Though it might not be obvious to anyone but myself, over the past year, I’ve become a lot more forgiving towards myself with respect to food, really embracing the whole “live life and ENJOY it” notion.
This didn’t start when I got pregnant, and probably explains why I never lost the 10-15 lbs I packed on over the past three years pre-pregnancy.
(But truly, that’s neither here nor there, especially as the scale tips closer and closer to my pre-WW weight, a number I hoped never to see again but inevitably will, and then some).
I have to say, it’s very freeing to live this way. I eat what I want, but in moderation. I don’t deprive myself of what I really want; I account for it and move on. I believe in my heart of hearts this is what it means to have a balanced relationship with food, something I’ve strove for on this journey.
And though being pregnant gives me a little extra wiggle room to enjoy life even more, I’ve truly been in this mindset for the past year or so. Maybe it’s just more obvious to the outside world now that I’m pregnant, and instead of sneaking around with a former “guilty” treat or eating it alone, my love affair is more in the public eye. And I’m not ashamed to be seen eating a chocolate bar, or tortilla chips. Life’s more fun with a little sweet, a little salty, a little gusto for food … something that evaded me during the worst years of my disordered eating history.
Which is why it’s been deeply frustrating to me to hear people say (to me or any of my other recently-pregnant friends), “Well, but you can have that, you’re pregnant.” Or, “You can eat that now” (basically acknowledging “but I can’t”.) Or “Well now that you’re pregnant, XYZ is OK.”
What’s sad is I probably used to tell my (non-pregnant!) friends/family that in the past, and it probably irritated them, too (as they probably recognized moderation is where it’s at) … only now that I’m on the receiving end, I naturally view the situation differently.
It bothers me because that thinking by its very nature is disordered; anyone could eat anything in moderation, and that’s the crux of what I’ve learned on this journey: moderation is key. Pregnancy is not an excuse to eat everything you might want under the sun … but I will say that having relaxed my own rules before getting pregnant, it’s made enjoying this time of great lack of control of your own body a bit easier to swallow.
I think it bothers me most of all because, though I’m loathe to admit it, I DO care what others think and my friends and family know about my past, and I’d never want them to think that pregnancy has been the key to open the flood gates of recovery for me but rather that it was a long process and pregnancy has helped keep the doors open. But really, I’d like to take personal credit for where I was at pre-pregnancy as well as where I’m at now. Of course, I realize that sounds selfish and truthfully no one else probably even gives this two thoughts about this but me … but I’ve been really introspective about it lately, and it’s kept me up at night.
I’ve mentioned a few times here how I’m one of the subjects of a grad student’s thesis on eating disorders and pregnancy, and this is something she and I have discussed at length: while I do feel a little more freedom than even before, that sense of freedom began long before I saw a positive on a pee stick.
My eating isn’t perfect … it never will be, and I’m not aiming for perfection. But all I wanted, all along, was to have a healthy relationship with food.
Everyone will define that differently, but to me that means eating intuitively (i.e., what I really want, not having a substitute and then feeling resentment and binging); eating a brownie and realizing the world will not come to an end and five pounds will not sit on my hips overnight; recognizing there’s nothing more wonderful than a home-cooked meal for two without substitutions; realizing that real foods not only taste better but make me FEEL better; knowing that dessert tastes better when shared with your BFF; that straying from my “safe” foods is progress; realizing that ordering what you REALLY want when at a restaurant will satisfy you much more than what you believe you “should” have.
I guess you could say I’ve stopped living in a realm of “shoulds,” which is ironic because pregnancy, by its nature, includes a whole lotta “shoulds.” And it feels like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.
I think if someone asked me the biggest lesson on this journey, I’d say it’s that a life of moderation really is the happiest and healthiest. I’m not my thinnest … I’m not in the best shape of my life … but I’m the happiest I’ve been in years.
I work out and stop when my body says “enough.” I rest when I’m tired — hell, I even NAP now (OK, that’s purely due to pregnancy — you’d never catch me snoozing before!). I eat things like pizza and bread that might not be whole grain. I don’t chew and spit chocolate or candy; if I want it, I eat it. Sometimes I still emotionally eat, or buy a trigger that ends up being tossed … but for the most part, I feel the most balanced I’ve ever felt in my life.
And it’s not just because I’m pregnant. I really think it’s because I was ready to stop living in a box, in parameters. I do well living in them, but I wouldn’t say they make me happier; they just make life easier.
That said, I know myself enough to know that I’ll never throw caution completely to the wind; I still journal and will probably always measure out certain foods. But it’s done with a different purpose now; it’s not anxiety or fear-driven but rather done as someone who cares about her health, but also cares about living.
So my challenge to you is to face one of your fears. Is it trying something new to eat at your usual “safe” spot? Taking a new class at the gym? Taking a BREAK from the gym? For one day, give the true notion of ‘living” a whirl. When you fix your toast, put a little butter on it. Don’t skip dessert; just have a little and be satisfied. Stray from your “usual” at XYZ restaurant.
LIVE. Because really, no one else is going to do it for you. Of this, I’m certain.