In the middle of the night when I’m half awake in the rocker, in the corner of the nursery, I count up the hours of sleep I’ve gotten. 10:30pm to 1:15am …1:50am-4:25am…and so it goes. Doing that kind of math in my head, reminds me of my calorie counting days: one yogurt 150, an apple 120 calories. The whole memory of calorie counting, which I did from the middle of high school through college, makes me rather agitated to look back on. It reminds me of such a restrictive and obsessive way of living and honestly, in my case, I think it was more harmful than helpful.
I don’t talk much about weight here and I’ve gone back and forth about whether to mention it at all in this space. You see, like so many others I’ve had my fair share of guilt when it comes to eating and the morphed sense of body image that often accompanies that guilt. So I thought I’d touch briefly on my experience, partly having recently gone through some body changes but also because I’m now the mother of a little girl and I don’t want her to grow up concerned about weight or scales or calories. My wish for her is that she never once thinks to herself, “I’m fat” or “I weight too much”. I will do my damndest not to perpetuate that kind of thinking as she gets older and a big part of that is balancing my own relationship with weight and food.
My primary demon has always been the scale. From an early age I paid way too much attention to it, always aware of the number, getting wrapped up in whether that number was too high, allowing it to effect my day, my mood. I can remember so many scales, from the digital one in my parent’s bathroom to the antiquated hand-me-down in college to the scale my sister and I decided lives in its own reality, always 5-10 lbs heavier than all the other scales. Right before I met Michael my “weighing in” became more obsessive. I’d weigh myself at the gym in the morning, then in the evening at my apartment. I could justify weighing myself once a day, kind of, but twice was overkill.
As luck would have it, I met Michael that spring. As new romances are apt to go, I spent a lot of time at his place in those first few months, which was conveniently lacking in a scale. This might not seem like that big a deal but to someone who was so used to the daily weigh in, there was something so freeing, liberating about waking up in the morning untied from this habit. I didn’t realize the shift at first but as the months went by I found myself less attached to that “number”. I found myself enjoying food more, enjoying exercise more and being less prone to arbitrary “bad” days. The freedom from the scale allowed me to be become more attune to my body’s cues, what I was actually feeling, craving, wanting, as opposed to what the scale told me I should be feeling, craving, wanting.
Maybe it was coincidence, but it was also around this time that I started reading blogs, primarily vegetarian and vegan blogs focused on whole foods. I became crazy about blogs, and began the annoying habit of leading into a conversation with, “so, I was reading on this blog…”. I was already eating mainly vegetarian by this point, so it wasn’t so much the veggie part I was drawn to, as the idea of whole foods and seasonal eating. I loved the notion of making my own salad dressings, granola bars and juices, exploring new ways of cooking like soaking nuts to make sauces and experimenting with overnight oats, or trying new ingredients like tahini, miso, parsnips, even kale. It was as if a new world had suddenly opened up to me when I let go of the restraints and set my limited view on food free. This freedom was contagious and delicious, adding flavor, spice, joy and a new found balance to my world. This balance made the need to weigh myself everyday less important. I felt better than ever and there was no need for the validation the number led me toward. I simply didn’t care anymore.
And it’s this huge, delicious, guilt free world of food and cooking that I so look forward to sharing with Noe as she gets older. My hope is that through the exploration of different ingredients, cuisines and tastes she learns not put labels on foods as good or bad but instead embraces everything with a sense of experimentation and exploration.
I plan to teach her what I have now found works best for me…moderation. I want her to enjoy that piece of pizza with as much gusto and excitement as she may have for blueberries or broccoli or buckwheat. I know it won’t be an easy feat (and there are so many other factors involved: the media, peers, parts of her own being that I’ll never be able control) but I feel grateful that I’ve been able to restore my own sense of balance so that I can teach her from a place of freedom, not fear.
As a side, this is not to say that I never buy pre-pacakaged versions of food anymore. I still eat Clif Bars and boxed cereal and have recently become reacquainted with my old friend Hidden Valley Ranch, it’s just not realistic for me to make everything, especially now. Again, it’s all about balance.
Now I know this is a touchy subject and everyone is on their own journey with weight, diet, body image and self acceptance but I wanted to share what has worked so well for me. I do still own a scale, or more accurately, I never threw out the one I had. However, I only weight myself on occasion, not every day. During my pregnancy I decided to only get weighed at my appointments and now that I’m in my postpartum months I’m also only weighing in here and there because I’m very well aware of what a slippery slope it can become. And I rather like being free of that morning “gut check”. I’d rather enjoy my food, respect my body for all it’s done and does for me and not worry about some silly number that has no bearing on who I am.
Enjoy and Exhale!