Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday's Call and Response

... where I muse on the musings of others ...

"Here's my complication: I've actually lost a little weight lately, which is a good thing, given blood pressure issues, etc. What's funny is that I think it's made me focus more on my physical self, and I have immediately found things to be dissatisfied with that I hadn't been worried about before."

Isn't that just the way? Has anyone ever, in the history of the world, gotten on a scale or looked in the mirror and felt satisfied? I don't think so. It's a sad and natural and, I'm beginning to think, an inevitable result of physical self-contemplation. The mind is a tricky critter. We see the scale has a healthier number as regards our physical well-being and instead of saying "Yes!," we think "Now what?" Self-improvement is a slippery slope for nearly all of us. I know it's best for me to simply not know how much I weigh. I know the best thing I can do for my mind-body connection is yoga. And despite knowing this, I skip the yoga and get on the scale, with the usual result of dissatisfaction. I think the best we can do is be aware that we ARE going to feel this way when we put extra attention on our appearance for whatever reasons. The only real help is to balance those feelings with reminders of what has been accomplished -- like a lower blood pressure reading -- and knowing that wanting to do more is only human, and then to try, really really hard, to let those new worries go.

Can I get an amen, sister?

Sister, amen!

Today's Mantra: No guilt. No Guilt! NO GUILT!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tell Me What You Eat

"I believe you cooked those green beans too long."
~ One Thing You Will Never Hear A Southerner Say ~

Do you know what a "crowder pea" is? Is "grits" plural or singular? What do the words "Moon Pie" mean to you? Have you ever eaten any of these things? If you have, I can probably make the safe guess that you were born in, raised in, or at least have visited, the Southeastern region of the United States.

I live in a small town in South Carolina, not the town in which I grew up but one not too far away, and my favorite restaurants in town are Gerhard's, an Austrian biergarten, and Wade's, a purveyor of the Southern classic, the "meat and three." I myself favor the vegetable plate and at Wade's what is considered a vegetable is of course anything that isn't a meat; macaroni and cheese, for example. I always get the macaroni and cheese, and usually the beans, and my favorites are the black-eyed, crowder and field peas, which I associate with my grandmother.

My Grandmama had perhaps the freest hand with food I've ever known. That's the right of grandmothers, to fill their grandchildren up without regard for proper diet or nutrition. They allow open access to the candy jar and cookie cupboard and will always fix you something special if you ask. At my grandmother's house I ate biscuits and peas and home-canned green beans, chicken and rice and peach cobbler and lots and lots of Nilla Wafers. Even during the worst of some of my food issues, I could usually still eat something at my Grandmother's. So naturally that sort of Southern cooking is what I consider "comfort" food, and one reason why Wade's is such a favorite.

Being the type of eater that I am, one who eats to live rather than one who lives to eat, it's good for me to have comfort food, something I can turn to when I would rather do just about anything than feed myself. Even so I know that for me, there is no real comfort to be found in food, merely echoes of earlier comforts. That's all that can be found, those echoes. But what is for me a useful tool, I know for some people can become a weapon they turn upon themselves; it's merely the opposite extremes of a simple truth about ourselves and our relationship to food. Whatever we may know, it doesn't change the way we feel.

"Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are" is such a famous quote I didn't even know I knew it until I started to brainstorm ideas for future posts here. My fondness for sweet tea, Chik-fil-A sandwiches, and a preference for fully cooked green beans don't make me a Southerner, but they are part of what make me think of myself as one. We are all defined by what we eat, those food choices we make several times each day. And it at least partially explains why I will choose to eat those over-cooked green beans from Wade's, with their slight vinegar tang, just like Grandmama used to make.

Not My Grandmother's Roasted Green Beans
Take several handfuls of of green beans, snap the ends off, rinse and lay them out in a jellyroll pan. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them in a 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan every few minutes to keep the beans from sticking and also to get a really satisfying amount of sizzle and smoke. Serve hot.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Complicated

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet." Fran Lebowitz

A few weeks ago I turned 41. I'm lucky enough to have had the same best friend since second grade and this year I asked her and her younger sister if they would throw me a birthday party, which they happily agreed to do. It was a lovely party, the theme was Tiny Bubbles, so there was Hawaiian music and plastic leis and Pink Bikinis and champagne to drink and lots and lots of bubbles. After most of the guests had gone home Amy and Heather and their mother, Amy's husband, my husband and myself were the only people left sitting around drinking the last of the champagne. Heather's two girls were still awake but getting sleepy and she went in several times to try and settle them for the night. At one point she came out and stood on the top of the stairs leading out to the patio.

"Shoot me now," she said, looking out past the tiki torches into the dark of the yard. "Just shoot me now. Spencer just told me she wasn't going to wear her new navy dress anymore because it makes her look fat."

Spencer is five.

I have had an eating disorder, in one form or another, since I was thirteen years old.

Heather looked at me and said, "We need to write that book now. What am I going to do when they're older? We've got to figure this out."

Having known Heather and Amy for so long, we've seen each other grow and change, grow up and grow older. We all have our different issues with body image and weight and food. We've talked at times about a book that would share our stories, and I think maybe this blog will be a good place to start that dialogue, to share those stories, to look at our past and see if we can't change the future for Heather's girls. For all girls. For ourselves.

Food is so basic. We must eat to live. But why do we eat what we eat? Why do we care what we eat? Who do we eat with and why? Why do people turn to food for comfort? Why do people restrict what they eat, whether it's for health or culture or out of pathology? How did something so basic become so complex for so many people?

Look at the covers of magazines in the grocery store. Notice how many promise to help you lose weight. Notice how many contain a cooking section. Notice how many are about fitness or food. Think of the television shows promoting weight loss and those that promote eating. Does it feel balanced to you?

I can't help but think of Scarlett O'Hara. You heard me. Women of her time weren't supposed to eat a lot in public. Women of our time -- who knows? We can't eat too little or we're anorexic. We can't eat too much or -- oh, pick something. And what do we think?

That's what I'd like to know.

So share please. And I will share in turn. But keep in mind this is not a site for diet suggestions or weight loss tips or to attack one another whatever size or shape we may be. Vicious commentary will be deleted. Future posts will try and explore the questions raised through personal anecdotes and observations.

You may, or may not, have noticed that I didn't mention any food at the party. That's because food isn't my thing. That's one way to put it. Another way to put it is that I have severe food phobias and aversions. Or maybe I'm just really picky. I told you it was complicated.

Pink Bikinis
Mix one 1.75 liter bottle of raspberry lemonade with 1 3/4 cups coconut rum and 1 cup amaretto liqueur in a pitcher, mix well and serve over ice.