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.

Halloween candy

First read this article by Virginia Sole-Smith. “How to stay sane about Halloween candy.”

I’ll admit, I was anxious about this Halloween. How was I going to handle the candy this year with two kids, and with one who is only a toddler?

Last year, my oldest, then 5, got so much candy. And she was sooo into it. She asked for it, all the time. We limited it to a piece or two, allowing only a couple on Halloween night. She just kept asking. And I kept worrying. After about a week, I saw that a friend offered a toy in place of all but a few pieces of candy. Her kid bought into it, so I considered it too, another spin on the switch witch.

I offered for her to keep 12 pieces and to exchange the rest for a toy at Target. She thought about it and said yes. So, I watched her count out the ones she wanted, methodically trying to pick her favorites and those she deemed the best. Then, I took away the rest. Ate many myself, saved some for my partner, and tossed the rest.

She picked out a Barbie…switch witch or not, agh, I should have let her keep the candy.

“Mommy, you don’t like Barbie. Why not?” she likes to ask.

I still haven’t been able to eloquently describe the issues of body size, racism, fatphobia, sexism in way that she understands yet. But, we keep talking and she keeps liking Barbie and it’s all okay.

Fast forward to this year as I wanted to do better. I read Virginia Sole-Smith’s article, all while I am re-learning intuitive eating. So, we went with her advice. Trick or treating was last night for us. We got home, it was after bedtime for both. The one year old ate three pieces of candy. Yes, I let them. She ate probably 10-12 pieces. We could see she wanted more but negotiated bedtime instead and said she could have as much as she wants the next day too.

And that was it. Nothing else happened.

They both went to bed rather uneventfully and slept well. She woke up, she got ready for school. No tummy aches, wild energy, or tantrums. It was bliss.

And just as importantly, my intuitive eating was loud and proud as I did not sneak candy or pine for theirs. My daughter shared one piece and I felt done on this day. Fulfilled for the night. Because I am working hard to remind myself that candy is no longer a restriction, or an evil temptation that makes itself only available several times a year during the holidays.

Folx, read her article, try it. And if you read this the day after or several days after and you restricted, you can still decide otherwise. That’s the best part of parenting to me. Learning to show how I changed my mind and to say why. Try this if you need some words…

“After you went to bed, I thought about it some more. And I want you to have whatever candy you want today. It’s your candy and Halloween is a fun holiday. Let’s do it together. Show you me what you’ve got. What are your favorites? How does that one taste?…”

And read Virginia Sole-Smith’s article. Follow her on Instagram. The writing she does has been so helpful and so affirming. And to see my two kids find their own intuitive eater…or maybe I should say to see myself finally give space for their intuitive eater to show up…is bliss as a parent. Food is uncomplicated and we just enjoy it as part of our day. Battles have ceased. It’s so so worth it.

Intuitive eating…post #1 of many

“What would you like for snack?” I asked.

“Gummies,” she responds.

Every. Time.

“AGUA!” shouts my youngest.

This is my house, currently. As I embark on intuitive eating, a quest to rid my life of diet culture and to embrace this squishy, perfect body of mine, I am considering how our house can move in this direction. I have been reading work by Ellyn Satter, check out the Ellyn Satter Institute here, and have been learning how to allow my kids to have more choices in their food. Basically, it teaches that I am in charge of the what, when and where. And that they are in charge of the how much and whether to eat what we provide.

The institute has been very helpful in showing me how to organize meals and what to consider in offering them. For snacks, you are suppose to start with us making choices and eventually over time, our oldest can choose what she wants for snacks. Hence, the gummies. But we’re not quite there yet so gummies are available in limited amounts. I am trusting that eventually they will lose their shine, once she gets her fill.

As for agua, I taught the toddler some words in French and Spanish as I want them to know early on that there is more than one language in this country and world, and to normalize that this is true. Like so many kids, they choose one word and say is constantly. Agua is the winning word in this house. Anything liquid is called agua. And their recent taste of juice has resulted in emphatic requests for “AGUA!” whenever I open the fridge.

We were warned that kids get addicted to juice (and apparently gummies), but I am holding tight to Ellyn Satter’s words that this too will pass. And that addiction to food is not actually a thing.

I haven’t explored all of this too deeply, but have read the impact of intuitive eating for kids and I’m sold. Basically, it’s all I hope for both of them in this world of food and culture. I am seeking it for myself, and this freedom for all of us.

More to come on this I’m sure. In the meantime, check it out. You can learn about how to handle picky eaters, kids that refuse fruits and/or vegetables, snacking, etc. It’s both super helpful and also so much relief in learning the normalcy of your kids’ eating. And it provides the insight for a world of food and eating that may actually be free of shame and diet culture.

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.