**This is Part II in the “Food” series** If you missed it, here’s Part I
The other morning, as my husband and I were getting ready to leave for the farm, I popped a chocolate truffle into my mouth without giving it much thought. I was downing my morning coffee, and the chocolate looked like a perfect accompaniment.
I suppose it doesn’t help that Christmas candy is still spread throughout our kitchen, looking tempting and delicious.
My husband eyed me from the other side of the kitchen and said, “You really do live on candy, don’t you?”
I could have made some snide comment in reply, but I knew this was just an amused observation on his part.
Coming from him, it was an innocent enough comment. (And it was true because I have eaten about 1000% of my share of the holiday sweets around this house 🙂 )
I just happen to have the sweet tooth in the relationship.
Later in the day though, that comment got the wheels in my brain turning.
If someone else had remarked the same thing to me, someone who didn’t know me as well, what would I have thought?
I’m a girl. So I probably would have taken their comment on my eating habits too seriously. I may have overanalyzed it and arrived at the realization they think I eat too much. Perhaps they even think I’ve gained weight.
Or maybe not.
But how absurd, to even think about this, when I just said in my last blog post that I’m very happy with my current weight!
In Part I of my “food” series, I delved into the confusing world of food labeling. In Part II, I want to delve into the even more confusing world of a woman’s relationship with food.
First things first. I know the whole idea of having a “relationship” with food is a problem of 1st world countries and modern society.
The idea of worrying about eating too much or gaining weight is absurd when your primary worry each day is whether you will have enough to eat.
Even so, I know from a first-hand vantage point that many heartbreaking struggles can surround food and body image for those of us who are lucky enough to have plenty to eat.
Especially for girls, outward beauty is valued from a young age. We exclaim over cute, little girls. Frilly dresses and play make-up are familiar toys in a girl’s toy chest.
By the time a girl reaches junior high, she’s probably worried that she’s not pretty enough, her hips are widening out, and she may have too much “chub” on her belly.
Diets of all sorts are talked about at cafeteria tables, and calories begin to be counted.
For most of us, those rocky teen years are just a part of our journey to adulthood.
You learn, you grow, you get smarter, and you come to understand you don’t need to take everything so seriously. You learn that who you are is more important than what you look like.
But for some young women, their teen years are just the start of their struggle. Their self esteem spirals. They start out on a lifelong path of failed diets and late-night tears.
Still others take a more extreme turn.
I grew up in a small town, a “sheltered” community. And I had one close friend who was bulimic. It was hard to know the right way to help, and it was painful to watch her struggle. Happily, she is now at a much better point in her life.
In the much larger world of college I made many new friends, and I learned one of them had struggled with anorexia for years. Struggled to the brink of near-death in a hospital. Struggled to loose weight even when Abercrombie’s size 00 jeans became too big.
I will never forget her saying to me, “Why do I want to be less than nothing?”
“Size 0 is nothing, and size double-zero is less than nothing. This is not what I want…”
When I met her she was recovered by most standards. Yet she still said most days were a struggle. The disease never fully goes away. It was always close by for her, tempting her back to a life that promised beauty and control.
Extreme eating disorders are more often about control than they are about food, per se, but many of them can start with a simple comment.
I’m not exploring this issue because I have all the answers. In reality, I feel ill equipped to discuss it. But, it’s a very real issue.
I’m certain all of you, at one time or another, have struggled with body image.
Maybe your struggle is at the forefront, and what you will eat stresses you out every single day.
Maybe you’ve got a daughter or niece who you wish you could protect from all the hardships I just mentioned.
In addition to being a woman, I’m also a runner. I’m not ignorant of the fact that struggles with food and the desire to be thin is especially hard for athletes like runners.
Perhaps second only to figure skaters and gymnasts, runners are known to strive to be quick and light and thin.
It’s a tough topic. I don’t have a solution.
I do have to wrap up this post sometime tonight, so here’s what I want to leave you with:
When you sit down to dinner or grab a snack on the go, be thankful for it. I think having a grateful heart can help put so much in perspective.
Instead of agonizing over one unhealthy choice, choose not to berate yourself. Try to fill your shopping basket and your body with nourishing fuel, but don’t stop yourself from enjoying the foods you love.
Be thankful for your body and all it can do. Take care of it and cherish it for the masterpiece it is.
And perhaps most important, if you see someone around you struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out. A positive comment or a listening ear might be all it takes to make a huge difference.