Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to change the way you think about food.

I grew up in the 80's. Our pantry was always chock-full of spaghetti-o's, little debbies, cheetos, you name it. If it was processed and full of sugar, artificial colors and saturated fat, we ate it. I was a naturally very slender kid, so it wasn't until my mid 20's that it all started to catch up with me. So I did what any body-conscious woman of the early 2000's did--I went on a low-fat diet. I mean, I became the queen of diet soda, "light" and "fat-free" foods. My pantry didn't look much different--same brands, but the diet version! I was one walking low-fat carbohydrate. And you know what? It worked. I lost a lot of weight--about 20 lbs, to be exact, and I kept it up for over a decade.  Then my body began to slowly break down. I got joint pain, chronic foot pain and generally felt crummy. But I sure looked good in a swimsuit! ;)

The truth is, I kind of buried my head in the sand about what was slowly becoming common knowledge about the importance of whole foods, and the chemical shit storm that was processed--espeically fat-free processed-foods. As long as it was fat free, it was for me! Then I began to do some reading about nutrition. And began to realize that no matter how skinny I was, if I didn't feel good, it didn't mean I was healthy.

So began the great pantry evolution of 2013. We slowly began to buy more whole foods to replace the baked cheetos, low-fat cookies, crackers, sweets, etc. We began to slowly edge out artificial colors and sweeteners--even my BELOVED Coke Zeros had to go. I drank those things like it was going out of style.

I changed my snacks to almonds, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, guacamole, fruits, etc. I had avoided many of those things for so many years because I was afraid of gaining weight. I began to cook more--much more. I used olive oil (another once-dreaded-by-me fat). I made healthy meals with lean meats, veggies and fruits, some from my own garden.  I replaced Coke Zero with water or sparkling pomegranate juice. Our pantry lost a lot of its color. It gained a lot of real foods that actually required a little effort to cook them. Our freezer is now devoid of the frozen diet meals that I lived on many nights.

In short, we began to eat "real food." I transitioned from my 30-minute elliptical workouts to actual strength training classes.  I built muscle. I put on fat. I gained weight. I am no longer rocking a size two. I am a size six. And I have some cellulite. But you know what? I feel a whole lot better. My feet don't hurt. My joints don't ache. I am a whole lot stronger. And what does a 36-year-old mother of two need to look like a bikini model for anyway?! (Not to imply that I did!)

I want to teach my daughter (who is a very solidly-built, muscular little girl) that healthy is beautiful. I want her to love her body for what it DOES more than what it looks like. I want her to find her value in her character more than her waist measurement. Is it hard sometimes to live in a city like Dallas and be bombarded with size zero, fake-boobed, bikini-model types all around? Yes, honestly it sometimes is. And if they are truly eating and living a healthy life and get to look like that, then power to them. But my guess (from my personal experience and the experience from others I know who have struggled with body image in the past) is that many of them are denying their bodies some pretty important things to look like that. Or are pushing their bodies beyond healthy. I know I was.

So now I'm the girl who drinks the (non-skinny) margarita sometimes. I eat dessert when it is served to me. I dig into guacamole.  I even on occasion eat a cheeseburger. And I don't feel guilty about any of that anymore. I feel healthy. And I still recognize that I am in good shape and am proud of my body--much more for what it can do than for what it looks like.  So I've changed the way I think about food. It is not the enemy. It is not the savior. It is not the pacifier. It is nourishment for the cells of my body so that my body can be healthy and strong for myself and my family. It may have taken me 36 years to gain this perspective, but I am very grateful to have it. :)

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