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 that are overweight and even just average. “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, aka size 4 and under. My mom loves to comment on her daughters’ bodies- and it’s almost always in a very positive complimentary way- which I now see is super problematic because I definitely grew up valuing myself based on being thin and pretty. But what happens when that changes? What happens when you have a baby and aren’t a size 4? What happens when your body starts to age?
Although I’ve always been slender, or slender-ish at least, I have spent way more energy and awareness on my body than I care to admit. Appearance is 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 almost hyper vigilant about the way I sat so as not to appear anything but rail thin (which I was and wanted desperately to remain so 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. I think because, for instance, 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 (at least not that I knew of). So even though I was struggling to figure out body image stuff, my relationship with food remained positive.
Cut to adulthood and me getting really interested in health and wellness.. Which on one level is a genuine interest. I love learning about the body and about food and nutrition and the science behind it all. But as I started to get older and my metabolism started to change a bit and I could no longer eat whatever whenever and still be rail thin (which until pretty recently was the beauty standard I was subscribing to), I started to relate the food I ate to how I looked. What started as health information also became information I used to try to sculpt my body. I started to get really into different trends of healthy eating and the motivation wasn’t health (that was secondary), but body size. So I wasn’t starving myself or eating in a disordered way, but food definitely became an avenue of trying to control my body and then feeling shame when I didn’t succeed or ate something “unhealthy”. But 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 10 pounds that resulted. But I will, when I lay there taking my last breathe, 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), now 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.