Saturday, July 19, 2014

How hating eggs is healing my relationship with food

(To be clear, I understand that food is an inanimate object and, as such, is not capable of sustaining the  aforementioned relationship. Bear with me, this goes somewhere, I promise.)

Just sitting around the homestead this afternoon pounding hardboiled egg and cucumbers for the least-satisfying lunch you could possibly imagine.

We're on day 11 of our latest venture down Paleo row and I have to confess: it's wearing on me. What I'm wearing, however, is falling off me, so I feel I have no choice but to continue this bold adventure into the land of previously unpronounceable vegetables and mineral water. And eggs. Oh so many eggs.

Here's a word to the wiser; if you're going to adopt thee most expensive nutritional lifestyle du jour, be sure you check out your bank account and then cross-reference it with the going rate for grass fed beef in your neck of the notfarmland, because if you don't have a 4 digit grocery budget, you are going to be dwelling for the next month in a special place I'd like to call poultry purgatory. Do you like eggs? You do? That's nice. I bet you like scrambled eggs with a little cheese on top and a side of buttery toast with a nice foamy latte on the side. And maybe even jam.  Now take away the butter, the toast, the jam, and the milk in that latte, and you have a perfectly Paleo breakfast! You could even add some banana-flavored eggs on the side.

Do you get the sense of desperation in my menu? Do you have a good sense for the quiet dread I feel when I step into the grocery store, knowing that for an additional 19 days I'll be circling the perimeter  loading up on meat, raw nuts, coconut milk, green things, and dozens upon dozens of eggs? Let me be clear: Trader Joe's is not any fun right now. Not any fun at all. But just as I was gearing up to write this whiney whine of a post about how much I wanted to chuck this whole experiment and drown my sorrows in a giant glass of prosecco, I decided I'd better do a quick weight and measurement check, just for posterity's sake, you know?

My clothes are definitely fitting looser and I have decidedly more energy in the mornings, which is a nice change from silently begging to be knocked unconscious when Joey busts in at o'dark thirty demanding cereal and cold milk. Always with the cold milk. Never lukewarm. So I hopped on the scale to sneak a peak at what all this paleo-ing and walking has accomplished thus far, and my eyes almost popped out of their sockets.

Because 6.5 lbs. In 11 days. Eating entire fistfuls of guacamole and sides of cows and more almonds and eggs and glugs of olive oil than you could shake a strip of bacon at. (And plenty of that too, by the way) And yet there it was, the irrefutable proof on the digital readout that this is working, and that, hard as it is to admit on a 90-degree day which just begs for a Corona with lime, this is so worth it.

I busted out the tape measure just to see if there was any movement on those numbers too, and behold, my wasted waistline is an entire inch and a half trimmer. In less than 2 weeks. I feel like I could have visibly observed the shrinkage if I had been paying close enough attention. I'm shocked.  Happy shocked, for sure. But also kind of appalled by how simple it really was to finally get that number moving in the right direction. Because for as much of my life as I can remember, I've struggled with my weight.

When I was 120 lbs and swimming competitively in high school, I struggled with my weight. When I was 50 lbs heavier and battling a severe eating disorder and binge drinking every night of the week in college, I struggled with my weight. When I was a healthy 135 and walking down the aisle in my beautiful wedding dress, I struggled with my weight. And when I was a first-time mom riding a desk full-time and pounding cheezits to keep the nausea at bay while close to 60 lbs packed themselves onto my petite frame, I struggled with my weight.

It's been a lifelong struggle, but for me, the real battle hasn't been with my own body or how I happened to be naturally shaped, but with food itself. Food has never been simply a nourishment and a gift, it has always felt more like a curse, like an abusive friendship that offers false comfort and momentary happiness but then talks about you behind your back and maybe steals your boyfriend. I am, and have been, I can now say pretty confidently, addicted to the use of food as a coping mechanism or comforter. I hesitate to say addicted to food itself because, well, it's kind of necessary to survival and intrinsically good. But have I been treating it right? Have I been using it as God designed and intended?

Decidedly, no.

So I'm putting this out there for a couple reasons. Accountability, sure, but also because I want to be able to look back and pinpoint where and when it was that I finally in some infinitesimally small way began to see the light about this. I also don't think I'm alone in this. And while I don't think that the world is populated exclusively by chubby young mothers who bury their feelings of angst and stress in a box of sea-salt almonds and red wine, (disclaimer, I do not drink boxed wine. Only boxed almonds) I do think that there are lots of different people who struggle similarly in their relationship with the inanimate objects in their refrigerators.

I think that there are probably plenty of skinny people who have the same struggle and perhaps just don't wear it as apparently around their waistline. And I think there are lots of perfectly average-sized people who would love to feel control around a buffet table at a party or on a date at a Mexican restaurant while facing down a bottomless chip basket, feeling like that thing in the middle of the table has way more control over them then it should (and, coincidentally, way more of their attention than the person sitting across the table from them.

This Whole30 has been my most successful "diet" attempt in years, and I'm not sure why that is, but I'm so grateful. I'm grateful for the space that has cleared in my head (and yes, around my love handles) and for the growing sense of detachment I'm experimenting at meal times and in-between times, because the only thing more exhausting than chasing around 3 little kids all day while trying to make room for prayer, work, exercise and all else that life demands is to do all that while thinking constantly of the next thing you're going to eat (or not eat) or what you're going to treat yourself with once bedtime rolls around because it was a hard day and you earned it and you ran 3 miles, after all.

With the exception of the mileage logged, none of those circumstances actually have any bearing on what one ought to put in one's mouth next, and yet I've lived for years going from "treat" to "reward" to "indulgence" in a vicious cycle of craving and resisting and giving in, handing over a part of my autonomy and, with it, my dignity for the momentary comfort of a feeling of satiation.

No more.

I'm not pledging my allegiance to a lifelong regimen of hard-boiled eggs because oh my gosh they are sick, cage-free or no.

But I am planting my flag here in this soil and claiming this little bit of peace as mine. And as much as I love the taste of salt and vinegar kettle chips after a long day of teething babies and missed deadlines, the happiness is fleeting and the sense of comfort is short lived, followed by a much deeper sense of shame and regret.

Food is good, and celebrating with food and drink is natural and healthy. Making food the source of goodness, however, and going to it for reward and comfort and distraction, feels more like slavery.

While the self-imposed rules of this month of eating a certain way are constricting, I feel more free within the framework of this Whole30 than I've felt in a very long time, culinarily speaking. Maybe the absence of sugar has killed the strongest of the cravings, or maybe I'm just getting a long-overdue look at what life without food as comforter and reward looks like. And it feels liberating.


25 comments:

  1. I'm one of those skinny girls who struggles just as much. I've never cared about the number on the scale and only recently cared about my shape after having children. But that doesn't mean I have a healthy relationship with food or that I don't have a long way to go. Thanks for the reflection! A good encourager for me to keep trying.

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  2. Yay Jenny!!! My family has been paleo for two years on and off and I've never felt better than even I was doing it. My hubs and I are doing a strict 30 day paleo challenge right now to get ourselves back on track. Be encouraged that the food gets yummier and the budget gets better as you find what works best for your family. I'm spending wayyyy less now than when we first started. Good luck and hope you keep writing about your experience!

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  3. I really, really needed to read this. The story you have shared about your weight struggles and issues with food sound basically exactly like me. I need a reset as well and a chance to focus on my relationship with food. I think we may need to give this a shot here as well - both the boyfriend and I could use it.

    Thank you.

    Brigid - cold-pressed.net

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  4. My husband and I are on day 19 of our first whole30. I have shocked at how much this has changed the way I see food and the interaction I have with it. In this process I have realized how deep into the sin of gluttony I am. I love reading about your journey, thanks for writing.

    Kristen
    kristen2by2.com

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  5. The banana flavored eggs link took me to a news article...maybe check the link?

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    1. Yikes, that’s embarrassing…especially given the topic of the news story. Occupational hazard, thanks for the heads up!

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    2. No problem...I even read the article looking for a reference to bananas flavored eggs (insert red faced emoji)
      We eat pretty paleo at my house, and have lately been really digging these "pancakes" http://balancedbites.com/2011/02/easy-recipe-grain-free-zucchini-pancakes.html

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  6. I never struggled with my weight until after this second pregnancy. I could eat whatever whenever, and I pretty much did. I am just now beginning to confront the fact that I have to actually look at my relationship with food and become the boss of it. Dang it hurts and I haven't even really started!

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  7. These posts have been really inspiring for me. I can definitely relate to what you've said, and I'm even toying with the idea of actually doing a Whole30 myself despite how insanely difficult it sounds to do. One of my hesitations lies in how to feed my family (mainly dinner) while doing this. I'm curious what you've done. Do you prepare 2 separate meals for dinner? Or have you kind of forced them to join you on this journey? Also, what have been some of your go-to meals?

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  8. Are you still breastfeeding? Is the Whole30 safe during breastfeeding?

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    1. yes and yes! I just have to be conscious about getting enough fat to keep my supply up. Though with guacamole, copious amounts of almond butter and olive oil and fistfuls of nuts every day, I don't think I'm about to start making skim any time soon...

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  9. Struggled over here too! From my smallest (teeny tiny 115 pounds) to my largest (now, a year post baby, and way too high of a number) food has always been a battle. Never a comforting one either! I hope someday I can figure it out and get to that food is fuel point!!

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  10. Your way of putting speaks right to me; I feel addicted to food without wanting to SAY that. I've been flirting with the Primal websites (don't take away my cheese!) for a few weeks and really wanting to try it slash trying it but letting the weekends go as they may. This might boost me to ACTUALLY try it for a while. Thanks.

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  11. I just read this wide eyed and bobble headed as I nodded along to everything you just said. Your situation is so nearly identical to mine it floors me; from the high school weight to the wedding weight to the food as comfort or habit.

    I'm freshly started on a 21 day detox so eating paleo is my (not literal, unfortunately) jam. Do yourself a favor: take two of those damn hardboiled eggs, chop them up with half an avocado, sprinkle to your taste with red wine vinegar and salt, and let your palate say: "hey thanks." You might also consider downloading Caveman Feast - it's an app for strictly paleo recipes and they have some really killer ones in there. GOOD LUCK. I know I need it.

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  12. So glad it's working well for you! I'm going to echo Jessie up there - make a salad with some good lettuce or yummy arugula, some chopped tomatoes and avocado and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. And lots of salt and pepper. Then chop the eggs in. Much better. Also try recipes on PaleOMG - I know there are some paleo things that are "allowed" that are not "allowed" on the Whole 30, but you can adjust the recipes to fit.

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  13. I can completely relate to this struggle. I have ALWAYS struggled with my weight, even as a child. I have always, always felt so much bigger than other girls. I am not that big, but I'm way bigger than I'd like to be. I had my second 5 months ago and am struggling so much to get the weight off. I have such an issue with food. I love to eat, but I have so much guilt and self-loathing after I eat something that I shouldn't. It's exhausting. I know that I need to make a change, but I don't really know how. I hate eggs, and we're pretty poor right now, so I don't think the Paleo eating would work well for me. I need to do something about my food relationship. Keep up your great work. Those results are fantastic!

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    1. Lauren, it's definitely getting cheaper as I get better at meal planning and thinking up things to eat besides entire sides of beef! And the banana 'pancakes' have made eggs a more viable option for my mouth.

      I totally hear where you're coming from. Don't despair!

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  14. Keep up the good effort with losing those lbs! Super jealous that your going to the Edel Gathering. I'm sure it'll be great!

    J. Feeley
    Blogger
    http://www.catholictothemax.com/blog

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    1. thanks Joe! You're not Brian Feeley's brother perchance, are you?

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  15. If you want to eat paleo and keep your grocery bill in check, I highly recommend Emeals! http://emeals.com/meal-plans/paleo/

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  16. Call me a jerk, but I read this while eating gelato. For me, the Internet is my escape and reward and guilt and gluttony. Is there a whole30 for that?! Are you still off facebook? I've considered the idea often, but just can't follow through.

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  17. After reading Jen's article on what she does to stay in shape and food addiction (http://www.conversiondiary.com/2014/02/the-lazy-nerds-guide-to-weight-loss.html), I have been thinking about my relationship with food much more. Do I control it? Or, it me? I am learning more about the Trim Healthy Mama (https://www.facebook.com/TrimHealthyMama) nutrition plan to help me learn more about how to fuel my body in the way it needs. I think as a society our views are so skewed regarding real nutrition and its purpose!

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    1. so good re-reading Jen's piece, thanks for the reminder!!

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