Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What do you mean I eat my feelings?

I'm back if you missed me, and hello again if you didn't notice I was gone for an extra long while (no hard feelings, I promise)!
This past weekend we decided spur of the moment (for us, which means 5 days ahead of time) to show up at my parents house in Utah and totally surprise my mom and sister with a visit from Sam (my dad was in on our plans). One of the things we got to celebrate with Sam's grandparents was her impending first birthday! I can not believe how the time has flown by, but sure enough, the big 1 is just around the corner. In honor of this momentous occasion, here is a picture of Sam celebrating her big day with her first piece of birthday cake.
Hmmm, maybe I should be more specific. This is a picture of the cake ritual after Sam licked a bit of frosting off her fingers, and upon discovering it to be tasty, got a glazed yet crazy look in her eyes, proceeded to grab the whole slice with both hands and shove it into her mouth like an adorable bald wood-chipper. It was absolute carnage for about 2 minutes while cake and frosting flew in her general direction, and when there were no pinchable pieces of cake left, Sam opted to lick out the bowl to catch every last crumb, at least the ones that weren't already ground into my sweater. Apparently, Sam LOVES cake. It was like the entirety of her life (all twelve months of it) was a waste until this moment. Learning to walk full-time a few weeks ago pales to the first taste of cake on the list of milestones in her mind, I'm sure.

The next day, we went to my uncle's house to celebrate Sam's 2nd cousin's first birthday too. Miss Molly proceeded to dab her finger in the frosting of her cupcake and lick it off in a lady-like way just a few times, never really getting much into the whole cake experience. In five minutes, Molly had a nearly untouched cupcake in front of her and was itching to get down and crawl. On the other hand, after a few (agonizing) minutes of having to watch her cousin pick at the moist goodness ahead of her, Sam was finally given her cupcake which she--yep--proceeded to grab with both hands and shove into her mouth with a smile of pure joy on her face. Amid sugar-muffled shouts of "Numm!!!! NUM!" she made short work of her treat and cried when I pried her away from the pile of crumbs to clean her off. My dad, as a grandpa, says it was adorable, but honestly, I found it a little embarrassing, especially when one of my cousins chimed in with "Geez, do ever feed that kid?" Yeah, we do feed her, just not CAKE!

As I watched the look of "Where have you been all my life!?" cross Sam's face at her first taste of frosting, I was reminded of a lot of the experts I've seen lately on TV and in magazines talking about emotional eating. Basically, these people say we don't need to go on strict diets so much as figure out why we have an unhealthy relationship with food and fix that in order to lose weight. When we "love ourselves" we won't be driven to overeat and we won't be fat anymore. And it all sounds pretty reasonable on the surface, but mostly, I think people like it because it doesn't tell them to do any actual work like diet and exercise. Maybe I'm fat because Ronald McDonald was the only person to hug me as a child! If I could stop eating my feelings (and grow 5 inches), I'd be America's Next Top Model! I lost two uncles named Ben and Jerry as a teenager, and I'm just trying to recapture our relationship through Chunky Monkey. I've got to be honest, though. I'm not fat because I've got a hole in my childhood that needs filling. I'm fat because I love food. I love the taste of it, the texture of it, the smell of it. Why do I love it? To me, food tastes awesome! It's not all that hard to figure out. What I wonder is if skinny people understand that?
My husband is skinny, he has been all his life, and he likes to eat, but he can take food or leave it at any given time. He isn't what I'd call "open" to the world of flavors out there. For crying out loud, he won't eat yogurt with fruit chunks in it, anything out of the ocean period, and he hates nuts "but only when they're alone or in stuff" (what that leaves open I'm unsure of, but that's what he says). I, on the other hand have some foods I don't care for, but they are far outnumbered by the ones I love.
I have tried however, to keep my "relationship" with food as healthy as any experts could ever want in front of my daughter. We do eat really healthy at our house, lots of fruits and veggies, very little red meat, and we include Sam in our healthy meal plan while letting her taste the occasional treat. Additionally, we don't harp on the healthy food issue, we don't preach about it, and we certainly don't pretend that high fructose corn syrup is the devil incarnate. We just do our best and make healthy foods the bulk of the menu always. In short, food and I have a good relationship as far as Sam is concerned.
My mom has a theory that there are people out there that have better senses of taste than others, which is why some people love food and other people (who usually have been skinny their whole lives) are like "if you are too fat, just don't eat that. It's not hard!" Maybe it isn't hard for them. Maybe they truly aren't tasting what I'm tasting when they bite into a Krispy Kreme. I have had glasses since age 7 because my eyesight is total crap, I swear my brother has always been slightly deaf, and the sense of smell in pregnant women could rival a bomb-sniffing dog, so isn't it equally possible for the sense of taste to be more potent, more honed, and more pleasurable in some than others? Is it possible that in exchange for the vision of Mr. Magoo, Heavenly Father blessed me with taste buds that can enjoy the flavors of the food I eat on a level that far surpasses my husband, instead blessed (or stuck) with athletic ability and perfect eyes?

Watching Sam dive into her cupcake with unbridled joy and reckless abandon, I have to contend that this is true. Sam is a still a baby, she has no "emotional baggage" when it comes to food, yet she loves to eat. She has never tried a food she didn't love, and mealtime has always been fun at our house. Her cousin however, has never liked to eat. Starting from the bottle, eating always has seemed to get in the way of Molly's life and was a source of stress, while for Sam, it's a great part of her daily routine. Sam isn't a chubby baby, and always makes it very clear when she's had enough food, and hopefully, she will be able to control her love of food better than I have when she is old enough to make her own choices. I now think that learning this control is just the responsibility of having this gift of the heightened sense, and not having it is just that--a lack of control--not a sign of deep-seated psychological issues. If someone has a heightened sense of enjoyment that comes from running (which I totally don't get, by the way) no one accuses them of being crazy or unhealthy mentally because they choose to train for marathons. Okay, to be fair, I call them crazy, but only in a joking way. I'm not crazy for doing a little extra of what I get enjoyment out of either, although I understand that I need to keep my favorite activity in check more so than others might have to.
So, yes, even though I might want to bury my face in Sam's birthday cake myself, I will refrain. I do believe that the desire I have to eat tasty things comes from the same place as Sam's eating exuberance, so I will fully enjoy the wonder of being able to watch that urge played out in it's most innocent form, by someone who doesn't worry about body image, judgement of others, or having to clean the floor for that matter. Plus, it is SO much cuter when Sam does it.


Kym said...

Monday nights

Me: "My name is Kym, and I am a Super Taster"

Super Taster's Annonymous: "Hi Kym"

Tuesday nights

Me: "My name is Kym, and I hate jogging (or running)"

Jog Haters Annonymous: "Hi Kym"

Wanna join my classes Carly?

Hee, hee, hee...Sam will fit right in with our family. Have you decided which one of the boys she gets to marry yet? I promise to be a great monther in law!

Kym said...

Even if I can't spell mother!

Vance & Amanda Williams said...

I LOOOOOVVVEEE to eat too. It makes me complete. I experience true joy when I eat. Maybe thats why I cant loose the BABY WEIGHT. :(

Daniel said...

spot on with your comments about food!

Sue said...

My first visit to your blog. I enjoyed your post immensely. Of course, I am a food lover, too, one who is currently on a healthy eating kick.


Ah well, this too shall pass...probably way too soon for my own good!