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moms and food

Learning to feed my hunger

I will never let another pair of pants tell me I’m fat again.

This from the mouth of my friend Rachael, as she speared another piece of perfectly roasted cauliflower off of the plate in front of us. We met for drinks, Rachael and I, and as the fathers of our children readied our kids for bed, we ordered another cocktail.

I eyed that tiny plate of cauliflower with resentment. It was so good. And there was so little. What a tease tapas can be.

R’s declaration convinced me of what I already knew—I must go buy new jeans.

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Familiar, anyone?

Oh, the ever changing expanse of the post partum body. I’ve been rail thin with huge boobs to very squishy and everything in between. The rail-thinness was the product of exhaustion, depression, and breastfeeding in my first four months with Jo. I remember being stunned by the sight of myself in the mirror after a shower–I finally had the body I’d been told to strive for. It was strange and thrilling to see it on me. And I enjoyed it, guiltily, like a $50 bill you find on a busy street. Does this really belong to me? I didn’t work for it. It simply came through suffering over those early months of becoming a mother.

My current squishy reality, were I to guess, is the product of going to dance class less, breastfeeding less, and a little practice I’ll call The Celebration. It starts around 8:30 most nights when the boys are in bed. AJ will make some popcorn. I’ll grab another glass of wine and the cheese puffs. And then we’ll trot out a pint of ice cream while watching some show on the computer. It’s such a miracle to Eat and Watch without having to share or explain to the children. To be left alone to make terrible health choices and then to fall asleep on the couch. Don’t ask about the couple weeks when I worked through a box of 24 Haagen Dazs ice cream bars.

The Celebration also unfurled itself during the first few months of my job. It was just so miraculous to sit, unfettered at a desk—no one needing a snack or crying or hitting. So I would buy a tub of dark chocolate peanut butter cups at Trader Joe’s and polish of half (or more!) in an afternoon. Partytime.

The women’s group I attend every month? It is an oasis. Smart, interesting, engaged women, their beautiful child-free homes, wine and food. Last month, when I walked in, I thought, “Get ready, self. Time to over-eat.” I do it every time. The Rosé and cheese platter and berries with homemade whipped cream are just so damned abundant and miraculous that I have to pack it in so that it will last until next month.

I’ve felt uneasy about The Celebrations, just as I feel uneasy inside my jeans. And it took writing this to really see it:

I’ve gone and confused food with relaxation.

One feeds my body. The other, my soul.

In the confusion, both my body and soul have gotten squishy.

When I’m experiencing a significant break, rest, respite from the relentlessness of motherhood, I pack food into myself. As though the food will tide me over until next time.

It doesn’t.

And then, instead of really sinking into the moment, feeling the rest, the support, the entertainment, I zone out on food.

This week, I’ve been reading Women Food and God, and I tripped over this sentence several times because it was such a zinger.

To discover what you really believe…pay attention to the way you eat. You will quickly discover if you believe the world is a hostile place and that you need to be in control of the immediate universe for things to go smoothly. You will discover if you believe that there is not enough to go around and that taking more than you need is necessary for survival.

Guess which one I am, piling more sesame noodle salad onto my plate at my woman’s group like it’s the last meal I’ll see for days?

So, I’m turning over a new leaf. The concept of mindful or intuitive eating. I learned about it from this insightful TED Talk, and while at first I was left laughing off the possibility of mindful eating, it’s been surprisingly helpful in practise:

I eat what I want when I’m hungry. Eat till I’m full. If I’m not hungry, and I want to eat, pause the food train and be in the moment.

It’s felt like a homecoming to listen to and trust my body.

The new jeans aren’t too bad either.

I secretly save the best for myself – my messy beautiful

The boy across the street is incomparably generous. He lets Jo borrow all manner of toys for weeks on end. He often intones, “I have soooo many toys. Sure, Jo, you can borrow.”

Jo, on the other hand, is like a stingy old codger on his death bed, bony fingers wrapped around whatever happens to be within reach.

Photo by Skesis

He gets it from me.

When I’m portioning out food for a meal, I constantly evaluate AJ’s plate against mine, and if his looks better or has more meat or sweet potatoes or sauce or whatever I might be after, I do a little switch-a-roo before smacking the plates down, and no one is ever the wiser.

My stingy little codger gets fed, eyes twinkling. “I got the best one.”

I know at this very minute that there are 4 chocolate chip cookies remaining in their crackly plastic sleeve on top of the refrigerator. I hid them under the tortilla chips last night so that Jo won’t notice them. If he asks for one later today, after having eaten an entire kale salad topped with steamed broccoli, I will give him one. Maybe half. And I tell myself it’s because I want to keep him healthy. But mostly, it’s because I want them for myself.

I have a friend, Clio, who I laugh with while our kids bounce around on her back yard trampoline. She brings out bowls overflowing with berries. Platters of cut cheese and crackers. There is an industrial size box of sustainably-manufactured, organic gummi candy in her pantry, and she doles out those little packets like they’re going out of style. I love going to her house. Shockingly, so does Jo. I often imagine–nay, hope–that heaven is like Clio’s house. Laughter in the back yard and delicious snacks neverending.

I know the basic concepts that are behind all this. My mother was also a food stasher, and likely her mother, who grew up poor in a dusty Texas town. Scarcity vs. abundance, blah blah blah. And I’ve tried to shift the dynamic—boldly buying a big $5 clam of strawberries and just polishing off the whole thing with Jo in one sitting on our front porch. Those moments of abandon feel good. But my default is the codger.

The bony old hoarder who thinks there’s never enough for her.

Pull up a chair, old gal. What are you hungry for?

***

I was inspired to write post by Glennon Melton’s Messy, Beautiful Warriors project on her blog, Momastery. The very first post I ever read there was this one. So I’ve kept in touch with her.

Learn about how to add your voice to the project here, and check out her book here.

(And no one paid me to write this, despite the commercial feel of that little banner down there. I just harnessed the inspiration this morning and thought you might enjoy knowing about Glennon’s stuff.)