Category Archives: Food

Between binging and deprivation, a sweet spot

[If you follow Heidi’s Table on Facebook, then you will recognize some of what follows from a recent post there. Topics of food and eating are —for better or for worse— very near and dear to me. Today I’d love to bring some fresh air to a topic which can sometimes be fraught.]

I’ve come a long way from the eating disordered habits of my teens and young twenties, but food, and eating in general, remains an area where I meet my edge.

A few weeks ago I binged on a pint of Coconut Bliss, a delicious frozen treat which, sure, doesn’t have dairy (something I don’t do well with) and, sure, doesn’t have refined sugar or corn syrup (which are the equivalent of crack-cocaine for me), but still: we are not talking healthy here. Agave, which is what it is sweetened with, is sugar no matter what label of good or of bad we slap on it. And it was a binge. I didn’t even kid myself when I bought it: my lover was out of town and I got it with the intent of going home and curling up on the couch to binge on Coconut Bliss and Orange is the New Black. All of which I did.

When it comes to eating well and cultivating a loving relationship with myself and with food, what comes to mind is what the parenting and step-parenting research has shown to be true for bringing up well-adjusted and balanced kids: authoritarian (rules- and judgment- and punishment-based) doesn’t work. Neither does permissive (everything and anything is OK). Both authoritarian and permissive styles can actually be quite harmful. And neither sees the actual child. (The authoritarian parent’s eyes can’t see the actual child what for all the rules and judgments in the way, while the permissive parent can’t find the child because, oh well, whatever! I don’t know… Do whatever you want, honey, it doesn’t matter… Both styles can leave the kid with a sense of not mattering much, not being seen, not to mention unclarity about their place in their family and by extension the bigger world.)

Authoritative is where it’s at. Authoritative is kind and loving and firm, wherein firmness is about loving limits. And when limits are crossed, which is a natural part of life and of growing up, then there are consequences rather than punishments.

In relation to my eating, a kind with loving limits approach might look like eating good-for-me things and preparing them in yummy ways, and from time to time eating foods that are just plain old feel-good treats (within healthy limits and provided they aren’t total crap). The feel-good-treats wouldn’t be for every day or maybe even for every week, but from time to time, yes. Maybe the loving limit for me next time with Coconut Bliss would be not buying it to eat alone, but to share with someone. Or making my own Coconut Milk-Strawberry-Banana-Frozen-Treat-That-I-Can’t-Find-A-Good-Name-For (but is only sweetened with frozen fruit) and having a big bowl of that while I watch the colorful drama of prison life unfold.

Being kind and having loving limits around food is, in some ways, harder than both the rules- and punishment-based and the anything-goes approach. It’s not automatic for me. Kind and loving limits involve mindfulness and intention, neither of which I can practice without being present (rather than checked out) which involves turning toward rather than away from myself. And when a limit is crossed such as binging on a pint of Coconut Bliss, the consequence for binging could be simply the 2 + 2 = 4 kind of discomfort of feeling bloated and icky for the night and, depending on how often it happens, my pants getting tighter and, by extension, getting dressed becoming stressful. Whereas the judgment and punishment approach might sound rather mean: what the hell is wrong with you?! After all these years, still? Really?! Followed by, the next day, deprivation. And the anything-goes approach would probably not even call it a binge.

Teen-me’s and early-20’s-me’s habits around food involved a constant back and forth from judgment and punishment (diets, deprivation, and following a binge, purging) to anything-goes (binging and compulsive eating). The sweet spot of balance lies somewhere in the middle: I nourish myself with food that my body appreciates, I get to experiment and play around with making healthy foods that are also delicious, and I don’t punish myself when I do binge.

This all brings me to a bigger question, inquiry around which has become an underlying theme for me over the years. (Is it a coincidence that the qualities I list below are the very same things I want for my clients to receive when they visit Heidi’s Table?)

What is it that I am wanting, ultimately and immediately, from a binge?

Comfort. Preferably in the form of sweetness. Gooey and smooth is good.

And what is it that you want from that?

Aside from the obvious fact that sugar just tastes so freaking good? Hmm…it’s got something to do with home. With feeling at home.

What would that be like to feel deeply and truly at home?

Comfortable. Safe. Protected. Seen… Yes, seen. Allowed to be and worthy just as I am.

And how does that feel in your body, that kind of being seen?

It’s  brings a sigh of relief. Which is, come to think, another thing I always wanted from food, and particularly the sweet kind I favor to binge upon: relief.

Relief from what?

Relief from having to do it all myself, from feeling the weight of having to “make a living” on my shoulders, and relief from some huge disappointments I don’t know what to do with. Relief from anxiety and fear. I want a sense that something, someone, has my back. That I am not alone. That I am supported. Taken care of. All of that and also relief from having to figure anything out, or fix anything.

Whoa! That’s a tall order for a pint of Coconut Bliss! What would that be like in your body, this relief you are describing?

Oh, that brings another sigh. I’m relaxed. My breath is long and soft. My mind is calm.It’s about being able to rest. To fully let go. It’s like when you go to sit in a chair… You know how when a chair looks rickety or otherwise questionable, you know how when you go to sit in it (if even you do!) you can’t give the chair all of your weight but rather you hold back and are careful and tight—

Yes, I know what you mean—

Well, feeling totally supported is like sitting in the queen of all chairs, a chair that truly has your back. The queen of all chairs makes even the question of support obsolete. It’s a chair that you can plop every last bit of the good the bad and ugly of yourself into without even a thought —let alone a second thought— pertaining to support. That kind of chair.

I do not know that the next time my lover is out of town, or the next someone dies, or next time winter shuts us all in for weeks or months on end, or the next time someone I love puts their hand through a wall at the incomprehensible injustice and wrongness of the way things were, or are, or the next time I have an attack of insecurity about the ups and downs of being self-employed… I do not know that I will not then, once again, binge. But maybe just maybe I will pause first and ask:

Is this Coconut Bliss really the queen of all chairs or am I just pretending it is?

And then maybe just maybe I will find something or someone that can give me the kind of comfort, the kind of support, the kind of relief and sweetness that I will feel good about all night and when I wake the next morning.

 

 

 

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Do I believe in God?

Once upon a time I tried to die. But it wasn’t my time. Too much was unlived, untapped, unknown. So much not yet done, if it had even begun, so busy had I been stuffing and hiding and numbing so as not to feel the ever present sense of far away from love, from home, from myself… frantically trying to fit into a box I thought I was supposed to fit in, not for not having tried, and finally, despairing of mending the gash I felt had been rent in the fabric of me, I gave up.

It ain’t pretty to try and not succeed. You wake up not to oblivion but to shit, which I wish I only meant metaphorically. But no. I’m talking violent shit: your body screaming NO from every orifice and pore, every which way out, with no consideration of letting you make it —in your dizzy semi-consciousness— to basin or bowl in one’s one-room studio apartment.

One. So young. So 26. So sad. So homesick and greedy, above all, for connection. For a lap. For cool hands on a forehead. For arms around. For laughter. The smell of home. A kiss. One.

It ain’t graceful, either, how you grope on hands and knees, the world swirling about madly, and manage not to fall to your death —suddenly now, for some unfathomable reason, you care about not dying —managing somehow to make it down the ladder from your sleeping loft where you’d closed your lids the night before but not until after swallowing the pills and falling asleep oh-so-un-Snow White-ly.

—-

If you were to ask me if I believe in God I would now be honest like I wasn’t then, and tell you that no, not as such. Certainly not in a man with a beard in a heaven, ordaining for things to be such and such, calling this bad and that good, this one right and that one wrong. And not a God narrow and circumscribed enough for us to really grasp. And certainly not a God who’d send people who don’t fancy him to his arch nemesis’ lake of fire.

“But I do believe in Morning Glories,” I might add. “Does that count?”

—-

When the Morning Glories learned that one of them had tried and failed, they came to visit the state-run facility where she was. And they sat with her. Quiet. Then crying. Then laughing. Then holding hands in a circle saying the Serenity Prayer. But all the while there, with her, keeping company. And when they learned that she was to return home alone in a few days to the one-room shit hole she’d been carried out of in the wake of 44 pills that had not wanted to stay down, they asked her for her keys. And then they went to clean.

I lost touch with the Morning Glories over the years. They were an Alcoholics Anonymous women’s group I attended in Harvard Square 16 years ago, and, as much as I could relate to what it was that made them or anyone pick up a drink or a drug or a whatever, my whatever had never been Jack Daniels. My pints had not been beer but sweet fill-me-ups like ice cream, nice cream, smooth cream, comfort cream, love cream. And people. But not alcohol.

Truth be told, I also felt shame. Even after they cleaned, upon my return, the smell of the wreckage of my past, lingered. The thought of them there cleaning what I had left, was more than I could bear.

Today, the thought of Morning Glories invariably makes me cry. Words barely touch what is there. This here is a try: it’s something like gratitude. And humility. And love, oh my, love. They were kind enough to clean my shit so I could have a fresh start. They knew, I am certain of it, that it’d take everything I had to pull forward, and that I’d have to do it —the real middle of the night and ’round the clock work of it— on my own. Not without help, but yes, on my own.

So do I believe in God? Maybe. But only if I can call her Morning Glories.


[I love comments!
Love notes? Your own stories? What this makes you think of? Bring it on. But I kindly ask that you refrain from advice or preaching or Jesus-saves kind of talk.

Oh and too? Just so no one worries, what I write of happened 16 years ago. Much has changed since. Life can still feel hard sometimes, but I love it far too much to abandon it before my time.]

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Delish and Easy Peasy

Food. So necessary yet always a wee bit of an issue with me in some way. Much MUCH better than used to be but still–

Living alone I find that I often don’t plan meals and then end up eating pretty much the white and the brown food groups—those’d be bread and chocolate. And yes, those’d be the ones that aren’t very good friends with my intestines. Or they wear out their welcome pretty quickly. So there’s all that.

But today? JOY! And it was green. And easy.

I like broccoli but always find the little bitty tips annoying. Like they get stuck in my tonsils or something. But today: Problem sol-véd.

Enter Broccoli puree. Which could just as easily be called Sparkly Forest Satin. Or Green Velvet.

Here’s what I did:

  • I steamed fresh broccoli in a bit of water with salt.
  • I let it cool a bit (don’t throw away the water) and into the blender.
  • Added a pat of butter and a handful of fresh cilantro and salt. (And yes, that’s twice with the salt. I grew up in Chile. Cilantro and salt make everything better. But you could add another fresh herb, I’m sure. Basil might be fantastic. Or parsley).
  • Pureed, using water from cooking to adjust consistency.

Can I tell you it is the creamiest most delicious and beautiful thing I’ve eaten in days?

I’m posting this in case others, like me, need jolts of good food inspiration.

Mmmmmmmm….

xo
heidi

P.S. Would ADORE your ideas for simple, delicious and good-for-you. Especially with the vegetables.

P.P.S. My broccoli puree was inspired by my sister’s story of serving her kids mashed cauliflower with Parmesan, made in much the same way as my broccoli.

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