feelings, food, and the voices in my head
It's no secret I love food. The colors, tastes, textures, and presentation. I am fascinated by non-American food and can eat seaweed with the best of them. I am a thirty-something woman living in America, so naturally my thoughts about food have been linked to weight which has been linked to the scale, which has been linked to nothing good really. My story involving my confidence, food, my weight, and my health has run the typical gamut of many, many women I'm positive.
I grew up being compared by strangers to my twin sister. I was always the bigger one and this comparison leaked loads of harmful thoughts and vibes into my young adult days. As they say, "Comparison is the thief of joy." What a brash thief it is too.
Fast-forward to my young twenty's when at least a few things started to make sense, like the fact that grown-ups really do have to start exercising for our health, not just to catch someone's eye at the gym. I also started to change the way I ate a bit, at least stepping away from the nightly Taco Bell or Wendy's runs I took in college and into something that looked more like real food. This wasn't out of motivation to be my best self, but to try and outrun the numbers on the scale. As you inch toward 30 your body really does change!
I got married, started learning to cook, and a few years later was expecting Anna Ruth. The whole time I definitely had "healthy eating" in mind and strived diligently for it. My main motivation though? The scale. Always the scale. You know, the whole "I'm back to pre-baby weight!" exclamation that we moms like to toss around.
I even went so far as to have a brief period once Betsy Grace was born where I quit sugar. This time was finally a bit different though. It was the first time I'd started to pay attention to how a food made me feel, instead of the number it showed on the scale. I noticed I felt bloated, gassy, and lethargic when I consumed typical white sugar, in the form or Peanut M & M's, and all the typical desserts/ice creams we eat for celebration in America.
But still, even with this "no sugar" campaign happening I still chased the scale and I still reached for things that weren't fueling my body and making me feel good. Nothing comforted like a bag of Doritos. A bit of a slow learner I suppose, but thank goodness God never shames us for taking a while to learn something. He trades "beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair." (Isaiah 61:3)
These two precious faces are what kept me from going completely overboard on the scale system. Combine their sweet smiles, questioning personalities, and watchful eyes with a good dose of prayer and my spirit began to feel convicted over how I was treating my body. In my opinion, we have a huge problem in America with how women are viewed and expected to treat our bodies. "The culture in my house can be different", I kept thinking over and over. I've also dealt with anxiety/depression in little pockets of life here and there over the past few years, enough to where I began to question what natural things there were to do about it. Add to that the worst cramps ever in the history of ever each month and I seriously knew all these health problems could be dealt with in a manner opposite of typical Western medicine.
And so armed with these problems, convictions, and hard truths, I began to do whatever it took to dig myself out of the years of harmful body shaming and create a new normal for myself and my home.
For starters I knew I wanted to take the scale out of the equation. I am a healthy weight already and don't feel the need to shackle myself to the scale, like a slave. This is such a personal choice, I know. But since I've made this declaration I've noticed how 99% of the time we women talk about our weight when discussing our food choices, not how we feel. No, I don't mean we should put emotionally charged rants out into the world each time we eat something, seeing if it makes us feel this way or that. I mean that food truly is tied to our physical/mental well-being and I am proof of that. And I find myself screaming on the inside wondering why we aren't talking about that? When was the last time a woman loudly exclaimed how amazing that food was and how great she felt after?!
Why as women are we praising the "pre-baby body" when we've had babies? Having babies or growing older is awesome and our bodies are works of art and we can be stronger than ever before in our lives, whether we reach our pre-baby/young adult weight or not. Why are we focusing on before and after shots when have literally no idea what is going on behind the eyes and mind in the photos? I've done those shots too but my mind and spirit haven't changed a bit, only the numbers on the scale and the fluff on my tummy. I need more.
That's the story I want to get behind.
Since January I've decided to do something about this realization of mine. I've bought cookbooks that actually explain the "why" behind certain foods. I've started making kombucha and drinking it daily. I start each morning with warm lemon water, before coffee. I exercise because it makes the pesky Debbie Downers in my head run for the hills. I cook real food, I eat real food. I try to make mostly good food choices, like ordering a salad when we're out instead of a burger and fries every time. I teach the girls why we choose certain foods, never once using the words fat or weight or scale. Instead, the girls know mama doesn't like sugar because of how it makes her tummy feel.
My girls say that mama exercises to stay strong and to try to run faster than us. For the record they both still think their tiny bodies are stronger and faster than their mama. They aren't running low on body-confidence one bit. They also eat sugar by the way, in moderation in case you're wondering. We try to "J.E.R.F.", "just eat real food." I want my girls to grow up making their own food choices and I don't feel like depriving them completely of sugar or sweeteners (even like honey, dates, etc.) will necessarily be a healthy thing. Everything in moderation now so they can build their own food roadmap later.
This kind of lifestyle change requires much more thought and preparation than ever before. Gone are the days of wanting to zip through the fast food line because I know if I'll drink plenty of water and pack my own snacks my mood will be level for the day.
I typically start each day mentally preparing for my eating throughout the day. I go ahead and make up my mind about what I'm going to eat so that there's very little wiggle room to suddenly change my mind. Again, this is because I've been closely listening for the past 8 months to how food makes me feel. It's not that I'm being a snob about saying no to_______, it's just that I know that slab of cake can cause a crash that will take my whole day down.
I'm not perfect, obvs. I've had plenty of moments like the time a week ago where I bought myself some ice cream and regretted eating it after. The ice cream had all real, organic ingredients and tasted delicious. I ate one correct serving size so the story sounds flawless, right? It wasn't until later that evening, when bad cramps and bloating sent me straight to bed that I was reminded yet again, choose food based on what it will do for my body.
I don't exercise every day. I try to several times a week and throw in some gardening/weeding too. We still eat out and most of the time I choose healthy. Sometimes I don't, on purpose and I never load myself with guilt after. I cook at home a lot. Like 3 meals a day. My cookbooks are my bff's. I'm especially in love with Gwyenth Paltrow's first cookbook because she spends loads of pages explaining her own personal health story and how she arrived at her own food conclusions. Reading her story makes me feel less alone on this journey.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have from God?" 1 Corinthians 6:19
God is gently leading me into new pastures, new body confidence, and new strength. I'm not the same gal I was five years ago or even 10 months ago. I'm free. My weight and view of myself have gone from very complicated to pretty easy. "How will this make me feel? Will this food/habit serve my body a helping of strength to be the gal God has designed me to be? Or will this food make me feel physically and mentally awful, causing me to lay around and hide?"
Because once you start to pay attention to things like that, your soul comes awake.
It is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
You can tell the third cup of coffee and its bff "anxiety" goodbye.
You can learn all kinds of new, FUN things, like how to make kimchi and ferment your own food.
Here's a final story to sum up where I'm at. Last week Brett had a couple of days off in the midst of a super-packed season of life for us. We were headed to the last swim lesson for the girls and to camp after. After wiping little noses for a week I had the most awful sinus infection. There simply wasn't time to lay in bed for a week, hoping Netflix healed me. Instead I first prayed-both for healing and wisdom. Then I took some Tylenol and googled "natural remedies for sinus infections."
I found some great results and gave two of them a try. First, I mixed up a concoction of apple cider vinegar, hot water, honey, lemon juice, and Tabasco sauce because we were out of cayenne pepper. I drank this steadily over the course of 24 hours. Second, I breathed deep over a warm bowl of peppermint-oil infused water. Combining these methods with tons of water drinking and I felt drastically better in two days. I felt better faster than I ever have on an antibiotic. And I am the queen of sinus infections!
So why bother to tell my story? I've certainly been tempted to stay quiet all together. This sort of thinking and living definitely isn't the "norm." I've been asked also (many times) to be a health coach and while there's nothing wrong with that, that isn't the purpose of my journey either. I just simply want to share because maybe there's one of you roaming the horizon of health, desperate for something different to catch your eye. Maybe you deal with depression or you've been let down by typical Western medicine and you want a different alternative. Maybe you notice how food makes you feel too and you want to live a life based around that, not just the numbers on the scale.
All I know is that this lesson, this freedom is too big for me not to share. I am free to be the size God made me, free to get super excited about real food. I'm free to taste delicious food and savor it to the last drop. My energy and moods are FREE. I am free, indeed. Just by asking myself one quiet question that changed the course of my story.
"How does food make me feel and impact my physical/mental health?"
(if you have thoughts or questions feel free to comment, message me on FB, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)