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.
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.