October, 2010

I woke up today thinking about how much I love the word satisfy and how it can be the perfect guide for intuitive eating. Last night I was alone, and I wasn't in the mood to cook dinner. It was an unusually hot fall evening in Berkeley, and when I opened my refrigerator, I was not inspired to cook anything. My husband is out of town, so for the past two days, all I have been eating is salmon, brown rice, and an incredibly delicious kale salad--for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

If I may tangent for a moment, I must say I've never been one to like kale, and even though I've known it is filled with nutrients and is "good" for me, I couldn't make myself eat it. On a few occasions, I've purchased a bunch of kale and it has rotted in my refrigerator. But this past summer, I met a lovely woman who talked with such love about a recipe she had for kale salad, that I just had to try it. I made it a week ago, and can't get enough.

Last night I knew I'd reached my limit with the salmon, rice, and kale because there they sat staring out of my refrigerator, but they didn't call out to me. And because I didn't feel like cooking, I decided it was a night for three crispy chicken tacos from my favorite taqueria. The past few times I've eaten them, I haven't been as thrilled with the experience as I was for two years straight, when I had to eat them at least once a week and every bite made me deliriously happy. I hadn't eaten them for about a month, so I thought it was time to give them another go. They tasted good, but didn't satisfy me. And after two I was tired of the taste, but still ate the third, which made my stomach and digestive system somewhat unhappy, hence the reason I woke up today thinking of the word satisfy. When I looked up the definition, I understood why my tacos didn't do the trick last night, and why the salmon, rice, and kale salad combo has become my new love.

sat ♥ is ♥ fy

to do or offer enough to make somebody feel pleased or content to fulfill a need or gratify a desire to achieve or be of sufficient standard to meet a requirement or condition

My eating habits are somewhat like those of children, in that I tend to eat certain foods over and over until I reach a level of satisfaction. My love affair with quinoa lasted about three years, and although I still like quinoa very much, I don't crave it every single day. My taco craving is definitely over. We'll see how long my passion for salmon, rice, and kale salad lasts. I don't feel guilty for eating the tacos, and I'm not mad at myself for making the "wrong" decision last night about what to eat. But what I did this morning, was logged the feeling I currently have in my digestive tract into the decision-making area of my brain, and the sense I had while eating the tacos that their flavor wasn't thrilling me as much it used to. So the next time my brain says, "Oooh, I want tacos!" I will take a moment to think about how I felt eating them last night, and listen deeply to see if my body really wants them, or if it is the past memory of their flavor still in my brain that is calling out for tacos.

I offer my story as an example of how the concept of satisfaction can guide our food choices, and how it does a much better job of helping us make excellent food choices than trying to be "good." My body let me know last night that the tacos are a bit too greasy for me at the moment, and I can't handle them right now. And I'm pretty sure my current cravings are letting me know that my body currently needs the nutrients that kale, brown rice, and salmon provide.

Six months later...

Here's what I absolutely love about intuitive eating--my body is now letting me know it has had enough kale salad for awhile, and my taste for tacos has returned! When I eat more than one or two meals of kale salad a week, I get diarrhea. It's a similar experience to when I took a magnesium supplement to help me sleep, and it caused an overload in my system with diarrhea as the result. I am still craving dark leafy greens, but spinach and arugula seem to be a bit easier on my digestive system at the moment. I'm not craving tacos in the same way I was a year ago, but their flavor is once again satisfying. And as before, I will probably experience another round of them slipping off my list of cravings.

We've been taught that cravings are bad. But in reality, our bodies crave all sorts of foods if we let them, and if we listen deeply. Current cultural belief is that we only crave foods containing sugar or something else we're not supposed to eat if we want to be "good." My story exemplifies that cravings come in all forms. I truly craved quinoa for three years. Then I craved kale. I regularly crave salmon in the winter. At times I crave chocolate, at times I crave something salty or meaty or cheesy. I find it fun to look up the nutritional value of foods I crave, post craving. I found that kale and the other ingredients of the salad I was making include a lot of magnesium, which I was told would help me sleep during menopause. I learned from my body that too much magnesium is not necessarily good for me, and that balance is the key. A trial and error experience that added a deeper understanding of what my body needs to thrive.

©2010, Connie Sobczak. All rights reserved.

Thigh Thoughts

Walking towards home with bags of delicious Chinese food in hand, mind focused on the beauty of the Berkeley gardens beginning to bloom, and suddenly I am jolted into the past by a woman passing by minding her own business. I instantly observe this young woman's thin, sweat pant-clad legs. Thighs long and lean and everything that I believed I wanted, everything I thought I should have, when I was a teenager and young woman. I am reminded that earlier today, as I walked past a mirror in my bedroom, my eyes sought out my thighs. An old habit left over from days when they were my obsession. See mirror--judge thighs. It is a trip to occasionally and unconsciously revisit old brain patterns that cause me to judge my body, and I wonder why it is happening to me today. Most likely there is insecurity in some other part of my life-like figuring out how to get my work funded. Or pondering menopausal body changes as I write!

The presence of the thin-thigh woman triggers a flashback to my emaciation-obsessed days when my greatest fear was that my thighs would rub together. Image of junior high school cheerleading days. Photos taken of us for the yearbook. Fun while we were being photographed. Shame when the photos were printed in the yearbook. A cropped image of one of us kneeling on the ground, thighs pressed together and spread to maximum width. Thighs only, no face. Everyone trying to figure out who the "fat" thighs belonged to. Mortification when one of my fellow cheerleaders said, "I think they're yours, Connie." Another nail hammered into my coffin built of shame. The beginning of my obsession with eradicating my thighs.

Farrah Fawcett images come to mind, my mid-1970's idol with her long thin legs, smooth unblemished skin, no extra hair on her body yet a thick mane of curly blond hair on her head, teeth large and straight in her perfect smile. My own hair brown and unruly (not straight enough or sufficiently curly to be styled easily), my teeth crooked, legs short and thick, butt big enough to be called "bubble butt" by my classmates, skin with adolescent acne, and very little in the way of self-esteem. Did I mention that Farrah had long skinny legs? And then there was Cheryl Tiegs on the poster found in nearly every teenaged boy's bedroom. No thighs touching on her!

Years of an eating-disordered psyche had me standing in front of the mirror with my butt pushed way out, back arched, knees locked back and spread as far apart from each other as possible, feet together because it would be cheating otherwise, and then the moment where I moved my knees forward and back, left and right opposing, to test if my thighs were in a state of grace or humiliation. Back and forth my legs pumped, without propelling me either forward or backward. Wheels spinning, but going no where. The danger of a meeting of the thighs always lurking until I was satisfied that I had passed the test. No more junior high school humiliation for me. My life became an obsession with keeping those damned thighs from ever touching again.

With sadness for the girl I was when my body was my enemy, I return to the present, aware that the thighs that now propel me toward home are mine-strong thighs that are firmly attached to the rest of my body. I feel soft skin rub together where my thighs touch above my pant legs and I smile. No longer fearful, I can let my thighs rub together, and enjoy feeling somewhat turned on! Disheartened, though, that it took so long to understand the sensuality of the action of skin rubbing against skin so close to the spot that brings such pleasure to my life. I confess that sometimes on a cold dark morning while standing in the shower trying to wake myself up to start the day, I rub soap between my legs and repeat the ritual that long ago scared me so much. Do my thighs touch? Yes, and the caress of warm water and soap and flesh upon flesh is superb.

In wrapping up this story so I can eat with great enjoyment the delicious Chinese food I brought home for dinner, I once again focus my attention on my thighs. This time with an apology for directing so much hatred toward them for so many years of my life. I thank them for their strength and their unique beauty. They are MY thighs, part of MY body. I honor them for carrying me easily up mountains-sometimes even with a child on my back-and for being strong enough to help me find the inner strength needed to follow my dreams. (In the early years of forming The Body Positive, I had the awareness that I needed strong thighs to achieve my dreams. Looking back I see that the stair climbing I did helped me as I struggled with the frustrations of trying to create something from nothing. Strong thighs were the metaphor I needed to climb over all obstacles in my path.)

I give honor to my thighs for helping me push my precious child out of my body, and for bringing me great pleasure is so many different ways. And I give them my vow that I will love them and honor them as they grow older. Even as they lose their youthful appearance (happening right now) as my skin ages and changes.

Thighs of mine, I honor you, because you are an integral and beautiful part of the temple that is my female body, the place that is home to my spirit and my soul.

A note to this story: As I headed for home with my food in hand and my thoughts in the past, I saw a little girl--somewhere between the ages of two and three--marching down the sidewalk after her mother. They turned around, her mom said "Go!" and the girl ran toward her dad. It was a beautiful family moment, yet I wondered when she, as a girl child, would learn that she was supposed to hate her body. Does her mother love her own body? Or will she pass on a legacy of body hatred to this innocent child? Will she be a round girl who is attacked by society? Or will the world have changed by the time she is five or six so that this girl can grow up believing that she is perfect just as she is? As I have little faith in our world regarding its attitudes toward bodies, I send a prayer to this beautiful child and hope that she is lucky enough to have self-esteem and an enlightened mother.

Can we all remember our own selves as little girls filled with joy and wonder by the simple act of running down the street with delight because our little legs finally let us move faster than a walk or a crawl? Can we discover the moment when self-hatred entered our souls? Is it possible to do the healing work to remove the outside voices that corrupted the innocence of living in a body with pure pleasure for what it can do? I watch babies learn to use their bodies as they grow and see the frustration and joy that come from mastering physical movement. I think about how five-year-old children are now aware that a certain size is acceptable and a certain size isn't. I listen to adults who went from being that child running down the street filled with wonder, to body-hating, self-flagellating women, and I am saddened by the amount of self-hatred I hear. Yet my sadness is matched by my dedication to help women heal and return to a level of innocence that allows each and every one of us, regardless of age, to rejoice in the wonder of our physical selves.

Don't be afraid to be weak Don't be too proud to be strong Just look into your heart, my friend That will be the return to yourself The return to yourself

Don't care what people say Just follow your own way Don't give up and lose the chance to return to yourself

It's not the beginning of the end It's the return to yourself The return to innocence Enigma, "Return to Innocence" from A Cross of Change

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