Discovering My Relationship with Food and the Body in the Mirror
I look into the mirror and I see a body.
A body that stubbornly refuses to conform to societal standards of beauty despite an insane amount effort. A body that has large stores of fat cells and not an insignificant amount of flab. A body that jiggles when it walks and fills the seat of a chair.
From as far back as I can remember, I have not had a healthy relationship with food. (I say food and not body because despite the love affair our culture has with thinness, cheating on myself with food has always been the real issue. I just didn’t know it.)
It began when I was still a baby and my pediatrician told my mom that she needed to keep an eye on my weight. As my mom is a pretty healthy person naturally, she did her best to provide me with the right food choices, and while I didn’t bring chips, pretzels and Fruit-by-the-Foot to school, I did have a great selection of fruits and vegetables to choose from.
There was a variety that included seedless and Concord grapes, Asian pears, starfruit, sabras, oranges, strawberries, locally grown nectarines, bananas, watermelon, plum tomatoes, sugar snap peas, snow peas, colorful peppers and more. We also had string cheese, yogurt, farina with chocolate chips, oatmeal with brown sugar, authentic hot chocolate, frozen smoothies, a junk food “treat” for snack on Wednesdays, and of course, a real Jewish Shabbos party for Shabbos afternoon.
You couldn’t say I was deprived.
But however you look at it, regardless of the food choices I did have available (and I’m so thankful for them!), I noticed all the foods that were restricted to me.
And despite the abundance of quality, nutritionally-dense foods, I was still chubby, still overweight and still fatter than all my friends.
And that never changed.
I never hated my body, but I hated not having a decent and fun selection of clothes to choose from. I never hated how I looked, but I hated that I had such a hard time getting rid of extra fat. I never hated myself, but I hated that I felt limited in the physical activities I could participate in.
I started attending Weight Watchers meetings in fifth or sixth grade, I went to a nutritionist with a group of teens to try the Red Day, Green Day Diet in eighth grade, had great success with the South Beach Diet in tenth grade, tried Take Shape for Life a few years out of seminary, and most recently played with the Zone Diet and If It Fits Your Macros. And in between, I read about and tried nearly every other diet that you can think of.
And I never once thought to consider that maybe the issue wasn’t what I fed my body, but how I fed it.
It’s weird how we can look back and objectively recognize how hard we were on ourselves. Hindsight really is 20/20.
There is no world in which a child should be made to feel like her weight is a “problem” she needs to fix. No one should be complimenting a thirteen year old at a family wedding for the two dress sizes she lost.
I pull out my photo album from high school and I see a physically healthy-looking teenager. My uniform fit me beautifully (well, as beautifully as uniforms can fit) and my heart hurts that the girl in the picture always felt like she needed to lose more weight. She’s about 30-40 pounds lighter than I am now and several sizes smaller. And not one person ever told her that she didn’t need to lose weight.
I began working out at age twenty-one and I often get asked how much weight I lost when I started CrossFitting. My answer? I didn’t.
I didn’t lose anything, but I gained a lot.
I’ve learned to look forward to exercising and how to use it as a tool to release the tension of daily life. I’ve come to love the feeling of a steel barbell in my hands and the adrenaline rush I get when competing. I’ve discovered the energy that movement provides and the confidence that becoming stronger inspires.
As a current CrossFit coach and founder of Fit Jewess, I train people to discover the capabilities that their bodies have and I empower them to trust their own strength. I help them uncover the athlete within.
And with all that, I still have insecurities about my body.
Insecurities that drive me to seek out yet another diet.
About two months ago I was introduced to Intuitive Eating and the Health At Every Size movement. From the get go, I knew in my gut that this is what I’ve been searching for all these years.
I’m on my journey to a healthier relationship with food.
I’ve already changed in so many ways, starting with the way I perceive food – no longer morally good or bad, but rather nutritious or playful. I’m learning to honor my body’s hunger and fullness cues, to eat the way my body is asking me to.
And most importantly, I’m learning to reject the diet mentality. To trust that so long as I fuel my body appropriately, it will be perform to the best of its ability.
It’s not an easy process nor is it a quick one. But it’s one that’s worth investing in because ultimately, it’s one that will help me be the healthiest version of myself. And that’s my goal.
I look into the mirror and I see a body.
A body that has attractive curves and a beautiful hourglass figure. A body that has defined muscles and an inner strength and passion that is unparalleled. A body that dances when it walks and safeguards the soul that lays within.
And I love it.
I know that my experience is not unique. Is this something that you can relate to? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts in the comments below…