I have not always had the healthiest relationship with food. Truthfully, I have never really had the healthiest relationship with food. Not a great thing for a food blogger.
As a kid, I didn’t like fruits or veggies, and ate a lot of cookies and processed foods. For a while I jumped on the low-fat bandwagon, and would polish off half a box of Snackwell’s Cookies, because they weren’t bad for you, right? In college, I lost all concept of portion control, and ate huge servings of crappy foods at every meal, and then often had a late night “snack” of a Slurpee, a Coffee Coolatta and Chocolate Chip Muffin, or Sesame Chicken.
After graduation, I started following the Weight Watchers Points program using the books and information my mom got when she had joined a few years earlier. I also started going to the gym. The good thing about this was that I lost weight, started eating more fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods, and got very interested in exercising, cooking, experimenting in the kitchen, and trying to make healthier versions of foods I loved. The bad thing was that I became a bit obsessive. I planned my life completely around my workouts. I was so locked in to making sure I stayed under my Points target that I often deprived myself of even a small portion of something I wanted, because I was afraid of starting myself down a slippery slope. Monday through Friday, I ate pretty much the same exact thing. Then I would go crazy on weekends, and end up feeling bloated and guilty and uncomfortable. I became completely focused on food – good because I loved to cook and bake and try new things, but bad because it was all I thought about. I was always thinking about the next snack because I was pretty much always hungry, since I only ate whatever my Points would allow, not what I was hungry for. Vacations ware planned around where we would eat, menus were studied in advance and then I still couldn’t make a decision because I didn’t want to miss out on something. And if I ate too much, I would just barely eat the next day, often because I had a stomachache.
Then I got pregnant. And I went from counting points to counting calories, mainly to make sure I was getting enough. I was nauseous (though never sick) through my whole first trimester, then as soon as the nausea passed, The Bug decided to lodge his foot right in my gut for the next 6 months. So throughout the pregnancy, I had a hard time eating more than just a small amount at a time, and when I did, I paid the price. After The Bug was born, I lost the weight quickly, mainly due to milk production (I don’t say nursing because that was a problem, and I pumped exclusively for four months). But also because I developed some sort of lymphangectasia/gastroparesis, basically my stomach emptied too slowly and I wasn’t absorbing nutrients or calories properly, and I had a bezoar, essentially the human version of a hairball, in my stomach. I also found out I had a wheat intolerance. And I already knew I had high cholesterol, but the medications were messing with my liver.
So after all of this, I became afraid to eat – fatty foods were bad for the cholesterol, wheat would trigger stomachaches and inflammation in my body, too much food made me feel crappy, and I had a huge fear of gaining weight. I would eat lightly and super healthy most of the time, then go get a ginormous sundae from Carvel, or bring home two pieces of cake from a restaurant, or sample some of everything to the point of nausea at holiday meals. A half gallon of ice cream is pretty much 3 servings for me. But then I would “make up for it” by restricting myself again. Between that and the absorption issues (and lots of exercise), I didn’t gain weight, and somehow that excused my bad habits. Not a healthy relationship with food.
Somehow starting this blog has helped me start to enjoy food more, to eat without mentally adding it to my daily calorie total. For the first time in years, I was not counting calories or fat grams or Points. But then I swung a little too much in the opposite direction (remember I told you I have a bit of a problem with balance), having extra portions to make sure it tasted good, licking bowls of frosting, sampling the batter. Again, I am not really gaining weight, but I don’t like the direction I am heading. These are not healthy habits, either, even if the scale isn’t moving.
So my goal is to become more Mindful. I spoke about this before, but am yet to really take my own advice. Even as I am writing this, I polished off a jar of peanut butter, because for some reason I was craving it. I am trying to tell myself that it is because my body needed the protein, but really, I am just comforting myself as I am going through some difficulties that I hope to share with you in the future, eating out of habit as it is how I wind down and relax after The Bug goes to bed, and eating because it tastes good, not because I am hungry for it.
I found this graphic from www.eatingmindfully.com, and I am going to try to use these guidelines. Hopefully this will help me get centered again, to the point where I can eat without calculating, but not without thinking. To eat when I am hungry, and stop when I have had enough. To really taste and enjoy my food, like any good “foodie” should. I also want to refocus on real, minimally processed foods. So hopefully you’ll see lots of recipes that reflect this. This is healthy. This is Mindful.
Thinking about this also makes me aware that I am not as Mindful in other areas of my life as I should be. My head is always spinning with thoughts about what I could do, what I should be doing, what I am going to do next, that I am not in the moment.
Sometimes I realize that when I am with The Bug, I am not with The Bug. My head is somewhere else, so I am not noticing things he says, losing myself in his laughter, paying enough attention, or imprinting these memories in my mind. I read this article in Parents magazine last week about being an “in-the-moment” mom. Though the little guy is not quite old enough for some of the suggestions, I really want to incorporate this mindset, in general, and a few of the specific ideas, into our lives. Yes, I have a pretty large quantity of time with The Bug, but I want to improve the quality of that time, and not with artificially-created moments. I used to try to plan lots of structured arts & crafts, learning games, and other activities, but that is not the type of kid he is. He is an explorer – a scientist, just like his Mama and Dada – and his happiness, joy, and learning comes through the natural, authentic experiences of open-ended play and living life. I have to be better at appreciating these experiences and moments. I love the idea of the Pajama Walks, and hope to incorporate this as it starts to get warmer and stays light later. Getting him involved in the kitchen, whether it is to help make dinner, to to prepare a special treat, is a great way for me to share my passion with him, and hopefully help him to be mindful about what he is eating. He loves being in his stroller for walks, but I tend to space out and use that time to make mental lists – I need to use that time to talk to him, point out interesting things, discuss the activities we observe in the neighborhood.
I think Clarity, Balance, and Mindfulness go hand in hand. These are all areas that I need to work on to be a truly whole, happy, healthy, and alive person. I am sure I am not alone on this journey. I’ll continue to share with you where I am, and I hope we can support each other – as foodies, as parents, as friends, as people just trying to navigate the bumpy road of life.
In what areas of your life do you need to be more Mindful? How are you trying to do this?