I am not skinny. I know this. I know that I am no expert on diets and nutrition. But, I am a human who consumes food on a daily basis, for survival, and I am a mother. I worry about what kind of relationship my daughter will have with food. Will it be healthy? Will she suffer from disordered eating habits? Will she be a vegetarian? Will she like mayo? *shudder*
I was raised in a family that had it’s share of food issues. I do not blame my family for my struggle with my weight throughout the years, however I do think they played a very key role in my relationship with food.
I grew up with two of my cousins, and my grandparents never living more than 5 miles away, and we spent many, MANY meals together. Every holiday, and nearly every Sunday dinner. I was always taught to clean my plate. If you didn’t, you didn’t get dessert. That was the “rule” I always LOVED dessert (my Nana was an incredible cook and baker) so I made sure that no matter how full I was, I forced myself to clean my plate. I just HAD to have a gingersnap cookie, or a piece of her famous chocolate cake, or a slice of fresh strawberry rhubarb pie. My youngest cousin didn’t have the same experience. She never had to clean her plate. Our family let her get away with eating “just a bite” or “Eat 5 peas and you can have ice cream” She always got to have dessert, even if she didn’t finish her dinner. The rules for her were different (I think at that point everyone was just tired of arguing about it haha) While I know genetics play a role here, and it isn’t just the differences in our dinner time rules, my youngest cousin is, by far, the thinnest in our family. (She’s just thin, not unhealthy looking. She’s very athletic.) And really seems to have the healthiest relationship with food.
My family meant well, they didn’t want us to waste food, they wanted to make sure we ate everything and had a balanced diet, but they also were teaching us some unhealthy habits. I learned that it was more important to clean your plate than it was to stop eating when you were full. I did not learn portion control. There were starving children in Ethiopia who would do anything for those mashed potatoes!
In high school I went through a phase where I ate baby food for lunch. Like, one single jar of apple and pear puree. And, let me tell you, I was sooo incredibly HANGRY. Rage inducing hunger. Totally unhealthy. I didn’t want to be the fat girl.
In college I was determined not to gain the “Freshman 15” (the food at my school wasn’t the greatest so that wasn’t too big of an issue, and with the course load required of my department, and being in a building off of main campus, I rarely had time to eat anything anyway) I would give up fast food, or sweets completely, only to find myself in the line at the drive thru ordering copious amounts of processed foods because I missed it so damn much. And I would hide, in my car, and eat it. Or I’d make a late night stop at the grocery store, after class, and buy a box of cherry danishes and devour them as soon as I got home. But always in private. It was completely unhealthy in every way, but mostly mentally. I was ashamed. But the craving was so strong, after depriving myself, and I couldn’t resist.
I did not gain weight in college, even with this binging. But weight gain isn’t as important as the fact that I had such an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food.
I don’t want my daughter to go through that. I want her to love food, I want her to know what is good for her, and what she should eat only in moderation, but I do not want her to think she has to deprive herself.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook and twitter and Instagram. Women (and some men) posting their meals, or talking about how disgusting some type of food is. Comments with a tone of superiority. The “I would NEVER eat something from Wendy’s!! You might as well shoot yourself!” Or that Quote “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” or “I ate this single leaf of lettuce for lunch while my co-workers pigged out on pizza and birthday cake. I feel so good about myself!” I’m seeing food becoming the new status symbol. Nobody cares about your Coach bag anymore, they are judging you based on whether or not you “eat clean”
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with clean and healthy eating. The issue is when it becomes obsessive, or disordered or, ya know, you start judging every other woman around you who makes the occasional stop at McDonald’s or grabs a pizza on a Friday night.
The new fad diets abound. From Paleo (I’ll buy in to it when you start serving Mammoth burgers and Sabertooth cat steaks) to raw vegan (I tried this back in 2006–for a week. I lost 12 pounds and my mind) to gluten free (for those without celiac/gluten allergy) everyone is on some diet, that they claim is the “only way” But how do you maintain that? Is it possible? How many people who started Atkins in the early 90s are still on it? Any? And how long before the next diet comes along and we realize how dangerous and unhealthy the last one was? (as we did with Atkins) I’m not judging those who go on these diets, I just don’t think they should be pushing for “everyone” to join them, or insinuate that it is “the only way to live!” and if you aren’t eating ten pounds of bacon a day and completely cutting out anything that even remotely resembles a carb, like them, you’re a disgusting fatty with a death wish. (I don’t know if there is a no carb-all bacon-diet, but if there is, I assume the people on it would die long before the people on the cupcake a day plan)
When I see a comment from someone about how awful cake is, then they post about the 3 glasses of wine they drank that night I get a bit stabby. We all have our indulgences. I may enjoy a cupcake on a Saturday afternoon, and you may enjoy a bottle of wine on a Tuesday night. We all “sin” differently. Don’t be judgey.
I look at Avery and think of what I want to show her about food. I don’t want her to think that any one food is evil or disgusting (besides mayo, cream cheese and sour cream) I don’t want her growing up thinking that she can’t eat a cupcake at a party, or for dessert or on a Wednesday because the sun is shining. I don’t want her to think that she has to hide in her car, downing McNuggets because eating fast food is shameful. I don’t want her to sneak bites from the fridge late at night because she’s starving and was embarrassed to eat anything more than salad at dinner. I also don’t want her to go to school and have other kids tell her “You’re going to be fat because you’re eating a sandwich. My mommy says that bread makes you fat.” Like I’ve said, I don’t want her to have an unhealthy relationship with food.
I let her decide when she is finished eating. I let her make choices. If I put carrots on her plate and she doesn’t eat them it’s ok. If she eats all her peas and then wants more, that’s ok too. I try very hard to give her quality, healthy foods. She doesn’t eat a lot of overly processed stuff. Her main snack food is freeze dried apples or pears. The worst thing she eats is Pirates Booty (baked cheese puffs for those who arrrrren’t in the know) Has she had cake? Yes, she absolutely has. At every party she’s been to. A whole slice? No way! But, bites from mommy and daddy’s plate, hell yes. She’s had an entire cupcake. (Making up for the one she did not eat on her birthday) She doesn’t eat ring dings and twinkies (they’re back now right?) and she doesn’t eat cake every night, or even every week (now that our 4 months of non-stop birthday parties are over) but for every bite of cake she takes, she probably takes 100 bites of broccoli.
As her mother, I am also trying to make healthy choices. We have all but eliminated red meat (we have the occasional steak on the grill in the summer and pot roast in the crock pot in the winter) We use ground turkey, and girl or bake our chicken. Our plates are more than half veggies, and healthy snacks, like fruit, are always on hand.
However, we are not focused on losing weight or being skinny. We’re focused on being fulfilled and being happy. I’ve been skinny–it was the most miserable time in my life. Skinny doesn’t equal a joyful life for me. I have other things to worry about. That said, HEALTH is important to us, and I think you can be healthy without being a size 2. (and not all size 2s are healthy)
The person who said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?” never had a Key Lime cupcake from Sweet Indulgence! *
The point is, everything is ok in moderation (except cocaine/heroin/meth etc.). Cupcakes taste good. They do, and anyone who says differently is some kind of a barbarian! But you obviously should not be eating them every day. And bread is delicious, but not by the loaf. Butter is fine, but not if you inject it directly into your coronary arteries. Be mindful of your choices, and be mindful of how you come across to other women (and your children!) when you talk about those choices.
We should never feel ashamed, we should never feel guilty, we should never feel judged. We should eat what we like, enjoy our food, be happy. We should eat the cupcake!
*Oh and that quote? It was Kate Moss who said it….so..yeah….