Breaking Bread

I’m feeling proud of myself lately, and for a rather trivial reason. I try to eat right, or at least not to eat too many things I know are bad for me (not necessarily bad for you, but definitely for me), but it’s always hard for me to say no to gifts of food, to invitations to meals, to social occasions that involve food (and they almost always do).

Some people can sit with a group and not eat anything if they are on a voluntarily restrictive diet, but I’ve never been able to do that. It always seemed . . . I don’t know . . . unsociable or even self-righteous, as if I were subconsciously condemning them for eating less than healthy foods. At the very least, it makes people uncomfortable to eat if they are the only one eating, and I am always cognizant of trying to make people around me feel comfortable. Beyond that, though, so much of being with friends is “breaking bread together,” a simple phrase that used to literally mean sharing a loaf of bread, but is now mostly used as the name of religious rite. Even when the phrase is used in a secular manner, to mean sharing a meaningful connection over a meal, it’s still a spiritual rite. I’ve always intuitively understood the need of sharing a meal (one friend and I literally used to share a meal — every time we went out, we’d get one order of whatever and split it) and all that went along with the meal. Because of course, you don’t just share a meal, you share a space, an exchange of energy, a sense of camaraderie — a connection, in other words.

A shared meal feeds the soul, so this ritual of breaking bread has always been more important to me than the need to stick to my self-imposed food restrictions (sugar-filled desserts, baked goods, fried foods to name a few), so it was always a struggle to maintain any sort of food routine. I’m one of those who does well as long as I don’t ingest any of my verboten foods, but one reason I try to stay away from them is that they set up cravings for more of the same. My only hope of not gaining weight (I seldom lose, but I gain easily) is to remain true to my diet.

The first year I was here, I gained a lot of weight because of all the sociability. Every time I got together with people, it was over food. And there always seemed to be such occasions. And the food was always on my proscribed list. Still, I broke bread with my new friends.

Even before The Bob, I’d started backing away from social occasions. Although I enjoyed being with people, I didn’t particularly enjoy the meals, and didn’t like the way I felt after eating them. The isolation because of The Bob has helped me get into my “groove,” so now I don’t even want any of the foods I shouldn’t eat. And because of it, I can finally say “no” when it comes to eating with people.

For example, I always fix a snack for the woman I sit with a few hours a week, and she wants me to eat with her. So I scrounge, and if there is something in her refrigerator I can eat, I will. If not, I just smile at her, then turn aside to give her privacy so she doesn’t feel like a prize exhibit in a one-person eating contest.

When it comes time to socialize again — if it ever comes time — I hope I remember this and remain firm to my own self-interest. I know I will be giving up something by not being able to break bread with people, but I gain, too. The last time I decided it was okay to eat anything put in front of me (actually, I didn’t decide, I just did it), it took years to get back on my regime. Suffice to say that at the moment, I am feel good about being able to stick to doing what is right for my body.

And that is what I am proud about. See? A trivial thing, but important to me.


If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that inspired me to call this current disease The Bob, you can read the first chapter online here:

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