Category Archives: healthy eating

I Wear the Words of Others (Self Love and Self Loathing)

I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Someone younger than me has said that she is old. And I will get no younger. The lines drawn on my face by my smiles and grins and the silly faces that I make? They’ll grow only deeper. I love them because they are a part of me, but I understand them through the context of that hatred that others express for similar things. Conflict.

Someone more toned than I has said that she is flabby. I hesitate to mention that the loose skin on my belly is backed with fat, because I know that there will be others who will wear my words just as I wear the words of others.

Teeth yellowed with coffee that keeps me awake enough to smile. Slight overbite, one tooth out of line along the bottom. A big birthmark on my leg, toenails that often show the unwashable remnants of the garden dirt and grass stains from gardening barefoot, as well as the black that remains from when my middle child broke my toe last year. Chicken thighs white where my shorts keep them covered. Legs that I hid for years under jeans before motherhood in the summer heat made me simply not care to hide myself anymore.

I see the skin that changes as I get older and I see myself growing into the body that my mother and my grandmother bemoaned when they and I were younger. The skin that older women spoke of when I was just nineteen and they wanted to travel back in time.

There’s almost an obligation to hate oneself in order to fit in. To recognize the elements of beauty that we see in others, but to obstinately refuse to mention anything but the downsides of ourselves. To only see our own flaws even if we focus mostly on the positives of those around us. There is an obligation that we feel to point out our own flaws when other people point out their flaws. Like a vicious cycle of self deprecation that we all jump on board with in the hopes of making others feel less alone with the self dislike that we all feel so lonely with.

The body that I live in is but one thing. It is a vehicle that carries me about a life that I live that I can fill with beautiful things. My non-manicured feet dig into the garden dirt as I plant living food that grows and that my children eat with joy and wonderment in the summer sun. My fingers tap out words that others have found comfort in. My face cracks open in a smile that tells my children exactly how much delight I find in their silly wonderfulness. And the core of me catches them up in fierce and happy hugs when they launch themselves into my arms.

We’re told at various points in time that we are beautiful, and then we’re told that we’re not and it’s this thing that becomes like a huge elephant in the room. Am I beautiful today? Am I worthwhile? Am I perfect? Do I need to suck on bleach-lined rubber in the hopes that my teeth will be whiter? Should I have my breasts cut open and pushed up? The fat sucked from my abdomen? Should I spend two hours in the gym instead of with my family? Do my toenails make me look fat?

There’s more to me than beauty and the question of if I’m beautiful or not. Beauty is an idea that others give and take away with the words they dress you up in before they strip you bare.

I’m trying to put fewer words out there so that my daughter will have fewer words to wear and so that she’ll be comfortable just standing there in her skin, naked of the self loathing of others. I want her to wear all the happy things that make her joyful.

I’m not so worried about my sons, men seem to be allowed to be defined by things other than the skin and clothes that they live in, or the extra weight they carry. I hope my sons will define themselves with many happy things.. My daughter, though? My wishes for her run deeper. I want her to have the things that I am trying to find for myself.

Your body, little one, is this strong and wonderful thing. It carries you places that you are curious about. It an expression of the things that you think and feel. It is the feet that hit the ground as you run, the hands that climb you up on rocks that make you taller. It is what carries your curious little mind under things and over things. It is the hands that let you explore everything that makes you wonder.

It is beautiful, yes. Because of the energy that you fill it up with. Not because of the picture that it paints in this fleeting moment of time.

Go ahead. Dress up. Work out. Dance in a club. Paint your face with bright colors. Wear shoes for no other reason than fun. Enjoy what you are on the outside. But don’t let it be all that you are. And don’t let the words that others give you to wear cast off the words that form who you are inside. Focus your life on your foundation and on the beams and rafters that make you withstand a hurricane or earthquake-strong. Then splash it with color that makes you happy, and plant your garden beautiful and brilliant rather than perfect.

Own yourself. And choose the words that you wear carefully. You wouldn’t take kindly to someone egging your house. Don’t take kindly to someone egging you.

Misunderstood Need

Dear Children,

Way back when humankind first came to be, be it through creation or evolution or something not yet understood or imagined.. The world was a very different place, and our bodies were made to survive and thrive in those times.

The ways that our body regulates itself are adapted to those times that no longer are, and a life that no longer is. It is important to understand what things we truly need and what things we simply misunderstand as our bodies tell us that we need to survive and thrive in a world that has changed much more quickly than we have adapted.

A long long time ago back when food was scarce and we had to work hard to hunt, to gather, to cultivate the fields. Our bodies allowed us to eat past the capacity of our stomach, and to store the energy of feasts for the times of famine. Our bodies were drawn to brightly colored foods for the nutrients that they contained, and which our bodies needed in order to survive, thrive, and be strong and healthy.

Today food is not scarce. There is no famine but our bodies still crave the feast. We settle into routines and meal plans that are easier to stick to and harder to abandon. Our bodies store.. store.. store.. store the extras for that famine that never comes, for the energy we no longer need to hunt or gather or harvest as we drive to the store where food is plentiful, and we fill our shopping carts to the excess. Not only the produce and the meat are colorful and bright, but also the tasteless nutritionally devoid bland food that has been dyed and sugared to call out to the instincts that used to help us pick the most nutritious apple or the healthiest carrot.

We subsist on make believe food dyed in technicolor that makes healthier foods look bland and unappealing in comparison. And we gorge ourselves on it.

We misunderstand the needs of our bodies, and we feed our outdated instincts rather than giving our bodies what they need to be healthy, in amounts that are healthy, in a variety that is healthy, and we do not exert ourselves, we do not build the muscle that we need to be strong, we do not move in the ways that our joints and bones need to be healthy.

And then one day we wake up and our bodies have packed away years of energy for a famine that will never come. We have gorged to the extent of our body’s ability to gorge. And we panic because our pants don’t fit and we don’t feel attractive. So we respond by starving ourselves. By counting calories and by trying to imitate a famine that is not. We buy a gym membership and we run on treadmills and we wonder why we are not losing weight.

Just as we have misunderstood our need for food, we misunderstand our need for health.

We do not need to starve ourselves. We do not need to run on treadmills. We do not need to gorge ourselves on dyed foods. We do not need to drive places in an expensive ergonomic car with customizable lumbar support.

We need to abandon the idea that plates of food are meant to be heaping and finished. We need to abandon the idea that transportation involves machines instead of our feet hitting the ground. We need to explore the world more, eat different things more often, and avoid patterns that could never be found in nature. We need to ignore the sizes of our clothes and we need to listen to our bodies.

Am I healthy now?

Am I strong enough to do the things that I need and want to do? Can I walk? Can I run? Can I jump? Can I climb a tree? Can I climb a hill? Can I dance around happily? Can I lift my children and throw them into the air? Do I have energy? Can I sleep? Can I breathe? Can I feel my muscles move my body? Can I hike? Can I explore? Can I carry? Is my appetite drawn to healthy foods or have I filled myself up with so many lies that I do not have the appetite to eat anything but certain foods?

Try to understand what your body needs in the context of healthy things, even if your attention is drawn to all of the things that are advertised around us.

Do I really need that rainbow-colored cereal? Or is my body trying to tell me that my diet is so limited that I’m missing something that would be found in a multi-colored salad or in fruits? Is it that I’m really so hungry I need to eat two plate-fulls of food, or is it that my body is so malnourished through my repetitive meal plan that it is trying to over-compensate by eating more of everything in the hopes that the trace vitamin will build up to the levels that it needs and that it would easily get through eating a variety of healthier foods?

Try new foods. Graze. Sample things here and there even if it’s just a tiny amount. Try different types of apples, different colors of sweet peppers. Different cheeses. Different brands of yogurt. Different produce at different stores.

Take new routes when you go for walks. Look for new things.

We don’t live in the world that our genes thrived in. But we can listen to our bodies with an understanding of what things used to be, and what they are now.

I’m thin because my genes dictate it. I do not need to eat a cheeseburger. I need to be healthy. Just as someone larger might need to be healthy. And the ways that we all need to be healthy are remarkably the same. We need to feed our bodies what our bodies need, we need to use our bodies to do strong things. When we have energy and are strong, we are doing the right things. When we are sluggish and weak we are not.

As for me.. I’m trying to abandon the idea of you cleaning your plates. I’m trying to see it as awesome when you try  bite of a new food even if you don’t eat more than one bite. I’m trying to understand that sometimes you’ll eat one thing so many times in one day for so many days and then you’ll not want to eat it again for weeks at a time because you want to eat so much of a different thing.. And that maybe your body is wise. (As long as it’s a healthy thing and not a Fruit Flavored Cereal with Wax + Fruit Juice formed into Berries.) When we go to a grocery store and you ask for a new vegetable that I don’t think you’ll ever eat in a million years, I’ll buy it and I’ll let you try it even if you spit it out. I don’t need to buy four pounds of it. Just enough for you to try.

Great things happen when you listen carefully to your body and when you understand the world around you.

Be wise.

<3 Mama