Recently online and in real life I’ve gotten into several discussions about a topic I usually avoid with a ten-foot pole: diets. Not “lose weight and look great” diets, but “this is what I/we/my family eats and why we do it” diets. And when people look at me, short, curvy (okay, FAT) with triple chins and thighs that not only rub together but seem fused together at times, holding my Starbucks cup or eating out of a fast-food bag, I’m sure they make assumptions about the way I eat. I’m certain of it because they usually make a comment about it, and if they don’t come right out and say something…they certainly make other gestures and comments to tell me what they think. And they seemed surprised when my family makes comments such as “We eat a balanced diet-Dad feeds us junk food and Mom feeds us health food” or “my wife made these organic-gluten free-low sugar cookies that you’re inhaling”.
Listen, I get it. Yes, I’m overweight. As is my husband. Not gonna deny it. Yes, we do eat fast food. And yes, I make cookies and cakes and pies-rather well, if the number of requests I get for them is any indication. But what if I told you the reason I look the way I look is NOT my diet, but my genetics? And those double/triple chin and thick thighs I sport…I’ve had those since birth, and had them even when I was “skinny”? And I have an autoimmune disorder that lists “weight gain” as one of the symptoms…it’s one of the main symptoms that led to my diagnosis as a matter of fact. And that Starbucks cup is filled with a drink that holds less calories than your sweet tea or soda (coffee with almond milk)…and that fast food bag usually holds grilled chicken? And for all the goodies I bake…I rarely eat the treats I make myself, and for all the receptions I attend…I never eat the food, or even drink the drinks. Oh and because of society pressures and comments made by my own mother, I suffered from an eating disorder when I was nine, and still struggle with it today?
Do I drink? Yes. In moderation and with malice and forethought. Meaning, I’ve factored it into my food intake for the day. And when we go out, we enjoy ourselves…because at home, I simply don’t eat that much junk because we don’t buy that much junk. I’m the person who got mad at her husband yesterday for buying her favorite M&Ms and bringing them in the house (true story). Because yes, I will overindulge. Yes, I will give into temptation and share a bag of chips with my son for lunch while we sit our butts on the sofa and watch tv. I struggle with my love of coke, only because I use it as a migraine remedy-one of the only things that works for me and I’m strongly encouraged to use (as needed) by my doctors because the pills they’ve prescribed over the years just don’t work. Oh, and let’s not forget emotional stress…I suffered three miscarriages in eight months and before I lost the pregnancies I struggled with morning sickness like no other-which meant if all I could eat that day was ramen noodles and peppermint tea…then at least I ate something and wasn’t starving my unborn child of nutrients. And for the past few years before I remarried I was a single mom on a very limited and constantly changing budget which meant sometimes dinner was pasta or grilled cheese because that was cheaper than fresh veggies and organic meats-or heck, even meat and veggies at all. Three kids eat a LOT and if I only had five dollars to make dinner that night, a pound of pasta and can of sauce from the dollar store was it (I admit this didn’t happen all the time-but I was in that situation more times that I would like to remember).
Okay, getting off my soapbox now…the point is this: don’t go judging someone because of how they look. Instead remember we are all made in different shapes and sizes…the thin people have problems too, and instead maybe ask-in a non-judgmental way-if you’re that curious. Or just don’t be so nosy and remember we see a slice of people’s lives-whether it’s online or in person-and until you live with someone for a good long while, you probably won’t realize what they’re entire lives are like.
For our family, for me…finding a way to eat healthy, on a budget, with a child who has such massive food aversions (thank you autism), and not make mealtime a war zone has been an on-going challenge. And after years of begging doctor after doctor after nutritionist after expert for help, trying it their way-even when it seemed stupid-I finally started listening to myself, my body and watching my kids and experimenting with small changes. Let me repeat that cause it’s the number one thing that helped more than anything:
I stopped listening to everyone else and started listening to my own body and mind. After I did this, I had a talk with a different doctor-a doctor who was a woman, also probably overweight per the current standards, and someone I saw eating a donut in the hall right before our appointment. And she told me I was doing the absolute right thing, and made me promise not to beat myself up if I slipped and ate the occasional donut.
And I don’t beat myself up. Sometimes, especially as mothers, the only option is the unhealthy option. As for what we actually eat? Like I state in my “about” page…we eat 90% gluten-free, because when we eat at home it’s 100% gluten-free, but that isn’t always an option when you’re out with a toddler. We also don’t use cane sugar or anything processed in our house…I make a lot of things from scratch, which means our pantry is filled with things like coconut sugar, raw oats, dried beans and rice, etc. I tend to make at least two meals a day…usually three if I don’t have any leftovers for lunch for myself. I use to bake our bread, but found the Trader Joe’s gluten free was better than mine-and cheaper overall, plus saved me so much time. As for what I drink, at home it’s water, water, and more water. I literally start my day by drinking 8-12 ounces of water and spend the day trying to drink at least 100 ounces by the time I go to bed. And yes this means I go to the bathroom-a lot. Which is why when I’m out I tend to drink tea or coffee…less visits to the bathroom, especially if I’m working. I can’t exactly stop an event I’m photographing or videoing to take bathroom breaks. But I do feel better when I drink more water, so I suck it up. And if my stomach is giving me trouble-as it’s prone to do at times, I drink carbonated water-we own a Soda Stream and both hubby and I use it daily. When we eat out, we usually get seltzer water with lime.
And we eat a TON of fresh fruit and veggies. Like, half our grocery bill is spent on the produce section-and we shop often. Roasted in the over, steamed on the stove, chopped up raw, thrown on the grill, baked, stir-fry…however we can, we are shoving veggies down our-and our kids-throats. Snacks are apples and bananas. We have three fruit & veggie baskets for our countertops-and they usually all are filled every two weeks and we eat them down.
I didn’t make all these changes at once. Nope, it was a gradual thing…easier on our systems, and on our wallets. Going gluten-free was something I originally did as a way to treat symptoms of my fibromyalgia. Then hubby tried it as well, as a way of being supportive. Then we started making gluten-free for the whole family…and we all feel better. This isn’t to say we don’t indulge from time to time-pizza night is popular (I usually get a gluten free for just me and the rest is regular crust), and we ADORE Aunt Annie’s pretzels. But again-in moderation. Hubby and I have a tradition for longer car trips-we split a pack of candy. However, I don’t really like having it in the house as eating too much candy (or sugar at all) gives me headaches and makes me tired-hence our argument yesterday. Which wasn’t really an argument, just me reminding him why I don’t like keeping the junk food in the house.
We also meal plan…kind of. I cannot do an entire month of meal plans at once-our schedule just isn’t that consistent. But I do think of meals about a week in advance, and make sure it works with our schedule for that day.
The point is this-we found what works for our family…and we don’t beat ourselves up if we slip a bit. Life gets busy, we are in a very busy time right now as a matter of fact. So our meals are more quick and easy these days, and the ones that require more prep and time are put aside for now. So if we eat pizza once a week, grab lunch in the car or use the crock-pot more, I don’t beat myself up. And if we spend the day out shopping, we go ahead and get some of those Aunt Annie’s pretzel nuggets to share (because the smell alone is YUM).
Just a final note: nothing we did was to lose weight, all of our changes was made with the health of each single person in mind, and we did talk to our pediatrician and doctors. I am not recommending you make these changes without a lot of research, and definitely talking to your medical professional. Cause everybody is different and what works for us may not work for you. This is just what works for us, and one of the ways we found out about it was from people like me sharing their stories, so I simply consider this paying it forward.