Monday, November 19, 2012
I Like Food: A Post About Happiness and Self-Acceptance.
Um, weird post title, I know. True of course, but in my case there's a lot more to that statement than meets the eye. I've thought about this post for awhile, writing and rewriting it in my head, thinking, "do I want to share this?" "Do I want to talk about this again?" And finally this morning, as I was sitting with Henry at his little table eating our breakfast I realized...yes I do, because I AM HERE. And "here" is so vague, but in that instant it meant that I had arrived at this place in my life where I could finally take a step back and see that I had gotten to where I wanted to be. Let me explain...
Growing up food wasn't an issue. I mean I loved it as I always have, but I never thought about it anymore than the next person. It was just food. Usually delicious, sometimes gross if my Mom made me eat something I didn't enjoy (like zucchini), but it was just there, no big deal. Even in high school as some girls counted calories it never crossed my mind. I was too busy practicing soccer for hours to one, care, and two, even be affected by the occasional fast food we'd eat on the way home from games and meets. I was a full-time athlete and probably burned more calories than I consumed, although at that time I probably didn't even know what a calorie was.
It wasn't until I went away to college that I started to have an awareness of food, and my relationship with it shifted from just eating to enjoy, to kind of hating that I even had to eat. I'd never had to work at staying thin, but when I decided not to play sports in college and my activity level changed so quickly and drastically, it was a shock that my eating habits would have to change also. And so this is when I started to pay attention. This is when I started to look warily at the food in the cafeteria, when I would eat only half of my meals, right along with my other calorie-obsessed friends. When I started to drink Slim Fast and eat diet foods, when I would run for an hour before class and then for an hour after, feeling like I had to burn it all off. It was when I really thought that all of that fake stuff equaled healthy. It's interesting to me now to look back because I was a tiny thing- I was still working out out on the regular, but my mind had convinced my body it just wasn't enough. Paired with my girlfriends' influence, we all kind of fell into this working out all the time, eating disgusting diet "food" to get even skinnier cycle. Not good.
Luckily this obsession lasted only a year or so and I realized how ridiculous it all was fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things. But the damage was done. Calories and fat grams and carbs were now a thing to me, they existed, and there was really no going back. Even though I wasn't counting the calories I ate, I always felt like there was an invisible calculator in the back of my mind, forcing me to feel guilty whenever I ate something I deemed "bad," or making me feel terrible that I didn't get in my workout for the day. And so I continued like this for a long, long time. I'd go through periods when I just didn't care, but that was inevitably followed up with that familiar feeling of guilt. As much as I didn't want to think about it, it was always on my mind.
And then I got pregnant. For me, getting pregnant was the best thing that ever happened to me. I always felt that I was meant to be a mama, and it just felt good and right to be growing this little being inside of my body. Suddenly it wasn't about just me anymore. I was this little person's home for 9 months. It was my job to nourish and feed this little baby, to take care of him and keep him safe. A couple years before getting pregnant I had already begun to really feel good about getting past all of those old unhealthy thoughts and feelings. But it wasn't until Henry was there, growing inside of my own body, that it all really clicked. Food became food again. It became true nourishment, both to him and me, and I started to think about the idea of health in a whole new light. I ate clean, whole, healthy foods that gave me energy and made me feel good. I started feeling thankful for food, for being able to enjoy such delicious things, and got into cooking and baking healthy meals for my family.
And now with CrossFit, all of the dots have been connected for me. I now have this thing that I do daily- something that is incredibly challenging and something I need fuel for- and without that fuel, I wouldn't be able to do the things I want to do. And like I said above, I am here. And here is a good place to be. It's a place where rather than counting calories, I make sure to get enough food- enough protein and enough calories and enough colors. Enough. I want to feel good. I need to feel energized. I no longer look at someone skinnier than me and think "I want to be that small." I admire all body types, but most of all I admire strength and health, and I marvel at all of the things our bodies can do. I look back through photos in my phone of Hank and I working out with our friends and see pictures of us climbing ropes, lifting hundreds of pounds, jumping on top of boxes, pushing over huge truck tires, out on long runs and hikes. Things I would never be able to do without eating properly. And it feels good to look at these things and know that my strong body allowed me to do them.
So today I am thankful. I am thankful that I was able to figure out what real food is and what works for me, and I am grateful to have this deep love and appreciation for my body and what it can do. I am thankful for its strength that allows me to run and jump and push and pull, and for my mind that has come such a long way, and now enjoys without feeling guilty. It may have taken awhile, but like anything, so much of the beauty is in the journey it took to get there. It's a shame I ever wasted any time on the contrary, but in a way I'm also grateful for it, because it makes this awareness in the present that much sweeter.