Monday, 17 June 2013

Good Girl. Cookie?

I've worked very hard on housework and so I deserve some rich chocolate... I was exceptionally patient with my daughter today so I should get my husband to bring home a scrumptious treat... We made leaps and bounds in our to do list so we should go out for pizza... I'm having a horrible day so I need a piece of decadent cake... I royally screwed up and a box of sweet cookies will remedy my sorrow... I am quite moody so I require some smooth ice cream..

Our relationship with food is extremely emotional based. Yes, we eat to nourish ourselves. Yes, we eat to savor the flavor. Yes, we eat because we have to. But more often than not we eat, and choose what to eat, based on our mental and emotional state. We may be completely aware of this or it may be a subconscious action, pulling on us as we try different foods and feel no satisfaction until we get the right treat.

Personally, my journey with food has been quite a detrimental roller coaster. I believe that many ailments I had by the time I was a teenager were related to a lacking diet. This improper choice of provisions was really out of ignorance. I had bread (and not good bread) with every single meal, and often with snacks. I consumed canned and boxed meals daily and plenty of processed items like soda crackers. My diet was the cause of my troubles but also exacerbated the problem. I couldn't handle any fiber, like in a raw vegetable, and many healthy items, like garlic or tomatoes or chocolate (yes, it's healthy when not mixed with all the sugar) were absolutely off limits.

In my frustration with food, mixed with the other stresses of life, I became anorexic. I would go all day without eating and then the little I would have would not be very healthy, like a package of instant noodles. I didn't think I had a problem. When I was asked I would claim I was not hungry, and I would not be lying. I no longer knew how to identify my body's messages. My stomach ached continuously, as well as my head. When I was 15 I suffered a gaping wound to my eyebrow when after consuming some alcohol after a whole day with no nourishment, I passed out. As they prepared me for stitches the hospital checked my blood sugar and confirmed it was very low.

As I got older I started to learn about the benefits of healthy eating. I realized that starving myself was detrimental and no longer used that route when I worried about my appearance. My obsession with weight continued, as it often does with a history of anorexia, and I tried many other healthier methods. Or so I thought. I would obsess over different exercises. I would try fad diets. One year I didn't eat a bite of fruit because I thought it had too much sugar. I look back now and know I was depriving myself of consuming many essential nutrients.

At about 20, with some healthy changes and a new found involvement in church that helped some of my stress, my health improved enough to eat more foods. A whole new world opened up. Unfortunately, because of the unhealthy relationship I had with food, I did not handle my new freedom responsibly. I gained a whopping fifty pounds quite quickly and started eating many things that I shouldn't. My battle continued until the weight suddenly dropped again with the diagnoses of cancer. My shock into really learning to take care of myself.

I have read a few times now about how our relationship with food develops at a very young age. My subconscious reaction to temptation and choices has been slowly worked on in a never ending growing process. Gone are the days of eating a whole box of crackers for dinner. But I still have to tell myself that yes, I deserve something, but it is not junky food. I deserve something more beneficial. Like a favourite wholesome meal, a relaxing massage, a good book, or money toward a new necklace.

Now it is time for me to help my daughter have a healthy outlook on her eating. Of course I will teach her that food is to gain the nutrients to feed all the systems in her body for maximum functioning and growth. Of course she will see that food is fun to enjoy when socializing. But I must also make an effort to keep food as a fundamental part of life and not a prize or a solution to unrelated problems.

The biggest way I can do that is to never congratulate her efforts with a treat or console her sorrows with a dessert. And when I think about it, that would actually be an easy way out. True relationships take patience and commitment. A donut or candy passed over is much less time involvement than going somewhere together. A piece of cake is much less uncomfortable than being vulnerable and having a heart to heart. Yes, the heart to heart may come easier with the ice breaker of good food on the palate. But it shouldn't be necessary. Because it will teach that it is always necessary.

I have noticed that many people try to strengthen a relationship with a child through sweets. They sneak them in so they are favored. They pile it on so they are loved. But wouldn't the relationship be more genuine if it was based on finding common ground? On getting in touch with each others emotions and having a good laugh? On building amazing memories?

Judge me if you will, but using the surmise that you spoil in this area because of your love is acting in ignorance. If I love someone I don't just want what they will enjoy now. I want them to grow into a healthy, happy, flourishing human being. And that will happen to a greater extent when they learn to eat well. You can argue someone is fine with their poor diet. They may be fine. But they could be finer. Who wouldn't want the best for the ones they love?

This required knowing what best means. My mom thought that Cheerios verses Fruit Loops was best. Sure, it's better, but not by far. There are a lot of things that we didn't used to know about food. But we know the processed cake from the store is not good. We know MacDonald's is not good. We start with what we know and remain willing to learn.

Sure, there are the moments that you lower standards (I'm not talking lowered to MacDonald's). The really busy days. The birthday parties. The trips in the car (there you have to be careful again because if you associate trips with junk and then one day travel frequently it will be difficult to make responsible choices). I think these occasions could be done right, but right just doesn't always happen. But my wrong moments aren't going to be because my daughter deserves it. I want her to deserve a sticker or a trip to the park instead.

I encourage you, it is worth it. My battle has progressed. I can eat a variety of foods without getting ill. I have almost lost the idea of food as a treat or a comfort. Almost. Still a work in process. But the treats are much less frequent and much smaller. My palate has changed. The girl who once could coat a double chocolate cookie in chocolate sauce now finds that chocolate sauce unbearable. The girl who used to eat a whole box of cookies only really likes home made ones once in a while and feels sick after eating too many. A girl who used to think a day wasn't complete without a few servings (or more) of chocolate a day can get by with one (none is only possible if I strictly fast from it).

We just finished some home made lasagna and raw carrots. We won't be having dessert. Not because she had a temper tantrum in the store. Not because she just hurt the dog. But just because.

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