I was the freak, in a family of women who all battled with their weight. Coming from a Southern African-American background, food was a source of happiness, and eating together, was a symbol of kinship. I can count the women in my family on two fingers, who are just average cooks. Those two will remain nameless, to save them the embarrassment. But the point is, in my family, eating and cooking, is an art form.
Unfortunately, this art form caused many in my family to inherit weight issues, high blood pressure, and diabetes. When I was a kid, I remember my mother having a love-hate relationship with food. It began to affect her cooking. She would want to create delicious dinners, and many times she did. But there were also times our dinners lacked a certain luster, and enthusiasm, because my mom also saw food as the enemy. She, like many women, was often a yo-yo dieter. She was strict about what she ate and lost ten pounds, but in a few months, would gain twenty. It seemed to her, a losing battle. And the very fact that my mother, and so many women, see their relationship with food, as war, helps us to understand why many women have a negative experience with maintaining their level of health and ideal weight.
I was always the skinny one, the one everyone wanted to stuff with food. My mother said that I was blessed with my father’s metabolism. It’s as close to the truth as any answer would be. I simply never had an issue with weight. As a matter of fact, I lacked some self-esteem and body-love, because I thought I was too skinny, now looking back, I realize that was an untruth. But I share this to say, that women in general, have body issues. In our minds, we are either too heavy, or too thin.In African-American culture, being too skinny was a crime. My two uncles who are both Southern-bred, had a saying, “No one wants a bone, but a dog.” They wouldn’t even look at women who were under a size 12. I dealt with this particular body issue for many years of my life. So while my mother was on a mission to stay a size 12, I was on a mission to get to a size 8.
Learning to build a healthy relationship with food and eating is crucial for women, if we want to live fuller lives. There is no way you can have a negative relationship with something that you need to survive, and be truly happy. The reasons why women of all shapes and sizes, battle with food, are too numerous to mention. Culture, status, peer pressure, psychiatric, and physical medical reasons, can all play a huge role. What I do know, is that until I began to practice daily self-love, I was not able to have an authentically healthy relationship with my body and the food I eat. I still freak out a bit, if I feel that I’ve lost weight, that I’m turning into that “skinny” little girl again. But I know that if I love myself truly, not just in word, but in deed, I must change the tape recording in my mind about how I feel about my body. My stay in the hospital last summer, triggered these feelings again, as I lost weight that I didn’t need to lose.
If you find yourself in a war with food, I’m a huge advocate of getting professional help. If your love-hate or simply “hate relationship” with food runs deep, simply reading diet and nutrition books probably won’t help. For a healthy, positive, long-term relationship with food and eating, you may need counseling to get to the root of the issues. It is also extremely important to see a medical doctor to make sure that there is nothing physical or chemical, causing you to gain or lose weight.
Our friendship with food, eating, and the body, is a complex one. We, as women, must support one another, no matter what the issue may be. My mother taught me to compliment other women, to tell them how great they look today, or in that dress, or how beautiful they look walking down the street. I realized that, for many women, to receive these compliments was awkward and uncomfortable. We all must meditate daily on loving who we are, loving our own unique design.
Food is awesome! I adore cooking and eating. I’m a big foodie and I love to cook for others. Compared to many other women in my life, my body issues are small to non-existent, but I know that there are always triggers that will make me feel that for whatever reason, I’m not enough, beautiful enough, voluptuous enough, fit enough, vivacious enough. Becoming more conscious and aware of these triggers is the key to living positively and healthily with your self, with your body. We won’t be truly whole, until our relationship with ourselves becomes more important than any other.
My mother passed away in 2004, but I am happy to say that she lived the last ten years of her life, mending her broken relationship with food and cooking. She started taking yoga classes, making delicious grilled fish dinners, luxuriating in the taste of olive oil, small pieces of healthy dark chocolate, and red wine. She was at one of the best body weights she had ever been in her life, but more importantly, she was happy, felt beautiful, and enjoyed living.
If you are still in a war with food and your body, healing begins by getting to the root of the issue. Finding the right counselor and medical doctor is key. Finding forms of exercise you enjoy like, walking, hiking, dancing, yoga; whatever moves your spirit. Designing menus that excite your taste buds is another way to begin building a new relationship with yourself. Be kind to yourself, and cease beating up on yourself, if you eat a cupcake. Every day is another day to begin again. Remember, self-love is a daily practice.