Happy Anniversary

January in Belize with my grandson

It’s May…my website has been “up” for a year now. And this month is my 40th wedding anniversary! Unbelievable to me… So, I’ve decided this week is author’s choice and I am writing this post openly and honestly about my personal relationship with food and with my body.

I don’t know if I have written that I don’t have, and in fact have never had, food “rules.” I grew up in a household where we were allowed to have leftovers from dinner at breakfast time and where homemade baked cookies were always around. I never step on my scale – I only use it to weigh my luggage so I can avoid paying extra fees. I don’t count calories – in fact I’m somewhat clueless about caloric content of many foods. I have never dieted. My weight doesn’t cycle up and down  and my tighter fitting items of clothing usually feel the same. I am happy with my weight and my body. I am not perfect by any means – I have a substantial tushy, cellulite on my thighs and my waist is definitely bigger than it was 10 years ago. But I think my body looks good for someone my age. I secretly believe the reason I don’t have facial wrinkles is  because I have never dieted and I am not too skinny. All of this is most likely part of why I love to cook; I enjoy not only the process, but I like to eat too.

I realize my story is not the norm. It always makes me unhappy when friends put themselves down and talk about being fat, having to go on a diet, or needing to go to the gym to burn off calories.

So I thought I’d share my credo:

I eat only when I am truly hungry. And I try to eat what I crave at the time. I sometimes eat every three hours or sometimes two times a day (usually not). Nine times out of ten I have a very distinct sense of what it is I want to eat. For example, yesterday’s breakfast consisted of a rye bagel smeared with ricotta cheese and topped with marinated smoked peppers – with some fresh fruit salad and my latte, of course. That is what I craved and it tasted great.

The perfect breakfast!

I never, ever eat or drink “diet” foods like diet soda, low calorie cookies, artificial sugar substitutes,” light” this or that. I do not own or keep clothing that is too small, or too big. My personality is such that I love variety in food, so I don’t have the same breakfast or lunch every day. The exception is that I adore leftover food and might have the same soup for lunch three days in a row if that sounds good to me. Otherwise I give my extra food to friends or family, or freeze it for later if it is something that freezes well.

As an aside, I gave my kids free reign with food from a very early age. I never remarked about them gaining weight or looking fat. I had my children make their own lunches to bring to school from the time they were about seven or eight. They gave me weekly shopping lists and they could pack anything they wanted for school as long as they did this without my help – it could be cold pizza, cookies, candy, sandwiches…whatever they wanted. Other parents were horrified and thought I was lazy and irresponsible. My daughter would make elaborate concoctions to take to school. My youngest son really disliked school lunches and didn’t like sandwiches, so he would take odd combinations of food. Guess what? I found out that my middle son would take candy and cookies, then trade it for sandwiches and healthful foods his friends’ mothers packed. Many of his classmates were not allowed to have sweets, and because Daniel could have sugary food at his discretion, he didn’t really care about eating it. To him, it was a bartering tool. Fast forward to today: all three of my kids are normal weight, no one has ever had food issues and all three eat pretty healthfully. I can’t say this is 100% due to my wonderful mothering because genetically our families are not overweight, and we all exercise (but never obsessively) several times a week.  It is not pure luck that I am not overweight!

I don’t feel the need, ever, to finish my food. It isn’t helping the starving people in China, as they used to say. When I am full and satiated I stop eating. I leave food on my plate (gasp!).  I always told my kids and their friends that they didn’t have to finish food or “clean their plate.” Most people look at me like I am a lunatic when I say this.

I always have toasted nuts in a dish on my kitchen counter as well as a jar of homemade biscuits or cookies. They last a long time because everyone knows they will be replenished instantly once they are eaten. In other words, there is not a “charge” or awful feeling about eating something forbidden.

I don’t eat in the car, I never eat while watching television, I don’t walk around the house and eat, I don’t stand at the counter and eat…99 percent of the time I sit down, I set the table with a placemat, with cutlery, with a pretty plate and glassware and napkin and I make my meal or snack the focus of my attention. I really taste the food; I don’t talk on the phone and eat. I don’t read the paper and eat…I savor my food – sometimes with music in the background and occasionally I’ll even put a flower or two in a vase by my place setting.

I also know that if you grew up, as most do, with food rules and regulations and diets that it is hard to get beyond this and be guilt free with food, no matter what. I get that. I also beg young parents to think about the messages you give your kids when they see you constantly step on the scale, or berate yourself or your spouse for being fat. I wish everyone could be at peace with their body and with their food choices and stop obsessing about food and weight.

Enough … I’ll get off my soap box now. But I can’t help but end with this. Below is a picture of a pillow my  sister emailed to me. In my mind… it really is all about balance. And, of course, a bit of chocolate.

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10 Responses to Happy Anniversary

  1. Sue Pecaut Stark says:

    Beautiful posting. LOVED it.
    I celebrate my 40th Wedding Annversary too, on August 18th of this year. We will be in Frisco, CO at a rented condo (for the second August in a row), on Ten Mile Creek.

    I think your ideas about food are wonderful!! Food at 2411 was ALWAYS fun.
    Sue Pecaut Stark

    • Marilyn says:

      Thanks, Suzie, and Happy 40th to you too! You really got married young (even younger than me!). Not so bad, eh?

  2. Ed Osdoba says:

    Since I teach good nutirion to the public and patients at the University of Washington Hospital this comment is in appreciation of your candid post. Your relationship to food is correct and a good example to all.

    • Marilyn says:

      THANK YOU!! That is a huge complement, give your profession. It was a sincere post-and one I know with upset some folks, but it is from my heart and it’s absolutely 100% honest.

  3. Shira says:

    Marilyn does always have cookies on her counter! Generally biscotti with chocolate and almonds in a clear glass container.

    I have not always had the most effortless relationship with food (though surprisingly after having kids my relationship with food is perfect, because it is the last thing I worry about). When I did complain, my mother in law Marilyn always told me how gorgeous I am and how excellent I looked, in contrast to my Israeli mother, who was always brutally honest. Marilyn and her children’s relationship with food is a healthy love affair, and all her kids are good eaters, thin and love to cook. As an in-law, watching the whole family polish off a chocolate cake and wake up thinner in the morning is no fun, but I just hope my kids get my husbands genes.

    • Marilyn says:

      It’s not all genes (or jeans, for that matter): your kids will have lots of food options, tons of exercise and parents who will love them unconditionally! They will
      be wonderful people and how they look on the outside will never be a focus. (Just for the record, both of them are way thinner than any of my 3 were at their ages)

  4. Sandy says:

    Happy Anniversary! I *love* this post! I remember staying at your house when I was young – and one morning I woke up and saw Tim eating ice cream for breakfast!! I thought that was amazing… and so smart of your mom!

  5. Carrie says:

    Great post! Married 40 years? I’d never guess looking at your picture! I, too, need a lot of variety in my cooking – different spices, different proteins, veggies, fruits, some grains, etc. I get bored easily and prefer to be excited by my food. I like that you eat without distractions – just a focus on the food. Great ideas, thanks for sharing!

    • Marilyn says:

      I think all the eating behaviors and focus on weight and food start at a very young age, so I feel like we have to somehow convince parents not to groom their kids to be obsessed with being thin or fitting into a mold.

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