Friday, January 6, 2012

The Weight of Food

Happy New Year to everyone! This is my first 2012 post. My husband and daughter both celebrate their birthdays this week so we are always delayed in launching some kind of post-holiday routine.

Have you set some hefty resolutions for yourselves this year? Have you decided for the four hundredth time that THIS year you are going to get the body that you love? You’re going to quit with your cookie hiding habit and stop kicking the weigh scales across the room every time you step on them? Me too.

Body issues. For me, this is the mother ship of all subjects. It is the Big Cheese of blog post topics. Every thing I have ever written centers around this - food, faith, farming, form. I don’t talk about it much because its deeply personal. But then again, I don’t think I’m alone with these issues. And as always, I think sharing my thoughts slightly outweighs the desire to keep them to myself. Maybe there is a noodle in here somewhere for you. A carrot, so to speak. Maybe not.

I learned not very long ago that getting the body you love is far more about loving your body than changing it. Ironically, I have been ‘trying’ to lose weight for over 25 years now and have managed to put on many tens of unwanted pounds in the process. I’d like to say that I can blame my pregnancies or age but I can’t. Unless of course you include the fact that I am pregnant with an eternal desire to feed every kind of hunger with food. Emotional, spiritual, and most of all the desire to love and be loved.

What does that Elton John song say? The greatest thing, you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return. For me this means that when you learn to give and receive love is precisely the moment that you let God in. Or whatever you want to call it. And one day you look up and realize you stopped scarfing down half the tray of brownies. I’ve seen glimpses of this phenomenon. Glimpses of not craving brownies. And what the face of love really looks like.

I am the kind of person that heads straight to the food table at any gathering. I find comfort there, if only temporarily until I feel so stuffed I can’t breath. If I’m tired, I eat. If stressed, I nibble. If excited, I grab for something too. No occasion is unworthy of sharing it with my beloved food.

Don’t think I don’t happen to see the irony in the fact that I have invested enormous amounts of energy securing what I consider to be a perfect source of food for my family. From dairy to meats to vegetables, fruits and grains, we have attempted to make the best of the best available to ourselves with our own hands from our land. As a result we have partaken in a vast array of healthy, nutritious food options. I have obsessed about this perfection. If I’m honest, I think it helped distract me from the real issues. If I could surround myself with healthy foods, would I stop ‘using’ food in all the wrong ways?

Nope, I didn’t. Our emotional psyches can’t be fooled so very easily.

I even tried focusing heavily on the world’s food system. Blaming manufacturers of processed foods for my problem. Why did they have to go and make so much crappy food available to me? Why weren’t they honest with how about how it wasn’t good for me? Why is it all so addictive, so cheap and easy to access? Surely I was not informed properly. And surely if I could fix the food system I could fix my obsession with food.

Nope. That didn’t work either.

The only effective trick that I’ve ever had up my sleeve was exercise. As a young adult, I drove myself farther and faster, relishing in the strength and power of my muscles, capacity of my lungs and the quickened beating of my heart. Exercise made me hungry. And gave me permission to eat mounds of food fit for a giant. And I got away with it. I sometimes still do. A manufactured speedy metabolism has been the number one secret I stored in the box under my bed. If I focus on calories burned, will I stop caring about the calories I take in?

Nope. Not that either. For me, obsession with exercise could only survive in waves. A real commitment to one’s fitness is not an obsession but a lifelong relationship of healthy give and take. A desire to build our body to the best of its potential. It is not a race against naughty secret habits. And so between splurging on exercise and the contents of my fridge, I would become sedentary for weeks at a time, exhausted from my own drive. And add another ten pounds for good luck until the next round of obsession kicked in.

A couple of times in my life I have managed to drop pounds from my body as fast as a sudden heat wave can melt ice and snow. The only thing I remember about those times is my state of mind. They both lasted about a year in duration. There was nothing particularly wonderful going on in my life at those times. But for some reason I did not judge myself for the way that I looked. I accepted myself wholeheartedly, as is, and stopped caring what the weigh scales read. I would weigh myself, note the increase or decrease, and smile a Mona Lisa smile before stepping off. None of it mattered. The mirror and the scales became only a reflection of what I was feeling on the inside. Total self-love.

Oh boy, does that sound flaky. I see that. I get that pointing to love in these matters sounds a little too light and fluffy to believe. But those who know the feeling I’m referring to, know exactly what I mean here. It kind of just happens. One day you awaken and you’re just fine. And then the change you’ve been waiting for finds you rather than the other way around.

As Alanis Morissette once wrote in her song Thank You: the moment I jumped off of it was the moment that I touched down.

It is almost as though we need to let go entirely of the struggle to lose weight, and focus on the love and beauty that our bodies have to express. Only then is the fight no longer an issue.

I am making a second attempt to read Marianne Williamson’s ‘A Course in Weight Loss’ now. I tried last year only to find the messages in it were far too intense for me to bear, so I set it aside. The idea in this book that stands out the most for me is that eating more food than is required, or more often, or unhealthy choices is a direct sign of spiritual deprivation. Abusing food, or using it in ways that are not linked to nutrition and our bodies’ health, is not about a love for food. It is about a lack of connection to the source. Both the source of pain that drives us to want to eat for the wrong reasons, or the source of love that can heal us from all of our wounds. Some call this source of love God.

Now I do not believe spiritual deprivation to have anything to do with the number of times you’ve missed church. Or how many prayers you forgot to say. Or whether you’ve ignored the Ten Commandments. All these may or may not be your spiritual shortcoming, but the real focus here for me anyway is the inability to see your self, your body, your being as connected to something divine. The inability to know that it was not you who created your body. And, therefore, quite simply, it is impossible to hate this vessel that holds you. It isn’t yours to hate. It belongs to God. And God to me is synonymous with Love. Not Hate.

We are all so very aware, and could probably write books on what a healthy diet would look like. What we can’t figure out is how such a resourceful, strong, intelligent human could not solve such a simple equation. Eat less, move more, choose better, feel just right and as a result, embody health.

So we are brought once again to the idea that everything in our lives functions as a system. Our problems cannot be isolated. We are given opportunities time and time again to learn the lessons we need to learn. Like in the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, we have to repeat our quandaries until we get them right.

In this lifetime I think the greatest mistake that I have continuously made is to not ask for help. To not seek support. To assume that I had to do everything alone. To assume that there was no higher power available to me. Not me. To others, but not me.

This time I surrender. I can’t do this alone. I have awoken for the 25th New Years day in a row wondering whether this year will be the year that I would learn to love the treasures I’ve been given. To love this body that I have on loan for such a relatively short time.

And Elton, I’ll take your word for it. This isn’t about a menu plan. This is about the process of cleaning your closets from the inside out (and not just shoving one more box in the small available spaces amongst the chaos).

The greatest thing.
You’ll ever learn.
Is just to love
and be loved in return.

Are you there God? Its me Julie.


  1. Julie, truer words have never been written. Thank you. Once again, I have made myself the promise that this is the year, all the while knowing in the back of my mind that it's just not that simple. And that until my spirit is at peace nothing will work. To that end I'm embarking on the Joy Dare. You can find it at I don't know if it is the answer, but I'm hoping it will lead me at least a little closer.

  2. making peace with our bodies is a life long prospect.We are never static for long! I am learning this the hard way currently trying to understand how a recent diagnosis will change the rest of my life.Part of me is thankful to have the "why" for some many issues that have been going on for some time now but i think the realty of " this isn;t going away and in fact is progressive" is finally hitting me.
    I have always seen my body as something I could control, manipulate. Coming to terms and "love" with a body that I cannot any longer will be a challenge. Here's to a new year of respecting and loving all of who we are!

  3. I think your words speak for the majority of women living today. We are all missing the point...the focus on food, weight and aging is not the solution to our "problems." You are very brave to write this post and I'm very grateful to read it!

  4. oh dear god, please get it right this year, I want a fat bank account and a skinny body...last year it was reversed..I so understand this post :)


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