I recently had one of those experiences that drives home the message that I have to make good matches between my problems and their solutions. In the past I have learned other lessons about the importance of matching problems and solutions, like accepting that my cravings are triggered by eating wheat and that jumping through a dozen other hoops to avoid this unwanted truth just sets me up for more unwanted eating. Or how about the time I decided to start every day with a fruit smoothie until I ended up ravenous and gained three pounds?
There’s a phrase we use at Suppers that described my situation perfectly: “sane person, crazy body.” Not that I advocate splitting mind and body, but if my rational mind was able to observe my crazy behavior, how crazy could I have been? My body insanity always happened like this:
“The mess that I created is so enormous I have no idea where to begin cleaning it up.” That’s how I introduced myself at my first Suppers meeting. Not only am I a junk food junkie, I have brought three children into the world who eat garbage too. My husband and I are always at each other’s throats. There is rarely a time when we’re all in a good mood at the same time except maybe in the middle of the night if we’re all asleep.
I am surrounded with people in medical professions. I am personally quite knowledgeable about health; let’s say a very well educated lay-person. So how I got so deep into my own health problem before I sorted out what was going on with me is mystifying. I can only conclude that there are culture-wide headphones that drown out the language our bodies are speaking. Somehow I came to interpret my physical experiences and moods mostly in terms of overwork, emotional and psychological stress, and relationship challenges. I did not know how my mood changes related to what I ate.
At my first Suppers meeting, we participated in a workshop that explained how addictive the standard American diet is. In the U.S. we have easy access to affordable, highly processed foods. The facilitator explained how eating processed foods provides a diet high in sugar, salt, and fat, which destabilizes blood sugar and causes cravings for unhealthy foods and excessive weight gain. We also learned that making dietary changes and eating more whole foods will not only improve health, but can also improve how you feel physically and emotionally.
The “click” for me happened the moment I heard the words “nutritional harm reduction.” I have had eating disorders for as long as I can remember, but it was when I was attending a Suppers workshop for parents of homeschoolers that I had my revelation: I don’t have to perfect our diet all at once.
What a relief to find an alternative to all-or-nothing thinking. I could feel good about incremental changes toward a better diet. Although I first went for my children’s sake, change had to start with me.
I am an Indian mother raising two children in America. I have a very picky five-year-old boy and an eight-year-old daughter who will eat anything as long as it is not too spicy. What? I’m Indian! Their Western eating habits have evolved from being annoying to worrisome, especially as my son is barely grazing the lower edge of the growth charts and is bound to fall off any day now. And to make matters worse, my angst grows when I hear my father’s voice in my head and I can sense his disapproval.
There is something I don’t do now that I used to do. I used to “take care of myself” by diving into a pint of ice cream. Ice cream consumption as a form of self-care may not make sense to everybody, but for me the pleasure was intense and the results were reliable. The downside was that I could never figure out exactly how much insulin to take to cover the ice cream. Plus, once I started eating ice cream, I always ate more than I planned to. Diabetics walk a thin line every day.
Last month I attended a Suppers meeting where we discussed Bee Wilson’s book, First Bite: How We Learn To Eat. In her book, Wilson points to study after study that proves a child can learn to like any food as long as the child has that particular food in the world in which he lives. Wilson advocates a specific approach in which the child has repeated (at least 15), continuous (daily), small (the size of a grain of rice) exposures to the particular food. The child must actually taste the food during each encounter (licking counts).
I didn’t know what, exactly, to expect when I first went to Suppers. But two friends suggested on separate occasions that I try this program. Both had heard me lament my inability to break my addiction to sugar. I had never heard of Suppers before.