You are what you eat…
I do believe this-
within the proper context.
It is easy for me to misconstrue my worth with how I feel about myself.
For 10 years, my value was determined by what I ate… more accurately, what I did not eat. It took a hearty two years for me to redirect a lifetime of negative thought patterns and poor coping skills. I will never go so far as to say that I have “recovered” because each day is greeted by the reminder of my past trials with food. Thankfully, it no longer illustrates my daily life.
During my pregnancy with Noah, I had a healthy appetite, gained all the weight necessary to grow a stout young man, and was comfortable eating. After Noah’s birth, I submerged myself in all things nutrition. I read a plethora of books, and informed myself on how to nourish myself and my baby via breast milk. It became a passion. I lived and breathed nutrition. This was a refreshing change from the typical manner in which I was accustomed to regarding food. During the learning process, I lost myself in this approach and that approach… Vegetarian, gluten free, raw, vegan, paleo, you name it, I researched it and at the very least considered it. It is one thing to try out diets when it is for yourself, but I was now in charge of nourishing my family and could not imagine taking a 1 year old along for the ride when nutrition was vital to his growth and development. I spent so much time thinking about how to feed my growing boy, my husband, and myself that I grew too attached to the label. I would feel like a complete failure if I consumed a cube of cheese or if the broth in the soup was chicken instead of vegetable. I had the best of intentions, but they soon became an obsession. I began to equate my worth with the label with which I referred to myself. Vegan, omnivore, cannibal (one of these is not like the other) and how well I adhered to their list of rules.
When we decided we were ready for another baby, it was my goal to put on a few pounds. I had a long discussion about my health, at that time, and future goals with my doctor in Rochester. It was one of the most forthright conversations I have ever had to date regarding myself and how I view food. Throughout my pregnancy with Mae, I was sick as a dog. When they say morning sickness ends in the first trimester, it is a lie. I was miserable until Dec. 5, 2014 at 10:16 a.m., except for a total of 13 days that were evenly distributed throughout week 24 and 33. I never quite reached my goal for pregnancy weight gain because of this struggle. I went from feeling bad about my food intake not being healthy enough to doing my best to keep anything down, regardless if it was beef stew meat or kale (kale was never eaten during my pregnancy with mae, fyi). I was unable to keep my normally, healthy diet intact and was forced to do whatever I could to prevent nausea and grow a babe. I learned to eat for hunger. I learned to eat what my body truly wanted. I ate too many bananas and peanut butter, too much bread and butter, too much buttermilk (yes, really), but it was what I craved, what my body needed. It was liberating.
Since her birth, my appetite has come back full circle and I am again craving, eating, and enjoying my old favorites. I am thankful for the lessons I learned with food during my pregnancy with her. That said, it has also been a challenge. With the added stress from having PPD, two children, one being a non-verbal toddler, and the other is technically non-verbal as well (ha… maybe that is only funny to a special needs parent), and the challenges that come along with having a newborn and a toddler to care for, I have had a hard time staying on top of taking care of myself and feeling positive about caring for my needs. I have found that under stress, the easiest thing for me to control is food. When that is no longer an option, I feel like it is hard to stay afloat.
I have had to remind myself each morning that I am not what I eat, whether I had peanut butter banana oats for breakfast or missed my opportunity to eat and scarfed down two dove chocolates from the bottom of my purse on the way to the store for diapers. My value does not come from how closely I can follow a diet, or how organically my apples were grown.
Pursuing this approach to food is no longer an option. I have a daughter now. I realize that I already have a son, but honestly, Noah has never once showed any concern or interest in my eating habits except that if I eat anything, he too eats. Raising a daughter is scary stuff, especially with a past like mine when it comes to food. Daughters are their mothers.
My hope is that Mae will never have to deal with issues surrounding food and personal value. I never want her to watch me be the mom who eats salad while the rest of the family enjoys pizza (because truth be told, you’re lying if you say you really want salad… I’ve been there, lying to myself) I never want to be the mom that makes her consider food for anything other than it’s intended purpose… to nourish, to enjoy, to bring together, to celebrate.
Mae, you are the best motivation. You are far more valuable than jewels.
I love you, my little ruby.
For further reading on this topic, check out this post