This is no food blog. I love to cook and eating can be fun, but no one needs to see every morsel I put in my mouth. It’s just not that exciting.
Food is a complicated thing. A substance that is meant to fuel us and to be enjoyable has become an enemy to many, especially women.
“Losing weight has become our national obsession, our holy grail. The cultural assumption seems to be that there’s something wrong with wanting to eat. Appetite is something to be fended off, with willpower or chemically. We're locked in a war with our own hunger, which is the primal force that sustains us. We’re socialized to fear our appetites, whether they’re for food or sex or power. We’re taught from birth to make ourselves small and dainty, to not take up room.” (Harriett Brown, Brave Girl Eating).
It is fascinating to consider how far away we’ve gotten from the true meaning of food. Everything is labeled good or bad, this will make me fat or it won’t.
I’ll admit it, I’ve gotten lucky in the genes department. The women in my family are all pretty small, naturally. That said, at 5 ‘ 5” I once weighed 30 pounds more than I do now, so there was a time when I struggled with my body image. Throughout that process I shifted my thinking about food. I began to see it as a positive thing to be enjoyed within reason. A fuel source that allowed me to feel good and to be fit. I don’t diet. Never have. Hopefully never will. Weight fluctuates with the seasons, with activity levels, with life’s ups and downs. This fluctuation is natural.
As you know, I’ve got a nine year old daughter. I worry about her vulnerability to an eating disorder as she gets older. At home we never speak of weight, calories, getting on a scale. We talk instead of balance and feeling good in your own skin. No food is off limits, in moderation. I have tried to protect her from the world of negative body images and constant comparison between herself at some ridiculous “ideal.” She sees me enjoy food. She sees me eat reasonably. She sees me take care of my body by fueling it and letting it move and be strong.
But, we can only do so much. She is growing up in a world where the majority girls think they are fat and restrict their eating from an early age. Her friends and the media will likely do a number on her at some point.
I had a gymnastics' coach in 7th grade who made us get on a scale. She stated our weights out loud and let us know if we needed to lose a few. At age 13, I was 112 pounds. She said I needed to lose 2 pounds to be a better gymnast. Until then it had never occurred to me to criticize my weight. The seed had been planted. Like I said, the messages of “you are not good enough because you weigh too much” are widespread. The sad thing is, the scale gets to determine how we feel about ourselves, if we let it.
Even now, there was a comment left on this very post stating, “I know a few people who think your broken bone was due to malnutrition from an eating disorder.”
First of all, it wasn’t a broken bone, it was a stress fracture/reaction. Two different things. Secondly, those “few” people need to find another hobby instead of speculating about my weight and lifestyle. If you spend anytime here at all you know how much I espouse a life of balance and healthy mind, body and spirit. I live it and breathe it. I live honestly and out loud. So, don’t throw that eating disorder crap my way.
I recently read Brave Girl Eating. It’s about a family’s struggle with anorexia as their 14 year daughter becomes more and more sick. Fascinating with much insight into our culture’s obsession with being thin. Too thin.
I don’t know what the answer is. I am going to start coaching for a Girl’s on the Run Program which helps elementary and middle school girls build self esteem through running and feeling confident in their bodies. It is a small thing, but can have a big impact.
Do you struggle with your own eating/weight gain/relationship with food? How does running play a part for you? Does it make you feel better about yourself, or is it merely a means of burning more calories? If you feel comfortable sharing, have you struggled with an eating disorder? How do you hope to help your own sons and daughters develop a healthy body image and relationship with food?*
I’m enough – we all are,
*And thanks in advance for being so open about a private and tough subject.