As I edge towards my death, I wonder why I am denying myself. Someday this body, these taste buds, this stomach will be buried. And even though I believe in the resurrection of the body, she won’t be the same as this one. I won’t be able to eat my favorite salad—grapes, lettuce, Bolthouse honey mustard dressing, spinach, olives, almonds, feta, tomatoes. I won’t feel how refreshing it is to put down my empty bowl and do the next thing.
Christians have made eating a sacrament, central to their worship, so why not slow down, give thanks for the people, the ground, the sunlight, the rain, that has made this food? Why not put the phone away, take a bite, set the fork down, and taste what’s inside my mouth? Why not listen to what scientists say about how it takes twenty minutes to feel satisfied with our meal? I am so fragmented, I’m going to practice settling down to enjoy this great good pleasure. As the Psalmist says, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.”
I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.
********Eating has been fraught for me ever since I was a little girl. I remember taking Carnation Instant Breakfast as my lunch and mixing it with a small carton of milk, to help me lose weight. Having matured when I was ten, I was heavy. My body curved like the hills that rolled through the upstate New York countryside. I was too big for my thirteen hand pony, so we bought a fifteen hand horse that was better suited. Those days the rail thin model Twiggy, shaped more like a boy than a woman, shifted the emphasis of womanly beauty away from the curvy ideal of Marilyn Monroe. In movies during that time only women whose hip bones cradled a taught belly were found worthy of love.
So I obsessed about losing weight. I tried to eat small meals, but every time I said I was going to go on a diet my dad would bring home cookies or donuts or I’d stuff myself to get ready for the upcoming fast. So much denial just made food look better. I was teased in high school for hairy legs and being overweight, though looking back, I’d consider the weight I maintained as a girl as quite right. My thighs, my belly pushed against my jeans. My body took up too much space in the world. I wanted to be beautiful like the glancing light on trees, leaves flipped up to the wind, but I was not. Often I said I was sorry. Add to that monthly cycles that made my belly ached and I was not at peace with my body. When my mother bought me beautiful clothes for Christmas I was not comfortable trying them on for my aunts to admire. (They told me later they hated how my brother and I got all this stuff at Christmas. I don’t blame them though envy sucks.)
I began to make peace when I dumped into my twenties and fell in love with a few men. The farmer teased many poems and part of a novel out of me and the poet taught me how to lean up against trees, feeling kisses and ticks crawling up my back. He loved me back. I liked myself as a woman. I liked using my charm. I joined Weight Watchers during that time and they taught me how to eat, and showed me all the good things I could eat. I felt happier with boundaries around food.
This was a version that encouraged a person to drink two servings of milk a day, five ounces of fish a week, a serving of liver, which I avoided, so many ounces of protein, five fruits and vegetables, two servings of bread. I lost a quarter, a half pound a week, but I found I was happier. There were so many good things to eat. When I returned to school I’d lost 15 pounds and people thought I was in love. (I was.)
I didn’t realize that the whole beauty culture was a way to keep women, who were exerting their rights, under control , by keeping them hungry all the time. Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth says, “A culture fixated in female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
My mother who was a powerful woman, drank Metracal to try to take weight off. She bought the first Weight Watchers book but disapproved with how gaunt a friend looked who’d tried it. She didn’t eat much, but what she did eat was high in calories. I recall her eating many cream cheese and olive sandwiches and sparse suppers. As a teenager I fat shamed her, but now my body looks about like hers. These things come back to haunt you. When her cancer had devoured her round, rumpy curves, she said one good thing was she was finally thin, after all these years. Her crossed hands rested in that hollow between her hipbones in the casket.
Marrying Bruce helped me make even deeper peace with with my rumpy curves because he loved them. His hands blessed them. The pill also helped because it stopped the debilitating monthly pain I’d begun to feel. I went back to Weight Watchers to please him. For the first time I could fit into size 12 pants. But that soon slipped away, my jeans growing to a tight size 16. I read how it’s pretty hopeless to lose weight because our bodies work against us. I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted. It was good to stop feeling guilty about what I put in my mouth. Even St. Paul says we are so free we can eat anything we want. “All things are lawful. All things are not expedient.”
Years later, I saw how fat I looked on my horse in the above picture and decided to rejoin Weight Watchers. This time I was successful in losing forty pounds, even though I was in my fifties and menopausal. I learned to stop eating when I was satisfied. I could eat anything in moderation. I swore I’d not go back there again. But I gained ten pounds and went on tamoxifen for pre breast cancer. Since that makes a person gain weight, I continued to go to meetings hoping to maintain where I was.
But lately I have felt abandoned by the program. Zero point foods don’t make sense to me. Those foods have calories and nutritional value. It’s obvious that the program is pushing us towards eating fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, beans, tofu. Weight Watchers now feels more like a restrictive diet, instead of look at what you can eat. I’ve been successful in keeping my weight steady until Christmas when people gave us candy for Christmas, and my indulgence, broke any self discipline I had, and I gained close to ten pounds. Weight Watchers wasn’t working for me any longer.
This winter the nerve pain in my leg felt like someone laid a piece of burning kindling on the outside of my thigh. It woke me. My leg tingled when I was lying down and when I was standing. Walking eased it. The docs think it’s meralgia paresthetica what I call the fat lady syndrome. Obese and pregnant women get it because their fat pushes against the nerve that runs down the outside of the thigh. One of the treatments is to lose weight. Since Weight Watchers wasn’t working, I decided to try Noom, a weight loss program advertised on NPR and Facebook.
It is everything I have wished Weight Watchers could be because it focuses on food and the science of eating. The app has cute articles that talk about how we can stop ourselves from over eating and why it is that once we start losing weight it can be difficult to continue because our hormones and environment work against us. But instead of leaving us helpless, they offer tools like strength training, and even indulging ourselves to compensate for this. We have a goals coach and a group coach that helps us stay accountable to setting goals that might help us change our habits. We weigh in daily, which I have found interesting because I can see how my calorie intake affects my weight. I see how it takes a few days for dietary indiscretions to catch up. For the first time in years, I am consistently losing weight simply by counting calories and by listening to how full I feel. I am motivated to make better choices when I eat out. Noom has a green, yellow, red scale where they show whether you are foods that are dense nutritionally but easy on calories. Mostly I’m working on savoring my food, giving this pleasure the attention it deserves.
Here is a link if you are interested in checking it out. This is an affiliate link, so do get paid if you join the program past the trial. https://friends.noom.com/YUo5WjU3ODdI
Even clouds aren’t afraid to be full and round and rumpy, heavy with rain.Speaking of food, we’ve been aware of how consistent rain since March has made it difficult for farmers to plant their crops. I have worried about our food supply. In Nebraska where there was devastating flooding, and farmers have been told not to bother planting. They lost a million beef cattle. Our neighbor just finished planting over a thousand acres with help from neighbors. They’d get dry days and get into the fields. Since we’ve had warm days, the corn has shot up from baby plants to knee high by fourth of July. Some is even hip high. There are still empty fields growing weeds, but I am hopeful when I see the corn and beans drawn towards the light and sky.
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