Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in many countries around the world, mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations. This event takes place on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year. Mardi is the French word for Tuesday, and gras means “fat.” In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods such as meat, eggs, milk, lard, cheese that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting. It is important to practice mindfulness during this time when in recovery however this does not mean you should avoid partaking in Mardi Gras or any other celebration.
The history behind Mardi Gras
The word carnival, another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, also derives from this feasting tradition: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat, from the Latin carnem for meat.
Today, Fat Tuesday is well known for big parties and indulging in lots of food and alcohol; which like any celebration or holiday that is centered around food, can be triggering for individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder or who are in eating disorder recovery. Just like any other celebration; knowing your limits, understanding your triggers, practicing your coping skills and being able to remove yourself from the situation are all essential components to partaking in a celebration without relapsing.
Celebrating Mardi Gras by practicing mindfulness
Depending on where you are from, the fried foods that are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, range from the sweet like doughnuts, bread pudding, hush puppies and King Cake to the savory like fried Po’Boys and sweet moon pies. These can be made at home with some of the best Mardi Gras recipes or can be found at many New Orleans inspired bakeries. Many restaurants and bars will offer a special menu for Fat Tuesday which will usually include some type of Po’ Boy and other many creole inspired dishes. Just because you are recovering from an eating disorder, does not necessarily mean that you should not be allowed to partake in Mardi Gras or any other celebration. It would be best if you let yourself enjoy these foods that you may not usually eat. However, you must be mindful of any lingering negative thoughts or triggers that may be in the back of your mind, and you must be able to control these thoughts and prevent them from turning into unhealthy actions.