I love food. I love what food symbolizes for me: taste, community, conversation, bonding, being grounded, sensuality, nourishment, warmth, lineage, relishing in the moment, travel, culture, discovery, adventure, education, cooking, creation, love, joy.
I grew up in a very food-positive home. I have parents who love to eat and who truly enjoy good food. I didn’t grow up with junk food in the house- I grew up with home cooked meals and trips to the local farmers market on Sunday mornings- but there were no limits on what we were allowed to eat or when. Eating, coupled with enjoyment, was always encouraged. Ordering dessert or going back for seconds won’t earn you any sideways looks in my family.
I also grew up in a not-very-body-positive home. My parents are both slender and generally don’t pay much attention to what they eat in terms of dieting and such. My mom has always complained about her midsection being a little too flabby and my dad loves to comment on people’s bodies. “No more hamburgers for her” is one of his favorite things to say when he sees someone whose body doesn’t fall within “Western standards” of beauty. My mom loves to comment on her daughters’ bodies- and though it’s almost always in a very positive complimentary way, I now see why that’s super problematic: As a result I grew up valuing myself based on being thin and pretty.
Although I’ve always been slender, or slender-ish, I have spent way more energy and awareness on my body than I care to admit. Appearance has always been a huge part of my identity and self-worth and it hasn’t left a lot of room to just enjoy being human. I remember being about twelve and worrying about the fact that my thighs spread out a bit when I sat down in a chair- hello, that happens to everyone! I look back on that and think, a) I wish I had spent that energy elsewhere, and b) what messaging was I getting and from where to make me so hyper-vigilant about the way I sat? Why did I feel the need to remain rail thing at all times? The interesting thing is that it wasn’t until I was an adult that I linked food/eating with the size and shape of my body. SurE, my mom would complain about certain parts of her body that she wasn’t happy with, but she never dieted or changed her eating habits. I was lucky in this way because even though I was struggling to figure out body image stuff, my relationship with food remained positive.
Cut to adulthood. Cut to Body Changes. A baby. another Baby. And age.
Not only did my body change, but my relationship to food started to shift as well.
I started to relate the food I ate with how I looked. What started as a “health journey” became information I used to try to sculpt my body. I started to get really into different trends of healthy eating, but my motivation wasn’t health; It was body size. I loved learning about the body, health and wellness, but food became an avenue of trying to control my body and then feeling shame when I didn’t succeed or ate something “unhealthy.” And yet, I didn’t feel great. I wasn’t listening to my body or my desires. I was so caught up in looking healthy that forgot to feel healthy.
A few years ago I stumbled on the book “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth and everything changed. Her book woke me up to the fact that I wasn’t truly living in my body, I wasn’t listening to any of its messages and I wasn’t happy. As I mentioned in the beginning, I love food and, for me, it symbolizes so many of the best things in life. And this “healthy” lifestyle I had adopted- with all its paleo gluten free sugar free protein shake misery- had taken me so far away from this core essence of myself, a food lover. Food is one of my primary ways of experiencing the world. I am a human with a body and I don’t know how long I’m here for and when I die I seriously doubt I will regret the pasta carbonara I ate every day in Italy or the extra pounds that resulted. But I will, when I lay there taking my last breath, remember how delicious that silky, eggy, sauced pasta tasted. And that’s what matters to me.
After working through a lot of the health and body stuff- reading about it, writing about it, thinking about it (maybe more than was necessary), I’m truly at a place where I’m focusing my energy on how I feel and on enjoying every minute that I can of this insanely weird and completely beautiful experience of being a human with a body. Of course I have days when I wish my stomach was flat or my thighs were thinner or my face was a little more chisled, but I can honestly say that those days are few and far between. And it’s funny because my body is the softest it’s ever been, I’ve had two children, I’m a single mom in the dating world, I’m 35 and some things are starting to droop a little- but I’m actually kind of ok with it all. My body birthed my babies and as cliche as it sounds, that fact alone makes me appreciate and admire it on such a deep level. All of my parts work, I don’t get sick often, I don’t take any meds, and my butt still looks pretty great in a pair of tight jeans. I’m not spending my energy on that because I know that I have better things to do. I am building a life and I am no longer afraid to take up some space in the world.
And I am eating with joy.
Welcome to radiant eating.