Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the care and feeding of girls

photo by Jimmy

I have never been skinny.  And although I was not overweight as a child or teenager, I always knew that I was not skinny, and I always wished I was.  Who knows when or where or how that message came across?  I have a few ideas, but no real answers.  I do remember, though, weighing myself just before beginning the fourth grade, and noticing that I had gained ten pounds over the summer, and feeling terribly ashamed of that fact.  Why?  Obviously, at that age, I could have also grown six inches over the summer.  But I don't remember gaining inches.  I remember gaining pounds.  I don't even know why I stood on the scale at all, at what, nine years old?  Until that day, the scale had been a novelty:  a rickety metal box that heaved and coiled and rattled when you stood on it, sending a circle of numbers spinning, swinging back and forth under a little red arrow.  It reminded me of the roulette wheels I had seen in movies.  (And maybe that was more appropriate a comparison than I had ever imagined it could be.)

This post is not about my weight, though.

This post is about food.

Recently I've come to realize that I hate food.  I eat food, I buy food, and I prepare food, so discovering that I hate food was a bit of a surprise.  When I was living on my own, I really did not spend much time thinking about food, and when Jimmy and I were first married I still didn't have to think about it, because he loves to cook and so he managed our kitchen, for the most part.

With children, our lives are different.  They want to eat all. the. time.  Every day, they expect at least three meals and about six thousand snacks.  And when Jimmy comes home from work he is more tired, more strained, and more interested in spending time with the girls than cooking.

And my health has been begging me to change my diet.  Fighting with my weight is nothing new to me, but over the past five years I've developed a random batch of issues such as mild asthma, itchy skin, and even a small bout of psoriasis, and after some experimentation with my diet and lots of chats with my doctor, it looks like wheat is not my friend.  And probably dairy and sugar, as well, but I've decided to focus on just the wheat for now.

So.  I have to think about food, now.  My girls need to be fed, and they should be fed properly and thoughtfully, and my own food needs to be thought out in advance.  My preference for snacking over eating meals is fine, but I can't just go into the kitchen, grab a pop tart and leave, anymore.  And Jimmy? Jimmy enjoys healthy, well-prepared meals.  It's a concept my brain wants to reject immediately on sight.

My job now includes dealing with food.  What I've discovered in this new role is that I have plenty of good intentions, but when I walk into the kitchen with the idea to prepare a meal my mind actually goes blank.  The oven becomes a torture device designed by NASA.  All I can see on the full refrigerator shelves are water, cheese, milk, and yogurt.  The overstuffed pantry contains cereal, snack bars, pop tarts, Pirate Booty, and cookies.  The packed-tight freezer contains chicken nuggets and fish sticks.  Fish sticks it is.  I can manage fish sticks, ketchup, and fruit for the girls' dinner.  For Jimmy and I?  Well....maybe Jimmy will come home late tonight, having already eaten, or bearing leftovers from his catered lunch...

It is nonsensical for me to feel this way about preparing meals, and for a very long time I've been trying to drive myself to overcome it, but getting nowhere.  Just recently, though, I realized what I said before:  I hate food. The reason for this might be obvious to you, but it took me a solid twenty-five years to figure it out.  The reason I hate food is because I make myself feel guilty over every bite.  Every. single. bite.  Did I just eat something sweet?  You're too fat to eat that.  Did I just eat something delicious?  You should be eating healthier.  Did I just eat something healthy?  You have to eat that because you're too fat and you eat too much junk.  Did I just eat something sweet and delicious AND healthy, like those awesome gluten-free protein berry pancakes at the cool restaurant in WeHo last month?  You shouldn't have spent so much money on food.

It sounds so awful, I know.  Keep in mind that I wasn't even aware I was doing this until very recently. The problem is, I'm not sure how to stop.  How do I turn that off?  I HAVE to turn that off.  I MUST fix this, and fix it NOW.  Yes, it would be easier and healthier (both mentally and physically healthier) for me.  It would be good for my relationship with Jimmy, too.  But I don't even think I need to outline the fact that I am raising two girls.  Two gorgeous, smart, funny girls, who are already very concerned - in very little girl ways - with being pretty.

For their sake, I have to fix this, and fix it now.  I can't let them grow into the same problems I have.

Awareness, I think, is very good.  Exercise - or at least, activity - I assume will be most helpful in improving self-esteem.  Food still needs to be dealt with, though.

So, I am going to attempt to make food a priority.  Will that help?  I am hoping it will help, and not make matters worse.  I think, if I prioritize food, with an awareness of how I have been approaching it, with a goal of respecting it, of respecting my body, and teaching my girls about health and activity and self-confidence, I think that this will help.  But I have to tell you, it almost feels as though I'm committing to building a working rocketship in my backyard.  This is alien territory for me.  How do I begin?

How do you do it?


kittymclewin said...

Go out right now, and buy or borrow "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mirielle Guiliano. http://media-cache-ec6.pinterest.com/192x/7e/53/8f/7e538fc6430ea727d6c18bd62133244c.jpg

This book makes you want to eat all kinds of gorgeous foods, and tells how to enjoy them best...with respect and expectation. I loved it...I'm kinda a french girl at heart from what I'm told. Try it out. And, of course, pray about it. :)

Anonymous said...

You deal with it by starting right where you are, and doing what you are doing.

pollydove said...

I can SO relate to this post. I have felt the same way about my weight since my junior year in high school. That's when my parents moved us from So Cal to Connecticut and I gained 20 pounds. But I differ in the fact that I LOVE food and I love to eat! My fridge and pantry sound just like yours too ... only my girls still at home are 25, 23, and 17. It's been the same for forever ... it's a tough battle - that whole eating healthy and preparing good meals for your family. I have raised junk food junkies, just like their mom.

Your girls are so darling. Just make sure they feel that from you and they probably won't obsess about weight so much. (We can hope that for our girls anyway, right? My son is as skinny as a rail - why does that always seem to be the case?)

Anonymous said...

As boring and rigid as it sounds, Melanie, MENU PLANNING is the key. I have resisted it for years. I think I should be able fly by the seat of my pants, but this always results in exactly the feelings you describe. After following a couple of mom/cooking blogs for the past couple of years, I have only become more convinced of it's necessity, hearing it from women who have similarly struggled. The results speak for themselves. When I take 15-30 minutes one night a week to plan out meal options for the week (and then shop for the corresponding items) my evenings go SO, SO much easier. My stress level is lower. Dare I even say I might be starting to ENJOY cooking?! - after 25 years of being an adult?! They can be simple and routine and still satisfy your husband. For example, one night a week, we have fish, always with either green beans or peas or Brussels sprouts (thanks to Jimmy!). Simple. I use one of two recipes - either tuna fish sandwiches, or baked tilapia. Which one I choose depends on whether Allen will be home for dinner (the only fish he eats is tuna.) One night is meatless. One night is chili/soup-something (this is where I get in lots of veggies - kale, etc.) One night is usually burgers/tacos/spaghetti. There, most of the week is done. One night we eat out. One night is leftovers. One night to be creative. Build it slowly. You can do it. It just takes planning, but don't let that intimidate. Seriously, 15-30 minutes.

melanie said...

Ladies (and Anonymous), thank you SO much! Heather, I always did want to read French Women Don't Get Fat, so now I'm going to have to. :) Pollydove, I ABSOLUTELY hear you. Thank you. And Becky, I'm hoping to pick your brain tomorrow about meal plans. It seems like all the answers are simple, but putting them into practice is hard. For me, at least. I might just have a talent for making easy things hard, though. ;)