My relationship with food is a bit of tricky business.
When you talk about your attitude toward food, you're also almost always discussing body image as well; though I'm seldom successful marrying these two topics when necessary. And I think my basic struggle with food and image and eating is right on par with what most women experience, at least at some point in their lives. That is, I've never been concerned that I have had an eating disorder or needed to seek intervention, which I'm not making light of.
But the point is that a few Saturdays ago, over breakfast with friends, someone commented on how well Iris eats. And it's true. She is absolutely fearless when it comes to food. She gets this from her dad, I think, whose palate is so broad and bold. If something is edible--and sometimes, uh, not--she wants to try it. This girl! Her current favorite foods (which are on rotation as she is, after all, a toddler) are tomatoes and mushrooms.
Don't believe me? The other day she asked to bake cookies. I set her up to stir the dough and rather than snag chocolate chips, I saw her "sneaking" cherry tomatoes from the fruit bowl on the counter. If only my problem was sneaking tomatoes!
Essentially, for me, the problem lies in being an "all or nothing" sort of person, and when you're an "all or nothing" sort of person, this principle generally applies to everything. Obviously. So if I'm doing some sort of program or diet then you can believe I will carry it out to completion and to the fullest letter of the law; but should I stumble, or let's say, as is normally the case every day, there are no rules to follow, well, then I lack all nature of self-control.
And I should clarify that this mostly applies to sugar. Oh, I could write sonnets to sugar. Poetry about chocolate is flooding my brain! Though I don't discriminate! Vanilla- and coffee- and nut-flavored desserts are equally fine, the lesser contenders being fruit desserts. (Though those also may find themselves worthy if they're not competing against something chocolately in the dessert case.)
Like I said, when you talk about food, you also really mean "body;" and in high school I did crazy things like eat only salad all in the name of pursuing a body that I could never have: my sister's. You see, my sister is gorgeously equipped with long, slender limbs and can effortlessly wear whatever might be lying on her floor that morning; and I might add that she's always been this way, even when her diet of choice was 17 bowls of sugary cereal a day. And now we can joke about our physical differences and appreciate our own builds; but when I was young and couldn't eat anything I wanted and would still gain pounds or go up a bra size each year (I'm ALLOWED to exaggerate!), it was a challenge.
I'm not a teenager anymore, THANK THE LORD; and though I still struggle with self-image (I am a woman, after all), I've come to be more gracious with myself regarding my shape. I'm learning to be comfortable in my own skin and to work what I got, amen?
But when you're a mom, a major fear is that you will project your own struggles to your kids--especially daughters. Heaven forbid I'm the crazy mom who refuses her child the promise of a treat, the excitement of a "just because" ice cream cone. That's the stuff of childhood! And I love the squeals and the silly faces Iris makes when she gets a treat. (Seriously guys, it's the funniest little voice she does and I was reciting it in my head as I typed that and making a note that I must get a video of this goodness.)
And also, I love that she loves tomatoes and mushrooms. I love that she asks for fruit, especially "baaaans," which are bananas to you. That was my hope. I prayed that she would learn to love real foods, for what they were meant to be--biting into fresh strawberries in the summer and thinking it was the sweetest treat, or snapping a carrot in half to satisfy a crunchy craving.
It's such a delicate balance, but as I try to maintain it for my daughter, I find I'm also keeping myself in check. When I've had a bad day and I want to emotionally eat my way through a tin of cookies, already feeling guilty before I've consumed them, I ask, "Would I let my daughter do this? Is this a food choice I'd make for her?" I'm grateful that she can inherit traits like enjoying a full range of foods; but that I can also show her the value of making good choices. She's only two now, but I hope she can continue to enjoy food freely, without feeling consumed by thoughts of what to eat and what she looks like. And I hope I can keep learning from her and what I want for her, serving as an example while I work out my own balance.
Photo by Hannah Lesley, who is amazing and will be helping me out here now and then.