We all have a story.
We especially have a story when it comes to food. Many of us were raised on diets, striving for a skinny body at the forefront of our life goals. Toss in when you grew up, your culture, and your parents and you certainly have a story that is not only unique to you but relatable to so many other women. Your story is other people’s stories, and there can be great comfort in knowing you’re not alone. If you struggle to make peace with food, your body, or feel relentlessly hard on yourself at times for never being enough, shared stories can help you heal.
I want to share a little of my story because maybe you can relate. I have so many good memories of food when I was young. I have a lot of different cultures in my family. Jewish grandparents from my father’s side and Norwegian and French heritage from my mother’s. Food in my family was central to celebrating holidays and special dinners. Remembering brisket and matzoh ball soup at my grandmother’s in Long Island, or picking blueberries at the cabin in Minnesota are my most indelible memories. I was adventurous with food and encouraged to try all sorts of ethnic dishes. Like I’ve heard it said, one of my favorite memories of childhood was never having to count calories. Food was simply enjoyed.
When I turned 11 years old, things changed. I was growing up, no longer a small child but more a young woman, and feeling the pressure. My father let me know that I might want to think about losing a few pounds (I was not fat, but apparently not thin enough for his standards), and how about some more exercise? He got me to go running with him, which lasted maybe a day. It would never be enough.
At the same time, I was introduced to my first diet found in a magazine, and as I recall, it was as close to starving yourself on a daily basis as you could get. I tried it, lasted a few days, and gave up. Without her realizing it, I was officially introduced to the world of shame about my body, and a quick education on yo-yo dieting.
This journey lasted me decades. On and off diets and exercise programs where I would lose weight then gain it back and on and on. When I finally had children I got more curious about how to lose weight and keep it off without starving, suffering, and most importantly, not punishing myself over food. I had already gotten a Master’s degree in clinical nutrition and went to culinary school for health-supportive cooking. I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (MS) and had survived a twin pregnancy (and one more after that). I felt too important to give up on, and I was tired of beating myself up for my body.
I did a lot of research, almost all of which they never taught me in graduate school. I knew as much as there was to know about the science of nutrition, but little was mentioned about getting focused on why you want to lose weight or how to stay present with your food. Eating mindfully, with kindness, and with intuition were protocols that I was not educated on at school.
I know now that you cannot maintain weight loss without them. It’s not negotiable.
I was fortunate. I had always been curious about the connection between food and health. Food as medicine was the mantra of the cooking school I attended, and knowing how to cook and eat well was an enormous advantage. Yet, with all my education and hands-on experience in the kitchen, I could not make permanent shifts in my thinking about diets, weight, body image, and food until I infused self-compassion and intention into my life.
I lost the weight I wanted and I have kept it off. I have also grown older since then, my body is as ever-changing as my hormone fluctuations and I feel I am constantly in a phase of transition. It helps me to share my story because secrets indulge the shame we might have around our bodies and food.
I have so much more to my story. My history with emotional eating and using food to soothe some deep trauma are among them. I’m so excited to announce that I am starting a podcast called Real Food Stories. I will be sharing my stories and history around food, cooking, and nutrition for women, as well as other people’s stories.
I know this to be true: when we share, we heal.
I officially launch this May 2022 and I am looking for other women to share their stories too. Do you have a story to tell about how you were raised with food, your culture, and your family? If so, I would love to hear from you. You can be a guest on my podcast! Please reach out to [email protected] to let me know.