Supper, history tells us that the “breaking of bread” is in fact a standard Jewish expression from pre-Christian times which refers to the action of “breaking bread” at the start of a meal, a ritual performed by the head of a household or the host presiding at the meal. The host would break the loaf of bread in two pieces and speak a prayer thanking God for the bread and the meal, and for the fellowship in sharing God’s blessings with the family and guests present at the table.
That kind of fellowship is no small thing, especially in an age with a highly mobile population that communicates more via text than via voice or face-to-face meetings. The weekly Sabbath meal with an extended family that those of raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition once took for granted seem to be disappearing…we’re too modern, too fast-paced, spread too far apart, to spare the time for that kind of gathering now.
I’m not saying that you ought to spend every Friday evening or Sunday afternoon trapped in a small room with bickering relatives, but we all need social activities in order to thrive as human and social beings. If your family’s Sunday gathering involves making your mother cry because you won’t eat a third helping of lasagna, you can still enjoy fellowship with people who are less likely to push your guilt buttons. And if everyone you know, from your partner to your office mate to your best friend from high school, keeps telling you things like, “It’s OK, one little piece of cheesecake won’t hurt,” it may be time to rethink your relationships and the boundaries you need to set.

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