Feasting and Fasting: Finding a Healthy Relationship With Food
January is, of course, the time for everyone to start paying attention to diets and exercise goals and gym memberships and calorie-counting apps. I used to be the person who jumped right on that train as well, certain that I just needed a little discipline in my life to get back to a happy-for-me size. But I would eventually fail like most people whose jaws hurt after eating too many weeds at lunch. And then I would feel guilty for falling off the diet train, and by the time I was over feeling guilty and simply trying to be a regular person who doesn’t eat her feelings, Halloween would hit, and mini-Twixes are liiiife.
So, I’m starting a new relationship with food. It’s still new and young, but I’m testing out the waters to see how it works. The relationship goes like this:
I don’t want to think about food all the time.
Y’all, I get so tired of thinking about food. First of all, I’m a mom of three children, and we live on a budget. Therefore, just like any person who has to count her dollars every month as well as feed her children, I have to plan meals to eat at home because we can’t afford to eat out every meal because feeding five people is stupid expensive.
I’ve been making a menu plan for every meal for about 10 years, so I’m used to thinking about groceries and meal prep and ways to save money on food and reading labels to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup and cutting down on carbs and all the things.
I’ve used wall calendars and Google Calendars and apps and meal programs and spiral notebooks and whiteboards to accomplish this weekly thing where I sit down and decide what we are going to eat. (Now, I plan meals using my Bullet Journal and making my grocery list in a regular spiral notebook.) But this isn’t what I’m talking about when I say that I don’t want to think about food all the time.
I mean that I want to spend more time listening to my body and less time stressing myself out about the food I eat or don’t eat. When I am good to my body and when I listen to it, my body tells me what I need to eat. When I do that, then I have fewer guilty and shameful feelings and weird emotions about food.
I am tired of feeling guilty about carbs and cheese and sugar, and I am tired of pretending to like everything on top of lettuce, and I am tired of reading about new ways to shove different food in my pie hole that’s not actual pie. It takes up so much room in my noggin. So, I’m firing my brain. My brain is no longer in charge of my food (except for the menu plan because I have to do that and be an adult and feed the children).
I’ve talked a little bit about learning to listen to my body when I talked about Mom Gut, and I know it sounds a little woo-woo-ey and magical (I’m fluttering my fingers back and forth in front of my face). But hear me out: Our bodies respond to the environments around us and help us to make good choices about what we need. Our “Overthinking-Indoctrinated-on-Diet-Culture-and-Shame-Based-Language-about-Body-Shapes-and-Food” Dumb-Dumb Brains are horrible at telling us what our bodies need.
If I pay attention to my body, my mouth will let me know when I’m thirsty, and if I’m thirsty, I need to find water. If I pay attention to my body, I will notice that after an awesome weekend of fried-everythings-on-a-stick, then my body will crave something lighter and cleaner. Then, I can act on that and make some roasted veggies or (maybe, big maybe) a salad.
Anyway, I don’t know if you are tired of jumping on and off the diet train every year, but if you are, then here are some people that I love to listen to about food and about making good eating choices:
The Lazy Genius Podcast: Kendra is such a good voice in my ears. She talks about food in a way takes the morality out of food. No food is good or bad; it’s just food. Listen to these particular episodes: Episode #81: The Lazy Genius and Healthy Eating and Episode #46: The Lazy Genius Loses Weight.
Shauna Niequist’s lovely book Bread and Wine talks about a concept that truly helps me get through the holidays without feeling guilty about indulging in all of the pie, Chex Mix, cookies, cinnamon rolls, candy, etc. She simply looks at the calendar and says, “Now is a time where we feast and indulge,” or “Now is a time when I discipline myself and say no to too much. She talks about this concept as “fasting and feasting,”:
“I’m learning, slowly, a rhythm of feasting and fasting that brings a rich cadence to my year. I use the word ‘fasting’ loosely, as an opposite term to ‘feasting’ — permission and discipline — necessary slides back and forth along the continuum of how we feed ourselves.”
Anne Lamott: One of my favorite people on the planet, Anne Lamott, has a great approach to food that she has honed over a lifetime of experience. Read her Washington Post article here. A snippet: “Maybe some of us can try to eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to all problems.”
In conclusion, we have times where we celebrate and party with our pals and eat good food while we do that. But we also have times where we don’t do those things, where we say no to too many fried things and caffeine and decadent desserts, and where we, instead, eat some lean protein with a side of asparagus and drink water and call it a night.
So friends, this weekend, listen to your body. Drink more water. Go for a walk later. Good luck.