Body Relations

Ever since I was plunged into the world of health at my job last fall, I've been learning a lot more about how best to take care of the body. And, motivated in part to better take care of myself and in part to just lose weight, I began to make some changes. Within those first few weeks, I started toting 3-4 bottles of water with me to work each day. I packed small bags of almonds for a midday snack, an apple or ripe peach for the afternoon. I tried to let up on Starbucks (though not so successfully!). And I stayed away from soda.

I felt better about my body right away in those first few weeks, but the weight loss benefit didn't come the way I thought it would. And, to be honest, I wasn't sure how much weight there really was to lose. My body sure didn’t look a whole lot different to me, even though my clothes fit more snugly than they did when we left for our wedding and honeymoon in June. Of course, a near-month in Europe and the first few months of a marriage are bound to take a toll on the waistline, but still, I didn’t see much of a change. (I’ve heard people who gain weight often can’t see the reality reflected in the mirror, though.)

The thing I mostly mean about not being sure how much weight there really was to lose is this. Since we live in a tiny space, we take our clothes to a wash-and-fold service to get them cleaned -- a place where you can drop your laundry and pick it up the next day, all washed and dried and folded -- and I thought the tightness of clothing had to do with that. You see, back home in California I would wash pants and delicate tops in the washer and then hang them up to dry so they wouldn't shrink, whereas here I didn't have that option with the wash-and-fold service. They put all our clothes through the full washer-and-dryer rigamorale, no exceptions. Trust me, I asked! So I figured this new process was slowly shrinking my clothes.

But then came the day of reckoning: my first visit to the doctor for a regular checkup in early December. When the nurse asked me step on the scale, I could hardly believe the number that turned up!

"That can't be," I sputtered. "I've never weighed that much in my life!" She clucked sympathetically and led me into the examination room. I sat down in the chair, completely dazed, repeating the number in my mind, unable to fathom the truth of it. "How can that possibly be?" I wondered aloud again. "I've always been thin. I've never worried about weight."

I had, since my last weigh-in about six months prior, gained a whopping 25 pounds. Again, I'll grant that this was due in large part to the sheer amount of life change that had happened in that six months of time: preparing for an overseas wedding, wrapping up a stressful job, packing up my life in California, saying goodbye to family and friends, driving across the country, saying hello to a new home, and then traipsing over to Europe for our wedding ceremony and honeymoon before settling back into a new life with Kirk in a whole new state -- not to mention all the celebratory meals that had filled that time!

But still, I could hardly believe it. It was a huge wake-up call, and not a little depressing.

Since that fateful day in the doctor's office, I've been doing what I can to change my body, and all to no good effect. I've exercised in spurts, and I've kept up the healthy snacking. No change. I’ve stayed away from soda altogether. Still, no change. And the fact is, Kirk and I like to celebrate. Even though I snack smart through the day, we usually go out for sushi or Thai or Italian in the evening, plus eat out on weekends. But we’ve often broken it up with steamed salmon or chicken or salad in the evenings on a pretty regular basis. Still, no change.

Of course, the other fact is that I don't know how to care for myself.

I've known this for quite some time. I was thin my whole life and never had to worry a pinch about what I ate. There was no freshman fifteen for me when I moved to college, and I maintained a slender 115 for my first two years, only popping up to 125 once I got married my junior year. I ate like a bird most of the time, knowing the whole while that what I ate was never healthy. Still, my body complied and kept me thin, and I loved that we had this agreement. I loved never worrying and doing as I pleased, always with good results.

Now that I'm struggling with weight, I'm learning all kinds of new and scary things. For instance, I'm learning that I don't have any sense of a relationship with my body. I’m realizing, to be brutally honest, that I view it as an object -- an object I control. At least, that’s the agreement I thought we had. Now that my body is in breach of this contract, I’m pretty put out.

If I’m to be even more honest, I must concede that in the past I have done mean things to my body in order to get the results I want. If I went up about 5 pounds, I wouldn’t feed it for one or two days so I could drop back down to what I felt was an acceptable weight. Instead of actual food, I would feed it Starbucks and Hot Tamales and Dr. Pepper and Jack in the Box tacos and Peanut Butter M&Ms -- and nothing else -- yet in small enough doses so that I wouldn’t gain weight. And I would stare obsessively at my tummy every time I walked by a mirror or went into a bathroom, and especially first thing in the morning. This, indeed, was a sickness.

And it still is, only now of a different sort. It’s the kind of sickness I don’t have any sense how to handle. My lifestyle has changed significantly: I’m not flying solo anymore and feeding myself the junk food my body knows how to comply with getting. Now Kirk and I eat full meals. We eat regularly. We celebrate often. And I love all this.

Because the other truth of the matter is what I’ve been learning about walking the road of grace. In almost every other facet of my life, I’ve been learning to care more gently for myself. And slowly but surely, I see how this has made its way into my eating habits. No longer do I want to live in a deprive-it-because-I-control-it-to-get-what-I-want relationship with my body. That just seems so harsh (because it is), and harsh is not a word I want showing up in my vocabulary toward myself (or others, for that matter) ever again.

But what this means is that I’ve swung to the other extreme. In the name of grace, I have chosen to let myself do whatever I want. I didn’t understand that freedom, as shared by a dear friend recently, means the ability to choose what is good.

And that’s because, when it comes to my body and food, I don’t really know what is good. As I said earlier, I don’t know how to care for my body. I don’t know how to have a relationship with it. I don't know how to make good choices. And that, my friends, because you asked, is the reason for the (Almost) Raw Foods Diet. Operating on the objective knowledge that fruits, vegetables, nuts, and some meat is truly good for the body, I chose to eat those foods without the mediation of lesser-quality choices for a while. As my post revealed, I was able to see the true results of eating good choices versus eating poor choices right away. This totally mystified me. It was like I was witnessing a miracle, so floored was I that my body could talk back to me!

I'll confess right now that I haven’t been unswervingly faithful to that raw food eating plan over the past week and a half. But for me, rather than being a strict diet regimen, it’s more about a process in which I'm bent toward learning how to relate to my body, how to no longer view it as a faceless object I control, and how to slowly learn something new about all this, together, along the way.