Friday, March 5, 2010

This is a race you need to jog...

I am writing today because my heart hurts. My heart hurts for all of the young girls, young women, moms, wives, ladies and females around the world that believe their worth is somehow measured by their waist line. My heart hurts for myself and all of the years I wasted thinking that I could control my happiness by controlling what I ate, what calories I burned and what size jeans I could fit into.

I am sad because so many woman see food as the enemy, a beast that needs to be measured, calculated and restrained. I know this because I used to be that woman. I used to spend weeks eating so little and telling myself that I could get back to life (ie. eating) as soon as I reached 130 again. 130! This is a ridiculous weight for a person of my level of activity and body structure. In order to stay at 130, I literally eat just about nothing. I would laugh and say I, "I like to drink my calories." For years I did this.

Eating food of any sort was considered a guilty pleasure. And guilt is what I would feel for eating just about anything. My sense of joy came from other people telling me how small or skinny I looked. I liked how I looked when I was hungry. I liked how strong and powerful I felt when I could say no to food, depriving myself from sustenance.

When I became a vegetarian in college, I was able to harness some of my negative perceptions about food. Food slowly became something I looked at to make me more healthy. With my vegetarianism came an awareness of substance. All of a sudden I realized that what one eats has the power to define who they are and what they believe. This knowledge made me re-evaluate many of my attitudes towards food. I did not want to be defined by my ability to restrict myself from all foods, when I was beginning to realize that not all foods were "harmful". A vegetarian diet opened my eyes to the possibility that food is meant to nourish, not destroy. But this knowledge was met on my deaf ears. I was not ready to change.

About a year and a half ago, after I had Hayden I started seeing a Holistic Nutritionist. I realized I needed help when I started trying to control my diet while I was breastfeeding. If there is one thing I never want to pass on to my children it is my love/hate relationship with food. I desperately wanted to fix my food issues before they hurt Hayden.

Jessica Patterson, the nutritionist now she was amazing. In six short months I learned so much about what it means to truly "feed" my body, what balanced living looks like and how food is meant to bring joy and life not guilt. But even then I was not ready for the truth. My mind could not let go of the past. I truly believed that the only way to lose my baby weight was to eat little and work out like mad. Her "no counting calories philosophy" truly infuriated me. This sounded like a "skinny person" belief and just a cruel fairy tale for fat people like me. So I discontinued seeing her.

I have not "arrived" by any means. I am no expert. But I wanted to write today about the hope that I now have. In the past two and a half months, while on my vegan journey, I have found peace. I have found peace with my food. Food is not my enemy, food brings me a sense of joy, a sense of life. I have looked forward to the shopping, prepping, cooking, serving and eating that has gone into every meal I have cooked this year. Not once have I felt any guilt over anything I have put into my mouth. Part of this, I believe is because in my heart I do feel that animal consumption in this country is done unethically and I feel relief that I am no longer part of that destruction.

...But another part is because I have called a truce and laid down the gun to my own head. The enemy was never food, I was my own enemy. I was scared that if I stopped controlling food, it would control me. I have found just the opposite to be true. I have not counted calories once, since this year began. I have not restricted or tried to control the food I put in my mouth once, since trying on the vegan thing. I have no sense of "when this is over, then I can eat again." I feel full and satiated every day. Here is the kicker, I am still losing weight. I know this not because of an obsession with the scale, but because gradually clothes are beginning to get too big.

Of course I am not losing as fast as I did after the first baby, but I am happy. I am happy with my body in a way I have never been before. Peace is the best word to describe it. I have done the yo-yo diet, the starvation diet, the eat whatever the hell you want diet (I call that one the f-it diet), the protein diet (really tricky for a vegetarian) and the soup diet, just to name a few. Do you know what the one thing all those diets have in common? They all cause you to live for the future. You restrict now, so that you can be happy in the future. Eat less, so you can be less tomorrow. Be hungry now, so that you can fit into your jeans next week.

This is pure craziness. It is craziness because it does not last. "Diets" are not a lifestyle, they are a temporary fix to a life long problem. If you don't believe me, look at anorexics... they have made a restriction diet a lifestyle, but it inevitably will destroy them. I speak from first hand experience. If this vegan challenge had taught me one thing, it is that I want to fully experience the moment, while living for my children's children. I want to enjoy today while being at peace with what tomorrow brings.

I write this and I am filled with pure peace and joy. This is how I know I am finally on the right track. I have felt relief before when talking about food and weight, but never peace and joy. This peace and joy is a gift I want to give every single girl out there. If I could summarize what I have learned about food and weight thus far it would be this: there is NO way to sprint to the end... life is a one-man race. You need to pace yourself and settle in for the long haul. If not, you are going to miss out on one heck of a view.

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