Food, Mothers, Families

Today’s Happy Note: Honey-Lemon-Echinacea cough drops.  They’re special.

Exercise: I felt really icky this morning but felt better as the day went on.  I made a little pharmacy run for cough drops, ibuprofen, and kleenex and just felt like I had to run afterwards!  I did my favorite route along the Hudson River, 3 miles down and 3 back with 20 minutes of abs in the middle.  I did 30 reps of 16 different exercises and my tummy was burning. Some of my favorites include boat pose and crunches with legs at 90 degrees in the air.  Averie did a great post about abs — her favorite exercises, how to get good definition (hint: you need to do a few things besides crunches),  etc. I recommend it, it is very informative and inspiring; I love the attitude she takes that when we want something for ourselves we have to get out there and go for it!  Something I want?  A date.  Or two.  I do not think this is greedy.  I don’t yet have a plan for getting said dates, though.  Any ideas?

What’s something you want?  And what’s your plan of attack for getting it?  I say go for it!

I managed to forget to take pictures of everything today so I thought I would talk a little about food and my childhood (in conjunction with one another).  These are topics that I have definitely talked about before, but not really together.

Feeling Confined: Food, Mothers, Families

My parents, as you well know by now, are both doctors.  Good doctors (my dad was recently ranked second best doctor in the county!  Go papa!).  Both of my parents were very (and are) informed about health,  and their jobs allowed us economic and social access to a variety of healthy experiences.  I was a gymnast for ten years, a swimmer, a soccer player (briefly), runner, diver, scooter-rider, park-going, bike-riding, playground-loving kid.  My parents knew about the importance of fresh fruits and veggies.  They knew that kids don’t need to be pumped full of juice or candy or highly processed junk.  Other kids were bringing sandwiches on white bread to lunch; I had multigrain bread sandwiches with sides of carrots and apples.

I am extraordinarily grateful for the healthy childhood my parents gave me, in so many ways.

Last night I was talking on the phone with my dad and he mentioned that he absolutely had to buy a box of cocoa crispies.  His rationale?  He still felt the need to defy my mother’s “food rules.”  All this time I had thought I was the only one who was traumatized by them!  Don’t get me wrong; my mom always had the best of intentions, but sometimes food could become a stressful experience within our already chaotic household.

Sample “rules” (most unspoken):

-no cereal with more than 7-8 grams of sugar

-no white bread

-dinner isn’t dinner without about five servings of produce

-fake food is not food (ex: processed cheese stuff)

-pop and candy are useless calories

-you don’t need dessert everyday

-fast food is a once a year kind of thing.  If you do eat it, you should not enjoy it.

I think that for the most part these are quite good principles to live by.  And for the most part, I live by them today. For example, I have no interest in most highly processed foods, outside of th occasional oreo, and I quite dislike fast food. But there was something constraining about the relationship with food that I experienced.  I think that my mother was right to be concerned about what she put in her own body and the bodies of her children and husband, but is there a way to remain concerned without becoming obsessive?

When I was 16 I came to NYC on a trip with my poetry team.  One day, we all ate lunch in Harlem at a fried chicken place.  I had a milkshake.  I was terrified of the fried chicken because I had always been taught (and believed) it to be somehow evil.  Food is not evil.  It does not possess any inherent goodness or badness.  It is food.  In a single moment, much of my understanding of the world unraveled: it became clear to me that not everyone did or could eat the way my family and I did.  I had been “food privileged.”  And at the same time, I experienced a disordered relationship with food in much the same way that many very unhealthy people do.  How could these two worlds exist simultaneously within me?

In a way, they still coexist.  I find myself wondering if my actions with food are “correct.”  What if I eat a sandwich for lunch and there is too much bread?  What does “too much bread” even mean?  I don’t know what, precisely, is a proper relationship to have with food.  How I should interact with it on a day to day basis.  I know one important thing: there is a major difference between real food and processed food.  But other than that, I don’t know a whole lot.

I think one other thing I understand is this: maybe I don’t need to know all the answers.  Maybe I only need to live and breathe and be.  Maybe the answer does not lie in the precise outlining of a relationship with food.  Maybe there is no perfect program, but rather, I will find answers and comforts in not following any rules at all — neither restrictive rules nor wildly unrestrictive ones.

I am picturing my eight year old self lying sprawled on an asphalt driveway, a friend outlining my giddy body in pink chalk.  I think this is the rule; remember what it feels like to color yourself in with chalk; remember that outline, how it was sometimes blurry and jagged.  This is what food is.  It is not black and white; my relationship with it may be jagged and this is okay — maybe even beautiful.  Little pink chalk body outlines, surrounded by happy blue stars and yellow suns: this is beautiful.  This is happy.  Food can make me happy too.  A million things can make happy, and I do not have to participate in any relationship in which I feel constrained.  I want that girl back — the one playing with the bucket of colored chalk.  That girl.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 01:24:33

    Really fascinating post Caronae…it is interesting how we are all brought up differently, for example neither of my parents are health professionals, in fact white bread was the norm but I always preferred brown, fast food was an occasional treat, but certainly not ‘bad’ and processed foods were a part of life until things got weird with the eating disorder.

    I think so many of us have uncertain relationships with food, even now I still question whether I’m eating ‘right’ and what exactly ‘right’ is?

    As for dates, do you mean the food kind, or the romantic kind? If you mean the latter, then it won’t suprise you when I recommend – seriously it’s given me loads more confidence 🙂

    Sarah x


  2. eatspinlive
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 06:56:04

    Something I want super badly is a bike! I have been saving up for it for a while…but I still have a ways to go! It will be so amazing when i finally can afford one 🙂


  3. Christine @ Grub, Sweat and Cheers
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 09:16:41

    That’s a really interesting post. I was brought up quite similarly – though our good food was more a case of economy & nutrition – my family had a limited income and my mom economized in every way. Home made bread, a large vegetable garden, fruit picking to make enough jam for a year…canning & pickling year-end veg to get through the winter. We rarely had junk. At Christmas we would get one case of pop and maybe potato chips. We went to McDonalds a couple times a year.

    One would think growing up this way would have led me to have no food issues but the opposite happened. When I left home at 17 all I wanted was white bread, junk food and soda.

    I’m now trying to find a middle ground when it comes to my kids. I don’t make things off-limits, I don’t label food ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and instead talk about ‘everyday’ food and ‘sometimes’ food. I’m hoping they’ll avoid some of the all or nothing thinking I still battle this way.

    Dating? Oh I wish I had good advice for you. If I were in the market I definitely think I’d go with one of the online services like eharmony.

    Hope you have a lovely weekend!


    • caronae
      Apr 30, 2010 @ 09:31:39

      *oooo* we used to grow our own vegetables and do canning and jam-making. That was the best! Sounds like you are taking a GREAT approach with your own kids!


  4. Sonia
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 09:35:03

    I can really relate to the way you were raised. My father was a raw foodist so I grew up with a high raw diet. My parents were divorced though, so when I had visitation with my mom- I was still a vegetarian, but she ate dairy and I got all of the pizza and yogurt (ohh how I loved yogurt) that I wanted. After I moved away from home I sort of went nuts on eating junky foods and stuff, and now I’m trying to get back to that point in my life where I was healthier and actually WANTED fruits and veggies as a snack…not chocolate or crackers. I know those things are alright in moderation, but I have problems moderating.

    I too loved Averie’s ab post, and everything she was saying in general. It reminded me that I need to get back to eating lots of fresh unprocessed foods. It’s the way to go, I know it- I just have to start practicing it.

    Something I want…a flat stomach no doubt! I don’t even need a 6-pack haha. I carry all of my excess weight in my midsection and thighs. Ugh! Why can’t it go to my booty?! I know that clean eating and exercise are the way to get what I want. I need to stop thinking and obsessing over the things I need to do, and actually DO them.

    This was a great post!


  5. Maggie @ Fit.Fun.Food
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 09:36:45

    This is a really beautiful post! I think it’s scary and amazing to realize how much of our philosophies about food we learned from out parents. I don’t think there’s a single person in my immediate family who doesn’t have a hang-up about food. I was in the same situation where everything we ate growing up was really healthy. I think it gave me some good guidelines to follow, but at the same time it did make me unreasonably afraid of unhealthy foods. Thanks for sharing your story!


  6. Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 10:56:25

    My mom absolutely gave me a huge complex about food- to this day, she’s my biggest trigger. I don’t post about it because she reads my blog, but yeah, it’s rough to have parentally-imposed “food rules,” especially when they’re put in place to keep you skinny. You wrote this post so well- it’s great that you’re realizing that your mom’s rules aren’t really rules at all; everyone has their own preferences when it comes to indulging, so to hell with the rules!

    About the dates: for so long, I wanted nothing more than a boyfriend. When a boy finally came along that was interested in me, I settled for someone who wasn’t right for me, which ended up really changing my personality and interests for awhile. It’s okay to want companionship, but I’ve found that the less you want a relationship, the easier it is to fall into one. You are an amazing, bright and beautiful woman- prince charming will absolutely come along, but he might not be on the same schedule as you 🙂

    Hope you have a wonderful Friday my dear!


  7. Katherine: What About Summer?
    Apr 30, 2010 @ 18:21:15

    what a beautiful memory from childhood and message of finding balance and truth in the whirlwind of eating worries. thank you for sharing your thoughts!


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