Intuitive eating…post #2

I’ve been in the dark. And I’ll admit that writing, sharing has been hard lately.

Not only has the world turned dark, and cold, but so has my body. When I took on the healing process to find my intuitive eater, I was told that emotions might arise. And they have erupted.

There is an interesting thing that our bodies do when they experience emotional and psychological pain and we don’t process it. Our bodies manifest it. Into our bones, our muscles, our nerves.

My body, like so many, holds all sorts of trauma. Over the years, the layers have built up, some so deep I have forgotten all about them. I’m in pain alot. A sore back from an old injury horseback riding. A twisted hip that won’t let go since cradling the growing life of my first born 7 years ago. The achy feet from an imablance in posture, cracky shoulders from a back that tries so hard, a weak wrist from picking up my kids over and over and over.

When first learning about non-restrictive eating in The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner, I read that it is time to feel. “Feel what?” is all I thought. She instills a practice of body attention everyday. Taking five minutes to notice what you feel in your body and to look at it, study it, notice it. Not fix it, never to fix it, but to simply feel it.

In the Intuitive Eating workbook, there is an activity where you sit quietly and try to feel your heartbeat within you. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this is the first time I consciously felt it inside of me. I now do it often, it is actually quite grouding to remember that this muscle keeps on pumping no matter what’s happening around it.

I’ve also learned that I emotionally eat at times. Food helps me to feel better when I’m frustrated, sad, or even bored. This is not an uncommon practice, and not necessarily even a bad one. But I’ve noticed it and worked to find other ways to self-care in these moments.

I mention all this, because when you stop to feel your body, listen to what it’s saying, and you take away a numbing comfort, you start to feel.

And these feelings have been erupting out of me. I am in a lot of physical pain as this body screams at me what I have silenced for so long. I am exhausted, all the way to the point that the thought of movement feels overwhelming most of the time. My body needs rest, rest for all of the missed moments of rest. My body needs rest, for all of the pain it needs to heal. My body needs tender care and love, warmth, massage, showers, essential oils, all that I can offer it as it heals.

And my heart has been healing. These past two months have been an overdrive of emotions. I have remembered and felt through trauma, and I’m talking little things I have beaten myself up over for decades.

So I haven’t been writing.

I have been parenting. And my kids are brilliant. I haven’t had the best words to share with them why my emotions are so up and down, but I have had the love and care to apologize when I need to, to explain when I feel frustrated before I act, and to ask for moments by myself.

Returning to intuitive eating is so hard. I so often want to walk away. But I remember that I am untangling knots from decades of diet culture, centuries of generational trauma, and years of painful dieting I have inflicted on myself.

I can say many things about why I’m still in, but here are a few.

  • My daughter eats with more confidence than I have ever seen, trying new things and communicating about her fullness and needs.
  • I am letting go of the need to have zero waste with all food.
  • Food is becoming nourishment instead of comfort.
  • Dinner time is a place of deep and loving inquisitions instead of food battles.
  • I love this body more now than I ever have, and it’s a body I have feared for so much of my life.*
  • This body, although working through so much, is startimg to feel like home.

Until I write again…

*I need to acknowledge something here. I have always been afraid of gaining too much weight and I am now in the body that I used to fear. And this is still a straight-sized, highly privileged body. I can’t say this without also saying that this journey is a constant unpacking of my fatphobia towards myself and this world. When we, or I, fear a body for myself that is still not like the body of so many others, we marginalize those bodies. Both in this world and in our minds. The love I am working on for my own body is a love inclusive of all bodies no matter what size. I am releasing the fear of all body sizes as I embrace my own. I am standing in the belief that all bodies are worthy of love, praise, admiration, care, joy, and humanity. I invite you to do the same.

Do I look pretty?

“Do I look pretty?” she asked.

“You always look pretty,” I responded. “And that dress is pretty too.”

I had a realization this morning, these come all too often anymore. As I navigate healing and existing in this world, I continue to unravel the layers of how I live differently than I say and love.

It started about a year ago, when she’d ask if she looked pretty. I knew in that moment that I wanted her to know that clothes or what’s on your body doesn’t make you pretty. I could see this stumbling into the future as attractiveness, worthiness being linked to how she looks in clothes. A sneaky not so hidden bit of diet culture, fatphobia, sexism, racism, all tied up in there. So I made a point to respond to her and acknowledge her own beauty as a normal everyday. She spoke the above words a few more times and each time, I responded with precision that she was always beautiful, pretty, cute.

However, recently, I realized that despite these efforts and as much as I was speaking out loud, my social conditioning had not yet transformed. She picked out some new clothes and my head was screaming that she looked so adorable in these new pieces. One, a blue dress sprinkled with pineapples, not only looked perfect on her but also reminded me of good pineapple memories in childhood and beyond. I heard my head say, “you look so cute today.” I caught myself, with confusion and frustration of how tightly this society holds me, and changed the message to what I really wanted to mean.

“That dress is so cute,” I said to her.

I keep thinking that if I change my mindset to not link her body to the clothes and instead comment on the clothes as their own piece, it will separate the attachment to self. Maybe undo a tiny bit of the “isms” associated with women in clothing. Really to do this for me too. So she can see it’s possible.

Because today, I am struggling as I need to shift my wardrobe. As I delve into intuitive eating, my body is changing. It will continue to change. And the challenge is to first accept that this will happen, and also to accept that I will need to change clothes as these changes occur. I feel stuck as I still link my own clothes to self-loathing, attraction, sexiness, worthiness.

“You look terrible in this. What are you thinking? This makes you look fat.* You look horrible today. What did I eat to cause this body? I need to exercise. No treats today…” and on and on and on.

This morning I remembered the pineapple dress. It came to me like a gift, a reminder that I can live differently. I said to myself, “Your clothes do not define you. You define you. Clothes simply adorn the beautiful being that never changes even when your body might.”

Thank goodness for that cute pineapple dress.

*I want to acknowledge that this statement is fatphobic. And, it’s what I am still working on and feels important to leave it and be honest. Our criticism of our bodies – thin fat, straight fat, small fat, or otherwise non fat bodies in this ways is fatphobic. Simply put, if we can’t see ourselves as acceptable, we can’t possible see others who are fat as such. I’m working hard to understand this and to unpack my own fatphobia.  

Still eating that piece of cake…and learning

Two of my most read blog pieces were about dealing with food and my kids. See them here and here. Writing is a way for me to put to paper, to the world sometimes, what is going on. And it’s a way to show my learning. Both pieces I wrote feel out of date, and ages ago. Both pieces show some of my own ignorance around food. And my own enticement by the food and diet industry.

Today, I am exploring, even choosing to do it differently. To see how this goes. I’ve found the movement of intuitive eating, which really is just eating. When I understood what it meant for me, I was in. ALL IN. The idea is simply that we eat to survive and that any type of restriction causes the body to go into stress and famine mode. It explains my deep obsession with ice cream, pizza, and “they take forever to bake” brownies. Seriously though, I may not be on an active diet but I restrict and enact rules about the food we eat every day. Here are some examples…

  • Food waste is unacceptable, finish your plate or eat it later…there are starving children in this world and we won’t waste when others don’t have. TRUTH: my eating has little impact on the food access for the rest of the world. We need changes in policy, capitalism, and humanity. And our composting gives this food back to the earth.
  • Meat and dairy are bad for you. You must eat less of them. TRUTH: My genetics, lifestyle, and environmental circumstance will kill me before any steak or glass of milk.
  • Sugar is a treat and is to be limited, controlled. TRUTH: sugar is energy, all of your cells need it to survive. And sometimes your body craves it because it’s fucking starving and needs energy to get through the next 10 minutes of it’s life.
  • My kids don’t eat enough…of this..or that…or in general. TRUTH: their bodies know better than mine after 37 years of restriction and obsession. Obsessing over their food is simply displacement for obsession over my own.
  • Weight equates health. TRUTH: I am now seeing how this is not true. That health indicator variations are found throughout us as humans no matter our size. That only 25% of health indicators are a result of our choices, the rest are out of our control. That the stress we put on our bodies through restriction is far worse for your health than Cheetos. Or Chips Ahoy. Check out Health At Every Size if you’ve never heard about it.

So here’s where I’m at…

Desperately trying to unplug all of the restriction I place onto my own body. And to do so, I’m eating unrestricted. And, I’m eating a lot. Normal amounts according to the healing process. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s terrifying. What if I gain all of this weight? Society might hate me, but I can love me. What if I get sick or have bad health indicators? Then I can look to my stress level, lack of sleep, and genetics.

As I eat, I’m deflecting restriction to my kids. And I’m trying to hold the fact that my restriction of them also makes them want to eat, a lot, right now too.

So what’s next? I’m healing this body of mine. And I’m letting things go for these kids right now. It’s ever present in my mind how to teach them better, but I’m giving myself a break for a bit. I know myself. If I let myself obsess over parenting, I’ll ignore the whole point of this…to heal me.

Which in turn sets the example for their own healing and a life hopefully free of food restriction.

Don’t worry, you might about my health or theirs. But know that we are simply allowing ourselves to eat. As Caroline Dooner says in The F*ck It Diet, our body doesn’t know we are dieting to fit into absurdly small jeans, it just knows to make you eat to live. And that means you should listen.

If you’re still worried, here are my parenting to dos for the upcoming months….

– make sure this house is in fact body neutral.

– never talk about bodies, talk about people

– use the word fat as a descriptor not as an insult, and absolutely not as a self-insult.

– to talk about food as neutral, food has no morality so it can’t be good or bad.

– shift our talks about food to discussions on lifestyle and nourishment, what fuels us.

– eliminate the notion of exercise for weight loss and emphasize movement and only in ways that we enjoy it and it makes us feel good

– wear whatever the heck we want.

– laugh, a lot.

– love ourselves deeply – These bodies are amazing. Our feet help us to walk everyday. That’s evolutionary magic. Our body fuels us to live, love, laugh, move, experience joy, pleasure, anger, sadness. Your skin feels the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the rain and the tickle of your toddlers kisses on your check.

Fucking amazing…

*So many resources are teaching me. Here are a few…

Jelly beans

“Mommy, you should eat slower so you don’t eat so much,” she slipped into our dinner conversation.

I jumped, without thinking.

“We don’t tell people how to eat, not how much or what speed or their choices,” I sternly responded.

I wish I had replied more gently, made it a moment to share why. But I was angry. We don’t talk about things like that in this house. In fact, we make a point to try to make food simply a way to feed our bodies. We even have a night during the week where you get to choose whatever you want. And she’s chosen jelly beans and starburst. We think it’s important that she learns how her body feels and responds to food. That she listens to her desires and wants. I am trying to do the same, and without judgment. I want her to avoid the judgment as long as possible.

She’s doing great. If I push too hard, or we ask her to eat in a way that out of this alignment, she calls us on it.

“But my body is full”…”I am listening to my body”…”My body doesn’t like that”…”Mom, that’s not listening to what my body is saying.”

I am so grateful in these moments, woven in-between my frustration that she eats only a handful of things and is stubborn when trying something new. It’s clearly more than being stubborn, likely anxiety producing to eat something she is unfamiliar with. This same behavior is seen with new friends, new events, new after-school activities, new places. I let it go most of the time, allowing her to trust herself and feel it out.

I am doing my best to not be a health troll even though I feel responsible for her livelihood, her health. My doctor certainly makes me feel so asking what she eats and encouraging her to eat more things.

But health is a hoax. Well maybe not all of the way. But it is a way to control people, to make us feel like our individual role in health is the sole way to be healthy. But the truth is that this world is not set up for kids. In fact, it makes it very hard for them. Restaurants don’t serve healthy choices for kids, and I don’t want to pay three times the amount for her to try something new. It’s easier to pay for what I know she’ll eat. It hinders her risk taking, and my openness to her risks as her parent.

Jellybeans on her plate one day a week won’t ruin her health. And my words will certainly not deter her body’s language in telling her that they are delicious. This is the contradiction for all of us. You tell us it’s not healthy, but our body loves it. The sweet taste of chocolate ice cream as it kisses your tongue. The bubbles of soda pop tickling your throat. The scent of warm baked bread straight our of the oven. The satisfying creaminess of cheese in any form. It’s a lie to say these aren’t healthy. They aren’t by the medical fields definition. But maybe they are healthy to my mind. To my control to choose what makes me happy every once in a while. To choose food without shame, remorse, or thoughts of what people might think with every bite.

I was so mad when she questioned the speed of my eating. Not at her, but wherever that message came from. I suspect it won’t be the first. And honestly, I’m surprised it came at age six when so many six years are all too familiar with diet culture.

I know I’ll talk with her about it more in the coming future. My rage is not the answer in her early learning of the appreciation of food. And I need to learn myself what my body is telling. I’ve spent so long listening to doctors, people, media, strangers, that my voice has chosen to stay silent, tired of being shut down by all of the messages. Maybe when I can welcome back this part of me, can I then think about how to respond to my kid’s criticism of my eating. In the meantime, I’m just listening to what she sees and hears. And having jellybeans for dinner every once and a while.

Self-acceptance and the body

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m teaching my kids about bodies. I have made a point to not talk badly about bodies including my own. In fact, I’ve gotten pretty good at silencing my inner critic, telling myself this or that is not true. But, I’ve also noticed that I don’t outwardly love on my body either. And, I am realizing this is because I am stuck in a place of neutrality. Instead of speaking or acting with love towards myself, I have chosen tolerance, acceptance, pretty much a truce between my inner shame and this body.

But is acceptance what I want to achieve? Is this what I want to teach my kids? I am reading “The Body is Not an Apology, The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor and she is showing me that self-acceptance is a distraction. It’s a place of existence where I am not dealing with any of it. In self-acceptance, I am choosing to simply hear the shame and words that come from my ego, but I am not really fighting back. I let these words come to be, let them live, and then I say “thank you for your opinion but I disagree.” Imagine if I instead said to myself, “thank you for your opinion, but this body is perfect, powerful and capable.” And, I also believed it.

I am finding that acceptance is not the same as deep love. It’s tolerance and tolerance is one small step towards radical change. In fact, it’s pretty low down in the steps to take towards nurturing. And, the world I want to live in is not one where I simply tolerate all around me. It is instead one where I love and feel love all around me.

In her book and her advocacy, and all of her awesomeness, Taylor teaches radical self-love. This is the type of love where no matter the body, you give it all you have got. You treat it like the amazing vessel it is. One that sustains your life, has offered you perhaps nourishment, breath, movement, intelligence, decision making, fertility, love, immunity, health, joy… To date, I seem to have achieved avoiding self hatred, resulting in acceptance of what this body is right now. This simply means that I acknowledge it isn’t bad, that it’s the body I am in and it is serving me to live in this moment. But I don’t want my kids to simply accept themselves.  Heck, I don’t want to stay in acceptance because it feels empty, void. I want to feel free. Free from all of the societal scripts, free of my own shame, free of the gazes of others and wondering what criticisms they have for me. Free of feeling like my weight is a disappointment, that my no longer small waist is a failure to take care of myself. Freedom is not acceptance. Freedom is living where we are at our fullest. Freedom is feeling that deep in my core, that this body is everything it should be. That this body is beautiful, strong, brave, loving, and capable of taking care of me in this moments and many moments into the future.

So how do you teach this? I am realizing that 1) I am not teaching it because 2) I am not living it.

I want my kids to achieve radical love for this world while also achieving radical self-love. And this includes wanting them to radically love their bodies. But, I’m noticing that my own lack of radical self-love is evident in my daughter. I’ve never heard my kid say something nice to her body. I also notice that she doesn’t say much about any bodies. So I am seeing that acceptance, neutrality, results in her own lack of feeling. Or likely more so that she is learning to have many thoughts as society is constantly teaching her, but not to talk about them, which is what I am teaching her.

Today I explore this neutrality, how did I get here? Many reasons, too many to delve into here. But I’m writing about it. Maybe I’ll even share in the hopes that others might know they are not alone.

I love me but I do not love on me. This month I’m working to change this. My freedom, survival, liberation is impossible without it. And in reality, if I can not offer myself radical self-love, can I then really say my love for others is so radical?

And certainly, if I’m not living radical self-love out loud, my kids won’t even know it exists.

*The image on the top of this page is the cover of “The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor. I couldn’t not post it because it’s so beautiful. This book is worth having on your bookshelf. Even if it’s just to hold it’s place until you’re ready. It sat in my amazon cart for 3 months before I clicked purchase.