I’m going to just go there. Come on. I haven’t visited a hot topic in a while.
So, here it is.
Yep, that’s right.
We all have a relationship with it…kind of like a family member. We bring her in, sit her down and spend a lot of time with her. Sometimes she is entertaining, at other times she is comforting and then there are other times when she is all business, satisfying our hunger and strengthening our bodies.
Our relationship with her is often rooted in the “filters” those around us used, when we were young. For girls and women the relationship between food, fat, beauty and self-worth is incredibly powerful and connected through a context, that while completely made-up, feels very real…especially during that vulnerable period we call adolescence. As a matter of fact, in one study, the number one fear for 81 percent of 10 year old girls was “getting fat.”
That’s right. It’s not nuclear war, death or global warming. It’s getting fat. (And might I add, ironically that we are, as everyone knows, dealing with an obesity crisis. Interesting how that which we fear the most, rather than being removed by our fear, might actually attract it. I’m jusssss sayin’.)
My first peek into an awareness of how food can be so deeply entrenched in my psyche and the filters through which I have viewed the world occurred when I was 26. I was training for my first triathlon. I became increasingly concerned with what food I put into my body. The caloric count, number of carbohydrates, fat grams and protein amounts I ingested were an important part of my training regimen. To be honest with you, I wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be around.
I was eating out with friends at a Mexican restaurant and per my usual and much disciplined self, ordered the salad. “Would you like that in a bowl or a tortilla shell?”
I rolled my eyes. “Dang. You mean I have to decide. Why don’t you decide for me?”
“Tortilla, of course!” the waitress responded.
I devoured that salad. I was hungry. Training for an endurance event like the Ironman requires a lot of fuel and RE-fuel after an intense series of run, bike and swim workouts.
And there I was, at meal’s end, up against the ropes…it was me versus the tortilla bowl. Our boxing gloves were on and the fight was fueling up. Who would win? I backed into the corner of my mind and tried to pretend it wasn’t there. But it just kept taking those visual jabs at me.
A left first, next a hard right and then I caved. I broke off a small piece. I ate it. It was good. So I broke off another piece. I ate that one too and I’ll be darned. It was good too! I ate that entire bowl, in teen tiny bits and pieces.
By the time I was done, there was nothing left but the oily wax paper on the plate beneath. My plate was empty, my stomach was full, and the shame was initially unbearable. Her voice was whiny, shallow and judgmental. My food/shame filter fully in “download mode”, spoke very clearly. “Molly, you were doing so well…at least until you got to that bowl. How could you? Is this in line with your training program? Is it? Molly, I’m asking you? Is it? IS IT?”
And in that moment…a little light bulb went off. I realized, as simple as this sounds, that the Molly who walked into the restaurant is no different from the Molly who just finished that darn bowl. I am strong, athletic, articulate and funny. I am kind, caring and compassionate. Whether the tortilla bowl is in or out of my belly has absolutely NO effect on who I am…you know that deep spirit of me, the one that is always, forever and being. The food I put into my mouth doesn’t define who I am. I am undefinable, wordless and nothing…until I decide that I am. For a brief and incredibly beautiful moment, I was able to step back and observe the stinkin’ tortilla bowl for what it was…a tortilla bowl.
I’ll admit I’m a little embarrassed to be sharing this moment with you. I’ll also admit that I’m 50 now and had plenty of time to develop a “functional” relationship with food, but it can all still be very, very complicated. Most of the time it’s healthy, but sometimes when I’m stressed, tired, or anxious I may reach for those boxing gloves again and go a few rounds with myself. And if I’m really honest about it, to suggest that it can sometimes have a kind of power over me…well…makes me feel shallow, hollow and a little silly for admitting it. Talking about it is a bit like being caught right out of the shower. Somehow owning up to how we view food reveals something about our vulnerabilities, bared there for all to see.
And I guess, if we have to come completely clean, we’ve gotta also take a pretty hard look at how we judge other people based on how their bodies show up in the world. Am I not only using the beauty/weight/food filter to harshly judge myself, but also others? Ewww. It’s kind of hard to turn it around.
These days, Tortilla bowls, Reese’s peanut butter cups and my Marjohn’s pastries all have a place in the Molly Barker “food for life” pyramid. So too does moderate exercise, veggies,daily hugs, plenty of water, fresh fruit, lots of laughter, my best try at 8 hours of sleep and love. Yep, that’s right love is on that pyramid, right there at the top!
It’s all connected to my living a healthy, honest, forgiving, evolving and full life.
What role does food play in your life and how has it changed over the years? Why do you think we all buy into this belief that our beauty (and weight) are somehow a measure of our worth to the world and/or a conduit to happiness.
And to see the fact cited here and other ones as it relates to our behaviors around food, check out this website:
Also to be a part of changing perspectives and eliminating this particular filter check out my good friend Caitlin Boyle’s amazing project. She is creating a beauty revolution one sticky note at a time at http://www.operationbeautiful.com. Her work will rock you to your core…so simple and so powerful…both captured in one small action.