Category Archives: eating
On Monday, as I was getting ready to leave work, I stopped to chat with our office manager (Hi, Ali!). As I somehow always do with other women, I got onto the topic of body image and weight. I find this happens so easily because most women I know have had some bad blood with their bodies in the past. But it’s so easy to talk about it now because so many smart women are getting wise to the fact that no, this isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy, and we want to talk about it. Because we want to resolve it, and just be OK with our bodies and use the time we spend worrying about our butt and abs to, I don’t know, fix the economy or reverse global warming. But I digress.
Anyway, we started talking about how, while we’d like to improve upon our figures now, it’s not the most important thing in our lives. Yes, we might want to lose a little weight or tighten up our rear ends, but these things aren’t our focus as they once were. We both have our stories of the times in our lives when focus turned to obsession, and examples of when our quests for health became the antithesis of health itself. But we’re realizing now that creating a good life doesn’t swirl around that one goal of ‘getting skinny.’ We’re understanding that this singular objective won’t make the other ones fall into place. Getting healthy, losing weight, toning up… all nice things, but not the key to happiness.
“I realized recently,” Ali told me, “that losing weight or getting the body I want is one little part of that circle that is my life. Whereas before, those things were the circle itself.” When she said this, I knew she had summed up how I had been feeling lately. In college, everything centered around sticking to my plan and staying small, meaning I let social events or enjoyable company with delicious food pass me by because it wasn’t what I had laid out for the day. ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t go running yet, I can’t.’ Damn, I bet I’m going to hear all about how fun that was tomorrow. ‘Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.‘ Plus that doesn’t fit into my calorie count for the day.
That circle had me spinning around and around, but I never got anywhere in life outside of my body. I stayed the same, and my goal never changed. I never progressed beyond, ‘Stay small and fit into that dress.’ It was like my life was a wheel of calories and miles and pounds and jeans sizes, and occasionally, the other stuff –my life – would happen because it accidentally got trapped in the spokes, and I would roll with it until I would snap out of it and get back to the plan. Lately, though, the circle of my life has involved so much more. Instead of those life experiences getting stuck to my tires, they ARE the tires. And I’ve decided that I can go ahead and let losing weight be a part of those rolling circles, but I won’t let it steer.
“In the same sense, I used to think that losing weight was the key, was the piece of the puzzle I needed to find before all of the others would fall into place, ” Ali said. ”But now, I’m finding that I’ve got this beautiful puzzle, and there’s only one piece missing, but I’m working on it.” And again, it was as if she had read my mind, because this is truly the way I’m feeling about my life. Am I entirely happy with my body? No, but I’m working on accepting where it is and improving on it as best I can daily. But the puzzle pieces I thought would fall into place when I was skinny or toned enough? I have so many of them now that I never had when I was thinner.
Career? When I first moved to Chicago, I thought life would just be easier and I would like my 9to5 if only I could get skinny again. But then I decided that I needed to be happy before I could get healthy, and the desk job wasn’t going to do it for me. So I quit, became a personal trainer, and I’ve been calmer and more content with my life (not to mention healthier!) ever since, no matter that my size 4 jeans are a long way from fitting.
Love life? I had boyfriend and a few little crushes and flings in college, but you know what? Even at my smallest, I never felt like myself around them. I had been working so much on my ass that I let the work I had to do on my head pile up to the point where I didn’t even know who I was. Now I’m dating someone who makes me feel more comfortable and happier in my own skin than I have in a long time, with or without makeup, “bikini-ready” or not.
Friends? I seemed to have some friends in college who liked to hang out with me because I looked a certain way and because I was the ’how can I make this healthier aka lower-calorie’ guru. I was told that I was ‘inspiring’ more than once, and while this might sound flattering, it was also a lot of pressure, and it meant that they didn’t see the personality part of me. They liked hanging out with me because I made them want to go running or make a salad, not because I was quirky or a good writer or because I lived for awkward stories and always had one to tell. But my friends now are the friends I’ve chosen, because I’m confident in who I am as a whole, and I know that I can afford to be picky. I can choose the friends whom I love for their never-ending optimism or no-nonsense logic, and who love me for the things I always wanted people to notice when all they paid attention to was what I was putting on my plate at dinner in the sorority house.
So you know what? Between my job and my friends and my dating life and my family and everything I have to be thankful for, I’ve got so many puzzle pieces in place, that while I would love to be perfectly fit and trim again, I’m not obsessing over that tricky middle piece that finishes the puzzle but doesn’t necessarily hold it together. That one piece didn’t make the others fall into place — it actually did quite the opposite. I was missing so many wonderful pieces when I did have a death grip on that elusive piece, because I let all of the others fall away.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
But, as always, dear readers, I want to hear from you! Does body image or weight play (or has it in the past) a huge role in your happiness? Is it the puzzle or the circle itself, or is that something you’re working for, but not feeling incomplete without? Have you learned that, while it can be important, it didn’t make or break your life? Spill!
Ah summer, a time of relaxation and fun in the sun. Right? Sure, but a lot of that fun involves food and booze, and when you’re trying to get in or stay in shape, that can be more than a little stressful. On top of that, May through September is a time notorious for being (the sometimes dreaded) wedding season. This means lots of champagne toasts, wedding cake, and sugary wedding favors – along with potential difficulty zipping up that bridesmaid’s dress. So what do you do when faced with all of these challenges? Avoid parties and BBQs altogether? Vow not to touch the spread at any family picnics? With a few tweaks to how you approach events, you can have your burger and eat it too.
Tip 1: Decide on what you reeeeeallly love
Is potato salad your all-time fave, or are you more of a strawberry shortcake kind of girl? Does the five-tier wedding cake look a-maz-ing, or are you drooling over the entrée being served? What do you love – and what could you do without? Think about how you normally operate, and stick with that. If you don’t normally love sweets, and the chocolate chip cookies or wedding cake appear cheap and store-bought, then go for the savory appetizers you do love! After all, if it’s wedding cake you’re missing out on this time, you’ll likely have the chance to indulge in it once a month for the next five months anyway.
Tip 2: Socialize first
Do not, I repeat, do not head straight for the food. First of all, most of us aren’t usually so starving when we arrive at these events that we must eat immediately (this is why every health article you’ve ever read says that it’s a good idea to have a healthy snack before!). At least I know I’m not. When I do want to eat right away, it’s less because my stomach is rumbling, and more because I’ve spotted my cousin’s amazing Texas salsa. So to avoid monopolizing the whole bowl, I need to catch up with family I haven’t seen in a while first. At weddings, go congratulate the family before you hit up the cheese plate (ahem, or the open bar). The truth is, many of us will go back for seconds of a few things, and maybe even thirds, so we can keep from grazing for the entire duration of the event if we don’t start immediately. Plus, isn’t chatting with friends and family what these summer celebrations are all about?
Tip 3: Make smart swaps
This one can be a little trickier when you are only presented with what your host provides. Eat whole wheat if it’s available, and go for the less caloric spreads when it comes to picnic sandwiches and burgers. Mix some more fresh veggies in with that potato or pasta salad. At weddings, chose lower-cal mixers for those drinks (again, watch that open bar!), and choose the healthier salad dressing if more than one is offered. And hey, if your date isn’t the world’s biggest green fan (a lot of guys I know aren’t), see if he’ll swap his veggies for your potatoes.
Tip 4: Get moving before the event
You know the drill – calories in shouldn’t exceed calories out. So make sure you burn some extra before you indulge that day. Plus, I can almost guarantee you won’t want to exercise after you find yourself in a food coma or after you’ve had that third vodka tonic (actually, I recommend staying away from the treadmill after this one).
Tip 5: Pick one vice and stick to it.
Ok, this one goes along with Tip #1 to a certain extent. At these events, it can be almost impossible to be a perfect angel when it comes to your choices. But the thing is, you don’t have to be. You are likely to indulge a little (which is more than fine every once in a while!), so try to just indulge in one area. Don’t have three burgers, four desserts, and ten beers. Pick one of those celebratory vices and stick with it. I’m not saying three burgers is OK (unless they’re teeny?), but I’m saying that you’ll feel a whole lot less guilty about it if that’s the only thing you splurged on. Same with weddings. If you want to get hammered because you’re back with all of your high school friends, then, well, I’m not going to stop you (mostly because I suppose that would be a bit hypocritical to say the least), but just don’t eat your wedding favor cookie along with everyone else’s at the table. Your hangover will be enough without you feeling chock full of white sugar and flour.
Has summer party and wedding season begun for you yet? How are you dealing with it? Do you have any other tips to making surviving these (fun!) events easier?
I know I’ve discussed the fact that I am not a foodie on numerous occasions. I write about health and fitness, and anytime food is mentioned, it’s usually in the context of those two things… not how good something tastes (with the exception of my Fage, dark chocolate, or coffee, all of which I am obsessed with) [Note: In the next week or so, I will be reviewing an eating plan I tested out, but again, it’s a whole lot less related to how much I enjoy food than it is to the effects it had on my body and wellness.]
However, I have plenty of friends who are foodies, and who try with all their might to make me appreciate food. And for that, I appreciate them. You see, as much as I’ve come to terms with NOT being a foodie, that doesn’t always make me immune to the contagious passion these friends have for food. Occasionally, a friend will tell me about a new recipe she tested or will encourage me to try a new food. And when I get a little inspired myself –and get a little more creative than broccoli and chicken — I’m usually really happy with the results. I may not stick with it, but that little flash is enough to make me feel like a little less of a failure in the kitchen (because I actually CAN cook, I just don’t love to do it) or the palate sophistication department.
One of my biggest cheerleaders for trying new foods is my good friend from way back when, Rachel. She is constantly telling me I need to branch out and try new foods. She is constantly encouraging me to grab a few new finds at the grocery store, or to experiment a little in the kitchen (shrimp! coconut butter! animal fat! ahh!) . Her latest advice (command, perhaps?)? I’m not allowed to pick a Mexican restaurant every time I go out to eat, because despite the fact that it is my favorite, there is SO much more out there. And she’s totally right. I shouldn’t go through life subsisting on veggie fajitas and salsa, even though I’m pretty positive I could.
So a few weekends ago, when friends from college came into town, I let them pick where we went for dinner because I knew I wouldn’t branch out if it were up to me. Well my friends (two lovely ladies I sang with at UofM, Becky & Rach) made a great pick (and decided against Mexican, which I forced myself to be OK with) and chose a little Middle Eastern restaurant up in Lakeview in Chicago. They both appreciate food a bit (OK, a LOT) more than I do, so they each ordered something adventurous and gave me the courage to do the same. I got a couscous plate with roasted, seasoned veggies and chicken, and it was so good! We got baklava, and I tried lamb! At the end of the night, I was so happy because I was able to spend a few hours with some of my favorite ladies, and because I had challenged myself to pick something new (ordering grains and dessert just doesn’t usually happen when I’m out) and had actually enjoyed it!
Ultimately, I will still never be a foodie. But that doesn’t mean I can’t latch onto the excitement other people have for eating every once in a while. I’m still not going to take pictures of my food or gush over a new dish I tried, but I can, from time to time, get a taste of what it’s like to really taste and enjoy food.
What about you? Are you a foodie? Do you influence some of your less appreciative friends? Or are you the one being influenced? Have you had any experiences like mine recently? Or do you really not care either way? Spill!