A few months ago, my 5 year old would ask me several times a day, "Mom, is this candy (or whatever he was wanting to eat) bad?" Or he would say, "Mom, I'm going to drink water instead of juice because it's good for me." It started me thinking about how I really want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food, and that I don't want my issues with food to project themselves on to them. I tried to remember if I tell my kids that some food is "bad", and I really can't remember using those words. That being said, I'm pretty sure I insinuate that certain foods are bad by how much I restrict them or the way I react to eating them myself. This got me thinking about how I view food...Do I believe that certain foods are "bad" and others are "good?" Here is my conclusion...I don't necessarily think that there is a master list of bad foods and good foods and that you should ONLY eat the "good" stuff. I think there are certain foods that feed, strengthen and nourish your body, and there are foods that have little nutritional value (but taste SUPER good...cheetos?), and you only "win" when you can find the balance.
So, what is that balance? And how do you find it? Is that balance thrown WAY out of whack when foods are labeled "bad" and are restricted? If you are anything like me...as soon as someone says something is not good for you or takes it away...that's all you think about and want. It becomes a temptation that can lead to obsession...
Growing up, my siblings and I were not allowed a lot of candy or treats. My parents weren't "no sugar" Nazis...I think that, just like me with my kids now, they knew that candy was not the best nutritional option, and so it was restricted. That, of course, meant that my siblings and I would go to great lengths to find it, take it and then sneakily eat it when the coast was clear. I should tell you that my mom is a master sleuth...so we had to be clever about it, and it was always a great accomplishment when you succeeded! My brothers would sneak ice cream bars and then hide the sticks in the basement shower drain. They would take candy and shove the wrappers in a tiny little hole under the bathroom vanity (these were discovered years later when the bathroom was remodeled). My grandma made the YUMMIEST brownies with a rich, creamy coconut topping covered in decadent chocolate frosting. My mom would put them in our big chest freezer downstairs, and I'm not kidding when I say those things would call to me. I would think obsess about them, plan the best time to sneak in, take one from the pan and then carefully rearrange the remaining ones to make it seem as though nothing was missing. When we did have a chance to eat sweets without restriction (like Halloween or Christmas), we would go CRAZY and eat until we were sick because we never knew if or when the next candy feeding frenzy would happen. I remember going to my friend's houses where there were bowls of candy sitting all over the place, and to my shock and incredulation...NO ONE WAS EATING THEM! My friend's didn't seem to care, and the bowls just sat there...full and lonely (and calling out to me...). I know, you're thinking, "well duh, THIS would be why you struggled with your weight!" And it's true. I've spent most of my life obsessing over food...mostly sweets (wouldn't it be FABULOUS if all I thought about was when the next opportunity to eat KALE would present itself?).
It's just been in the last few years that I've tried to work through my "issues" and figure out how to stop myself from "living to eat" and start "eating to live." I used to finish breakfast and almost immediately start thinking about what's for lunch...and the same thing after lunch about dinner. I rarely listened to my body's hunger cues. I ate when I was bored...when I was tired...when I was celebrating...when I was sad...and so on! I'm doing my best to change my thinking. This year's training schedule has really opened my eyes to the importance of FUELING my body instead of just feeding it. When I don't eat right, I don't feel good and I don't enjoy my workouts because I'm exhausted and weak. When I give my body good nutrition, I feel stronger, work harder and am just happier overall.
I have a friend who told me once that she always leaves at least one bite of food on her plate at every meal as a way to discipline herself to stop eating when she was full instead of when the plate was clean. That has been my personal goal for this challenge. I'm DEFINITELY not perfect at it, and I still forget a lot of the time. At first leaving one bite was torture. Sometimes, I wanted it because I didn't always remember to really savor that second to last bite and so I panicked and would want to eat the last one. But mostly, it just seemed wasteful to throw it in the trash. But, then I realized that eating something when I wasn't hungry is not a good use of food and therefore is STILL WASTEFUL...and doesn't make for a slimmer WAIST! When I really try to focus on eating to satisfy my hunger, leaving the last bite is not a problem. In fact, I often leave several bites, and I'm not resentful about it...I'm usually pretty proud of myself!
I've also stopped looking at the "3 Sweets Rule" as a restriction. Instead of focusing on all of the sweets I'm missing out on...I tell myself that I GET 3 sweets EVERY week. And then I think of the 3 yummiest things to indulge in and make those worth the splurge. I'm slowly giving up the restrictions I've placed on certain foods for my kids. I'm trying to educate them about foods that are nutritious and how their bodies are affected by foods with little nutritional value. It's hard because they don't always make the choices that I want them to make, but I'm hoping that at some point knowing that the candy will always be there will make them want it less often. I'm doing my best to stop obsessing over and labeling foods in my mind as "bad" or "good" and just enjoy eating as a means to living a happy and healthy life!
Feel free to share your thoughts below!