I'm a little early today! I actually wrote this last night and didn't want to wait to post it. I guess I'm particularly excited about this post.
I am adding a little something to what I wrote last night...
This is completely conflicting with the point of this blog post, but this recipe for Moscato Cupcakes sounds so amazing I had to share it.
That being shared...
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about how, in general, we seem to put way too much of an emphasis on food. People have forgotten that the reason food is around is to fuel and nourish our bodies. That's it. Food is not meant to be used in that way that we (and by "we" I mean those of us in the US) do. Food is an essential - without it, our bodies will fail. People seem to forget that too much of it is also harmful to our bodies. I know I've blogged about this, to at least some degree, previously but I'm taking a little bit different of an approach on this one.
Let's look at food in social situations. How many celebrations or events in your life revolve around food? I can think of several in mine... Birthdays, holidays, family reunions, weddings, showers, picnics, other parties, luncheons, festivals, dates...We even give gifts of food. I'm guilty of this too - because I love to bake but don't want to keep it around. And? People like those gifts. We have entire television networks related to cooking and food.
The majority of what we do revolves around food in some way. Usually these events include foods that are not healthy. In fact they include a lot of foods that are super unhealthy (cake, anyone?). I think that tradition and culture are at the root of food being involved in such events.
Why does quality time with our loved ones have to revolve around food? Is that all there is to do? Can we not enjoy one another without it? Why can't we participate in some sort of charity walk as a method of bonding?
So what's the deal? Why do we center our events around which restaurant we will go to or which menus will be included at parties and dinners?
I'm going to try hard to break this trend for myself...Actually, I would say I already have. I honestly DREAD gatherings and parties that include food...Especially bridal/baby showers. Seriously. Those can be like triple-torture to me... First, there's the food. And this one really includes any event that involves food. For me, it can be so hard because...
I want the bad stuff. I (usually) make the choice to have very little of it or choose the healthiest options and fill up on those. This is is conscious choice that takes effort. Sometimes A LOT of effort.
The other torturous factors for me? First...Those damn games. I hate them. If we're gonna eat fine (but please include fruit and salads for some of us), but CAN WE PLEASE SKIP THE STUPID GAMES?! I do not want to sit on my ass and decide how many words I can make out of names. I don't really give a hoot (yes, I did just say that) about what flavor of baby food is in a jar. I don't care what kind of candy bar is melted into a diaper (and really, that's disgusting). Those games? Just might be more torturous than the food thing. Seriously... Can we pleeeeeease find other things to do? Do we need to stretch these things out to three or four hours because we need to play six games? I can accept a light lunch.
But let's be real here... Why are we attending these showers? So we can celebrate an event in the life of a loved one, right? PSSSHHH... I'm gonna say it: IT'S THE PRESENTS. And the food. We get together and buy people stuff for their new life with their love, or their little bundle of joy. Honestly... We need things for lives and having a party is a damn good way to get what we need? I'm a big fan of this concept. And I LOVE registries (except for when people don't know how to use them as evidenced by multiples of something). Yes, you're having an event and you need things - thank you for telling me what you need!!! That makes life so, so much easier.
I think we should have birthday registries too. And Christmas. And whatever else. No more unwanted gifts that end up being unused or re-gifted? Yes, please. (Not that I would ever re-gift).Naturally if I do a birthday or Christmas registry someone's gonna think I'm shallow and just want presents. That's not it. But if someone is inclined to buy me something, then please buy me something I really want or need. The registry really is a wonderful, powerful tool.
Okay, I'm off-track and making this long post (hey, I had some extra free time last night when I wrote it!) even longer.....
For those interested the third form of torture is "I'm the only one" syndrome. Yup, I'm the single friend. I'm the childless friend. And, hey, guess what? I'm pretty okay with the way my life is right now. Naturally I want those things to change someday but stop with the sad looks. I'm not sad!! I'm happy! Those things will happen when it's right for me. I also really don't like the "you're next..." or "so when are you having one?" statements/questions. I'm next? Probably because I'm the only person here who is not married and does not have a child. But? I have dog-children and they are freaking amazing, thank you very much.
Is it just me or am I on fire today? I think I'm pretty freakin' funny.
Back to food...
Food can even be used negatively. People make comments about what others eat often. Guess what! This doesn't stop when you quit eating so much junk ("like you really need that fast food burger..."). I've gotten it for healthy foods to. That's right, I stopped with the junk, ate healthy, lost weight, and people are still criticizing me for what goes in my mouth. Honestly? Why do you care so much? If I want to follow the Paleo lifestyle, then let me. If I want to be Vegan, then let me. Why does what I eat have anything to do with you? Why should YOUR opinions influence my dietary habits?
Oh... That's right... Your opinions don't matter. As long as I'm eating a healthy, balanced diet, you need not worry.
Man, we are so nosey!! But that's another topic
Part of the issue is with the way we do things. This is something we can change. However, very few of us would want to do that. I'm in the minority, I am sure.
The other part (that I'm going to write about, as I feel there are many components to this) is the brain. I am a firm believer in food addiction. Binge eating disorder is real. Night eating syndrome is real. I believe that the brain sends signals that trigger responses to food. I think that some of us have these issues just like others have depression. It's a chemical thing. However, despite being chemical you can take steps to change your eating habits... Just like any other addiction; you can fight, and beat, food addiction. Don't use that as an excuse. Most of us would look at an alcoholic saying "well it's hereditary and an addiction...I can't help it," and think that they're in denial. That they're just making another excuse for their behavior. The same is true for food. No matter how much your brain craves something or is triggering you to compulsively eat, you can change it.
I used to say that it wasn't hard to change. For me, initially, it wasn't. I just made a decision and did it. I've lost a lot of weight. I gained a little bit back... Not all, or even a great deal of it, so don't you dare throw me into THAT stereotype. Am I 20 pounds heavier than I was a couple years ago? Yes. Do I weigh like 350 pounds? Nope. In fact I am very, very, very far from that. Do I continue to eat healthy and exercise? Yup.
But it can be a struggle. EVERY. STINKIN'. DAY. Despite knowing what's healthy for us and what's not, passing up that piece of cake when everyone else is eating it really sucks sometimes. It's like the brain is saying "hey that makes me happy and you're not giving it to me."
I'm going through this struggle right now. Just last week at work someone brought in cake and was passing it out. My first reaction? "Oh crap." My second, "is there a small piece?" There wasn't. So I passed. Guess what? It was kind of hard watching two other people eat that delicious looking cake while I sipped water. It was a hard choice to make. Just like it's a hard choice to not have a drink when others around you are.
I made that choice though and even though it's a small one, it's the right one. It's the one that was healthy. I didn't need those 500 extra calories. I didn't need that fat to find it's way to my thighs.
I fall to it sometimes. Usually when I'm alone. That's why I cannot have unhealthy things in my house. If they're there, I will eat them. I still give-in way too easily. When others are around to see me, I'm much more aware of it.
I found this article on sweets and the brain to be very interesting and it's definitely one to check out. I agree with it. There's one part that talks about how people who've lost weight on their own still have strong responses (in the brain) to food.
I'm a geek in that I love studies like this. I think they're fantastic. I think that learning more about how the brain works is one of the coolest things ever. The brain really is the most amazing thing. Without it we couldn't survive. It is the center of everything our bodies do. I especially love how the brain impacts on behavior - whether it be chemical or due to things we're conditioned to learn.
I really like a quote from this article because it highlights what's true...
"Post-obese people are extremely prone to regain weight," says Dr. Del Parigi. "The only way they have to counteract these strong predispositions is by having a very controlled lifestyle, with restrained food intake and exercise."
That's me. I have to be controlled. I have to eat healthy and exercise. That's how I got here and that is the only thing that will keep me here....Without that level of control I'll fall.
It is way to easy to slip into old habits. What I've learned is that it's not as easy as I thought it was. It's become harder the longer I've done it (in some ways) and easier in others. Now I've conditioned myself to say "no" to a giant slice of chocolate cake when someone brings it in. I skip work potlucks and any situation I can that involves food. I still go to those pesky showers because I love my friends and family, but sometimes it's so freaking hard (but really those games...oh those games!).
It's hard to fight what my brain wants. It's hard to fight what society tells me I should be doing in social situations (while also telling me that I should look like a model). Some days it's easy and some days it's a damn struggle. What helps?
In general...Having a good support system.
Being blessed with a Mom and a Nonie who include healthy holiday meal options, just for me.
Having friends and family who encourage me in being healthy.
Having friends and family call me out on bad habits when needed. (Thanks, Dad, you're best at that whole tough-love thing).
Being around other health-minded people. I love that I have friends who want to do runs/walks or other healthy things with me. I do a lot of races alone, but it's awesome to have this in common with so many people. Whether we start and finish together or not, just having someone else there is such a huge thing for me.
Being lucky that the number of family and friends getting married is dwindling because most of them are already there! No showers, weddings, etc.
People who support my way of eating no matter how "weird" it is. I have to ignore a lot of comments and opinions from others, but I do. (Ruby, I love you and I know your farm-raised/grass-fed comments are just you being goofy; not mean).
People who will do things with me even if it's not their typical interest. Sure, someone may not want to go for a run, but if they'll at least walk a few miles, I'll take it. That's more time for chatting anyway.
Filtering toxic people out of my life...
These are the people who don't understand, despite my best attempts to educate them. They don't understand my "weird" eating habits. They don't like that a lot of the time I will put workouts before some social things. They just don't understand what all of this means. They see a girl who lost weight. They don't understand the work that it takes. If people can't support what I need to do (especially those who can get angry about it, which doesn't happen often) in order to be healthy, then they need to go.
I'm making the choice to continue being healthy... By doing so I am also making the choice to eat to live. I am trying to put emphasis on foods that will nourish me; foods that will provide me with energy. Will I still indulge in things that won't? Yes. I just have to limit them (more than I have been lately - looks away shamefully).
I'm working hard to eat when my body tells me I need to...When I actually feel hunger. I'm going to try my best to fuel it with things that it needs, while seriously limiting things that it doesn't need. There are times when this won't work for whatever reason (options not available at a restaurant, for example), but I'll keep as close to it as possible. No matter how much it is pushed on me, food will not be the center of my life. And it shouldn't be - for me.
I don't expect anyone else do this...I'm not telling you what to do. I'm sharing my personal thoughts and opinions (on MY blog, FYI) - you don't have to agree (so puh-lease don't clog up my comments arguing your opinion or telling me why I am so insanely wrong). You don't even have to understand. My hope is the same as it is with the intention of this blog... To reach at least one person; to inspire a healthy change. To keep someone who is struggling motivated.... That's it; just one.
I'm doing what's natural and what I believe is healthy...I'm eating to live. I am not living to eat.
Have a great day!