Health

No Effs to Give: On Body Image at Eight Months Pregnant

I recently posted a few pictures on Instagram from our babymoon in Thailand. A few people kindly commented on how confident I looked. At first I thought they were just being nice, but looking back at the photos, I can see what they mean.

70649592_10100291266223828_3625099195511209984_o

It’s true that I’m not self-conscious about my body or about how I look pregnant. It’s not that I look at my swollen belly and my stretch marks and think, “I’ve earned these tiger stripes,” or whatever it is the mommy bloggers like to say. I know I look huge. I am huge. But it’s also abundantly clear why I’m huge. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

My confidence is that of a person who has zero effs left to give. And I realized that that is a far cry from who I was nine months ago.

***

Back in January, I wrote this post about how very much I was struggling with my body. I had reached an all-time low, exhausted by self-loathing and feeling powerless to make any lasting change.

I spilled my guts about my desperation, and six weeks later I found out I was pregnant. Hilarious, God. Truly.

As you probably know, my initial reaction to the news was not positive. I admit, one of my first panicked thoughts was, “I can’t be pregnant now. I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I am going to be HUUUUGGGE.” I understand that extra weight and a changing body are a small price to pay for creating a whole new life, but at the time it felt like one more way my life was being taken from me.

Now here I am 8 months pregnant and it turns out that losing control has been one of the best things that’s ever happened for my relationship with my body. I have felt freedom from self-criticism and self-hatred for the first time since I was ten years old and became aware of my body as female and of all the expectations that go along with that.

Some pregnant women are filled with love and appreciation for what their bodies are capable of as they move through the stages of pregnancy. And yes, it is miraculous. But for the most part, I have not felt this way. Most of the time I feel this odd combination of being intensely aware of everything going on in my body while also feeling like a stranger in it. I feel every ache and pain and jab and stab acutely, and at the same time I have the sense that I am floating around inside of this vessel I do not recognize, just waiting to get my life back. While this distance from my body has been isolating in some ways, it’s been healing in others.

Let me be clear. I have not particularly enjoyed pregnancy. I do not feel beautiful, sexy, or powerful the way some women seem to feel during pregnancy. I don’t particularly likethe way I look pregnant and I definitely don’t like the way I feel. But I’m also not disgusted by my body the way I was pre-pregnancy. I just honestly don’t care.

For the first time in my life, what is happening to my body is really and truly beyond my control. I could eat organic kale for every meal and workout twice a day and I would still going to have this giant belly. Since there is nothing I can do to change what my body looks like right now, I have no brain space or energy to waste worrying about it.

My expectations of my pregnant body are so vastly different from what my expectations of my body have always been. As an adolescent growing up with the mixture of societal pressures and the targeted messages of purity culture, I was constantly aware of the wrongnessof my body. There was the shame of not being attractive enough, along with the shame of being inappropriately attractive. I felt the expectation to simultaneously figure out how to be thin, toned, feminine perfection, and to dress in way that protected helpless men from that thin, toned, feminine perfection.

As I got older, I stripped off some of the burdens of purity culture, but struggled as my weight fluctuated and my self-worth rose and fell with the expansion or shrinking of my thighs.

Now for the first time, my attractiveness is utterly irrelevant. I take up more space than ever before. People are hyper-aware of me and my body. And at the same time, I have never felt more invisible. I feel no expectation, from myself or from anyone else, to be attractive. My body is no longer an aesthetic object, it is pure function. I am an incubator. That’s all.

Of course, I don’t want to feel this way forever. I don’t want “mother” to become my identity. I don’t want to disappear. I want to walk down the street and have someone think (but maybe not say) “Daaaaayummmmn, girl!” But there are also things I hope I take with me from this time.

I hope my base level expectations of my body have permanently changed. Instead of valuing myself based on arbitrary measures of attractiveness, I hope my foremost expectation of my body is for it to be healthy and strong so that I can do everything I need to do. No more. No less.

I want to feel attractive again someday, but I hope that feeling is based on confidence and acceptance, not meeting an external expectation. I think it can be incredibly attractive for someone to say, “My body is just my body. I look how I look.” If I can accept without difficulty the fact that I have blue eyes and small hands, could I also accept whatever shape my body ends up being when this ride is over?

I don’t know what to expect or how things will change post-partum, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated.  Whatever the next part of the journey looks like, I kind of hope that I’ll continue to be fresh out of effs to give.

I Hate My Body (Let’s Not Sugarcoat This)

I want to write this post, but I don’t know how.

I’ve been a bit paralyzed honestly. It’s not writer’s block exactly. Rather it’s that I’ve found myself approaching writing with much more fear than I have ever had before. In spite of how lovely this community has always been to me, I am paralyzed by the fear of being misunderstood and of being judged. While I always strive to be intentional about my words here, I am feeling guarded in a way that I never have before.

I see this blog as a platform for me to practice vulnerability, not for validation and not as some sort of emotional dumping ground, but genuinely in the hope that what I share will bring hope and encouragement or at least a sense of solidarity.

This time, I am afraid. But I think the only way forward is through.

I hate my body.

The feminist in me is cringing. In spite of everything I passionately believe to be true about beauty being expansive and inclusive and about how there is no ideal or perfect body, I wage a silent war with mine every day of my life. And more and more, I have been losing the battle.

I am not the first person to feel this way, and I am certainly not the first person to write about it. I don’t think my experience is unique or that I am equipped to articulate it in a way that no one has before. But I am writing this as a kind of confession. I have reached a point where I can no longer pretend that I live with the sort of self-acceptance I advocate to others. I don’t think my size or shape define my worth as a person. But they greatly affect my happiness and confidence with myself.

The difficult thing is that I am not measuring myself up against an airbrushed movie star or a Victoria’s Secret model. I don’t want to look like women in magazines. Instead, I am measuring myself up against other (better) versions of myself.

For the past 10 years, my weight has fluctuated often, sometimes dramatically. I have lost 20 lbs and then gained 30 in the space of a single year. I have been thin, and I have been overweight ( And I don’t mean 5 vanity pounds, I mean properly overweight).  I have done all of the diets, both the intense ones and the ones that are “not a diet, but a lifestyle” with many periods of “success.” But in the end, I have never found a way to live a “normal” life. There is no stasis for me. I am only ever gaining or losing weight. The sad reality for me is that no matter how many vegetables I eat and no matter how many miles I run, unless I am counting and measuring and restricting, I am gaining weight.

While I think all women struggle with body confidence to some extent, I have felt very alone in this for many years.  My closest friends do not seem to have the same issues managing their weight that I do. They are either naturally thin or are able to eat a normal, moderate diet without experiencing big weight fluctuations. The women in my family are all (either naturally or through admirable discipline) exceptionally fit.

When I think of how much mental and physical energy and anguish I have expended trying to control the size of my body, I am both embarrassed and exhausted.

I would vow to you that the number on the scale or the size on your jeans label mean nothing. And yet, I can tell you that in February of 2011, I weighed 164 pounds, and on the morning of my 28th birthday I weighed 143.5, but almost passed out because I had eaten so little the day before, and the August before that, I weighed 128. Why in the world do I remember this? Imagine all of the worthwhile things I could be using that brain space for instead of these years of meaningless numbers.

And the “healthier” I try to be, the more time and energy I spend trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat, how to prepare it, and how to plan ahead. I don’t know what it would be like to spend just one day where what I will or will not eat does not consume my thoughts. What a trivial and selfish thing to waste so much of my life on.

I want to be free from this.

I want to walk into a room without subconsciously assessing whether or not I am the biggest woman in the room. (That truth both disgusts and embarrasses me).

I am tired of thinking of my body as it is now as somehow temporary. Like I’ve left my body somewhere and this is the one I’ve borrowed until I can get my real one back. I have actually said to myself when clearing out my closet, “When I’m my real size, that skirt looks great on me, so I’ll hang onto it.”

Do you want to shake me yet?  Because I do. Wake up, Woman! It doesn’t get any more “real” than this. This chest rising and falling with my breath. These freakishly small fingers typing these words.

There are words we say in faith because we want them to be true. Because they are things we want to believe and we hope by speaking them they will make their way into our hearts. This year, more than ever, those words are, “I want to be at peace in my body.”

But I do not understand what it would mean to be at peace with my body as it is now, as it will be tomorrow, or as it will be in 5 years without also giving up the drive to maintain a healthy body.*

I don’t have any answers. I don’t expect you to have any answers. This struggle is the one I am most ashamed of and also the one I feel most alone in. I am ashamed because I know the “right” words and the “right” attitude. I know I am supposed to embrace my body and reject society’s narrow construction of beauty and love myself. But can I love myself and still want to lose weight? Can I maintain some sort of equilibrium where I am not always in flux? Can I reach a point where my thoughts are more consumed by what I can give to others than with how I feel about myself?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

*I do know that health and weight do not always correlate – you can be thin and unhealthy or overweight and relatively healthy. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me right now.

 

 

 

“But You Don’t Seem Bipolar” and Other Things You (and My Gynecologist) Shouldn’t Say

Soon after my revelatory meeting with my psychiatrist, I embarked on that most delightful of all womanly privileges, my annual pelvic exam. This time I also had a specific mission – to discuss the potential side effects my being on the pill was having on my mental health and what alternative solutions there might be.

Along with meditation and other anxiety-reducing techniques, one of the first courses of action my psychiatrist recommended was to stop taking oral contraceptives to see if and how these seemed to influence my mental health. Since I have always found myself to be very sensitive to the pill and experienced many side effects for years, it made perfect sense to me that altering my natural hormones might have an affect on my mental health.

As is traditional, the doctor was “running late in surgery,” which gave me lots of time to build anticipation over both the exam and talking about the “b” word with someone outside of my inner circle of family and friends. My anxiety built so much that by the time the nurse took my vitals my blood pressure was high.

(Side Note: When I texted my husband to tell him about the blood pressure spike, he very thought (ful?less?)ly asked, “Why do you think you’re feeling anxious?” To which I sweetly replied, “I think it’s because a strange man is going to stick a metal object with a sharp blade on it inside of me and scrape my cervix.”)

Before the blessed event, I sat across the desk from my doctor (who, for reasons I believe are entirely self-explanatory, my friends and I refer to as “Poor Man’s Matt Damon” (PMDD)) and explained to him, “I was recently diagnosed with bipolar depression and…”

“Really?” he cut in skeptically. “But you don’t seem bipolar!”

I stared at him blankly for a minute, too stunned to think of a response. To be honest, the first thing that popped into my head was “And you don’t seem like a moron…” but thankfully I waited a beat. Finally I said, “Well, I’m pretty sure it’s accurate.”

“Huh,” he said, still not fully convinced.

I continued on, explaining my doctor’s suggestion of getting off the hormonal birth control to see if it made any difference.

“Why would that make a difference?” he pushed.

“Well…I guess…because…your hormones affect your moods. And it’s a mood disorder?” I ventured.

“Well,” he finally said, “I’m not a psychiatrist so I won’t argue with her, but I don’t know about that.”

Initial awkward conversation aside, we moved on to the most glamorous part of the ordeal, in which I put on a sexy gown essentially made of paper towels and attempted to make light, casual conversation with PMMD while he poked and prodded.

“So, I remember that you’re a writer, ” he began, no doubt having read over my chart while I was changing. “So…do you write more when you’re manic?”

I lay there looking up at the ceiling in this most vulnerable of positions, trying to ignore the cold pressure of the speculum and the heat rising to my face. I responded like I always do when I feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to show it. I laughed. I laughed like it was all a big joke. “Yes,” I said. “But of course, I do everything more when I’m manic.”

*******

While my doctor’s response was especially surprising given his career as a medical professional, the general sentiment is one I have encountered many times. Even before bipolar was part of the mix, I would mention my social anxiety to people and they would say, “But you always seem so confident. I would never guess.” When used to assure me that I can pass as normal in social situations, I honestly do appreciate this sentiment, but I have a harder time when it comes across as skepticism.

When I was first diagnosed, I felt relief and denial in equal measures. I was relieved to hear that this decade-long struggle had a name and that the regular return of depression was not a sign of weakness. In some ways it was empowering to reframe what I had thought of as recurring failure as remarkable resilience.

But as I wrote in my last post, I also had a hard time coming to terms with this word which brought with it stigma, shame, and fear. My awareness of bipolar disorder was limited to the extreme cases portrayed in movies or cited in news stories. While I now know that this disorder is a wide-ranging spectrum with many sub-types and that the experiences of people who fit under the larger mantle of “bipolar disorder” can vary tremendously, my initial understanding of it was embarrassingly narrow.

One of the things that compelled me to start writing about this was the desire to educate other people and to challenge the stigmatization of mental illness in general, and of this one in particular. To share your experience openly and honestly with someone and have them respond with doubt is incredibly invalidating, and it puts you in the strange position of actually trying to build an argument to convince someone of your suffering.

Dear Dr. PMMD, I’m glad I don’t seem bipolar. But that’s kind of the entire point.

How many people around us seem completely fine and are dying inside? How many people paste a smile on their faces while their bellies grow heavy with dread? How many people seem to keep a thousand plates spinning without every dropping one, but wake up in the night with their hearts racing, unable to breathe. How many people have a hundred friends, but no one who really knows them?

It is noble and right to reach out and to ask. But it is our high and holy calling to listen and to believe.

 

 

Mindful Mondays: Mindful Eating

 

I’ve never understood those girls who eat like birds, picking over their food like chickens in a hen yard, a bite here and a bite there until they push back their plates declaring, “I’m so full!” before they’ve even made a dent in their meal.

I was born with a huge appetite – both for food and for life – that’s never quite satisfied. Cooking is a passion of mine – something that relaxes me and brings me joy. In my free time I read cookbooks and pin pictures of fabulous meals and research new restaurants and try new techniques. Even when I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating.

Like most young adults, something happened to my metabolism the year I turned 23 and I lost the ability to follow my appetite wherever it led me. Nowadays my metabolism goes so slowly that I gain weight if I eat more than 1200 calories a day (which is the amount most people eat when on a strict diet). Unfortunately, my slow metabolism has not changed the fact that I still want to eat all the food in the world. In fact, I want to eat them all twice. What it has done is increased the need for me to be mindful about my eating.

I don’t mean mindful eating in the sense of dieting and restricting. I mean being aware of what I’m putting into my body and why. If my body can only process 1200 calories a day then I want to enjoy each one of them. It’s so easy to eat (especially snack food) mindlessly while doing something else. It’s easy for me to cram handfuls of food into my mouth without even noticing while I watch TV or work on my computer.

I want to learn to pay attention. I want to stop and ask myself – Why am I eating? And if the answer isn’t because I’m truly hungry, then I need to stop and find something else to do. And if the answer is because I’m hungry then I want to slow down and savor. I want to fully appreciate the gift of good food-how it tastes, where it comes from, and how it somehow miraculously nourishes my body.

Lately I’ve forgotten the value of mindful eating. This week I want to hit the reset button. I want to make conscious choices about what I eat and when I eat and why I eat. Tonight I’ll try a new recipe for balsamic glazed chicken with acorn squash and roasted root vegetables. I’ll prepare this meal with my own hands, chopping the vegetables, tossing the chicken in the tangy sweetness of the balsamic, and roasting them all together in my oven. Then I will sit down to eat it with gratitude for the earth that produced the squash and for the chicken who died so that I could eat this meal.

Eating good food is itself a great pleasure, but when I slow down and practice mindfulness I create a little more space for beauty. And the world can always use a little more beauty.

Makeup as an Act of Self-Care: A Guest Post

Today is exciting because it’s Saturday and it is the only day this week that I don’t have work to do.  It’s also exciting because I get to share a guest post I had the privilege to write for my friend Kelsey’s blog.

Kelsey is a talented writer and great friend who I met through the internet. When she asked me if I would write a post for her series on Self-Care, I jumped at the chance. In the post I explain how doing my makeup has become an act of self-care and artistic expression for me.

“When I have to be at work by 8:00 I wake up before the sun. I feed my cats in the fuzzy gray light of the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee. Then I carry the steaming mug with me into the bathroom where I sort through my makeup collection, pick out what I want to wear that day, pull out my brushes, consider the blank canvas of my face, and start to paint.”

To read the rest of this post, head over to Kelsey’s blog! And don’t forget to check out some of her other posts while you’re over there!

Image Credit: Flickr via Sodanie Chea

Recipes and Relationships: A Guest Post That Will Make You Hungry

My friend Asharae Kroll is one of the most talented people I know. Not only do she and her husband own their own photography and videography business doing weddings, engagements, and lifestyle photography, but she is also a fantastic cook. If you’ve ever tried to take good food pictures before, you know what a challenge it can be to capture on camera just how delicious and inviting a particular dish is. Asharae’s food photography will make you want to drop whatever you’re doing and start cooking.

Asharae gave me the amazing opportunity to do a guest post for her food blog, This Wild Seasonand my first thought was to share the scrumptious zucchini lasagna I started making a few months ago. I sent her my post along with the recipe and she made magic happen. Here is an excerpt from the post:

“Eleven months ago my husband and I moved to South Korea to teach English. Living in a foreign country can feel exciting and adventurous, but there are still times when it’s hard not to be overcome by homesickness and longing for the comfortable and familiar. One of the best ways for me to feel connected to home is through food. I love to cook, especially for friends and family. Here in Korea, I don’t have access to the same ingredients or cooking methods I did at home (no ovens!) so I’ve had to make some creative adjustments and adaptations…”

Click HERE to read the rest of this post and get the recipe for my zucchini lasagna. Be sure to check out Asharae’s other delicious recipes and gorgeous photography. And if you’re in the market for a photographer or videographer, be sure to consider Asharae and her husband Tim’s business Grain & Compass.  She took my wedding photos and some anniversary photos for us, so I speak from experience when I say you won’t be disappointed.

The Sacrament of Eating: Discovering Food as Holy and Why I Will Never Eat Paleo

I love food. I don’t mean that I really like food or that I have a few favorite dishes that make my mouth water when I think of them. I don’t mean that I (like many people) have a sweet tooth or that I really enjoy a nice meal after a long day. I mean I LOVE food. I wake up in the morning thinking about all the things I will eat that day (or even later that week). I spend my free time making lists of the things I will eat when I return to America, drooling over pinterest recipes, and watching cooking shows. During our last vacation, we spent several perfect days doing nothing but moving from one café or coffeeshop or gelateria or restaurant to another- eating, drinking, talking, and reading in each one. For a while my dream was to own my own bakery (though the business side of things always keeps me from pursuing that too realistically) because I am absolutely captivated by the way sugar and butter and flour and eggs combine in endless variations to make a thousand different cakes and pies and cookies and custards and cobblers and crumbles and brownies and sweet breads.

Admitting to loving food feels a little like to admitting to watching porn or non-ironically liking Real HousewivesWhy is that? Because as a woman, I’ve often felt ashamed of my appetite. Because I can easily eat the same amount as my husband even though he’s 8 inches taller and 50 lbs heavier. Because I have never in my life said, “I don’t think I can finish this ice cream cone.” We live in a culture where women are expected to have dainty appetites unless they are naturally very thin, in which case they can eat as much as they want and people are amused that someone so thin can put away so much. But when you’re on the rounder side of things, you are expected to go to restaurants and order a side salad with no dressing, not the bacon alfredo pasta and a glass of wine.

Breakfast Bagel from my amazingly talented fried at "This Wild Season". Click for the recipe and more gorgeous images.

Breakfast Bagel from my amazingly talented friend Asharae at This Wild Season. Click for the recipe and more gorgeous images.

I freely admit that much of the time I don’t love my body. Not because of the way I’m shaped so much as the incredibly fragile balance I have to strike to maintain a healthy weight. I have always lived on the cusp of what is medically considered overweight for my frame and height and I gain weight very easily. I can gain a solid 6 lbs in one week of vacation. I have done the diet thing. I have struggled with self-loathing because of my weight and shed tears over the size of my thighs. For me, the problem with gaining weight is not just being unhappy with how I look or feel, it’s truly a health issue. I believe that my body is a gift and am convicted that I should treat it with respect by maintaining a certain level of health and fitness.

There’s a saying that I’ve heard dieters use for motivation, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. I can think of many things that taste so good I would rather have them than have smaller thighs. (For example, cheese. Could I live without it? Sure. But why would I want to?) For me to have smaller thighs, I would have to consistently say no to some of the things I love most in this life. It’s simply not worth it to me. I’m ready to find another way.

Lemon-Glazed-Blueberry-Donuts_This-Wild-Season-8

Lemon-glazed blueberry donuts from This Wild Season. Click for recipe. Now, imagine not ever eating these. A travesty.

In the past, I thought the crux of my problem was that I loved food and if I could just stop loving food so much I would be able to choose being thin over eating. But I’m beginning to wonder what it might look like if, instead of trying to change this part of myself, instead of trying to curb my appetite or denying myself certain things I’m not “supposed to” eat, I embraced that food is something I love. That creative medleys of flavor make my soul sing the way music moves the violinist. I am coming to genuinely believe that loving food (like, really loving it) is part of being me. It’s part of what makes me uniquely myself, as much as crying all the time and loving words are part of who I am. And that part of myself is GOOD. *

Chicken-Tortilla-Soup_This-Wild-Season-6

Chicken Tortilla Soup from This Wild Season. Click for the recipe.

It seems we all have people in our lives who have been sucked into the Paleo craze. Many of my family members and friends have jumped on that bandwagon. I have heard them use the language of addiction to describe my kind of passion for food. If you aren’t familiar with it, the basic premise of Paleo is that we were biologically designed to eat a certain way and that through modern technology we have come to eat many things that our bodies were never intended to process. All of this “unnatural” food causes a variety of health problems (not to mention obesity) that can be resolved simply by cutting out the foods we were never intended to eat. Paleo diet adherents eat grass-fed meats, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. No grains or starches, no legumes, no sugar, no dairy, and nothing processed. The diet (and it’s a lifestyle, not a temporary diet) is essentially the diet of a caveman (hence the “Paleo”) and is based on eating only things that would have been available to the caveman.

I deeply admire and agree with the concept of eating natural things that have grown from the earth and aren’t full of chemicals. I also am sympathetic to eating less grain and starches as my own body doesn’t process these things well.** Where I get tripped up is the assertion that we shouldn’t eat these things because they go against our nature. Because we weren’t intended to eat them. I reject that. And the main reason is Jesus.

I think about the Last Supper and I envision Jesus and the disciples gathered around that table, coming together for this holy meal that their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers for generations back had eaten, every bite dripping with significance. I see Jesus picking up, not the lamb or the herbs or the vinegar, but the bread and the wine. Holding the crumbling bread in his hands, saying, “This is my body.” Staining his lips and tongue purple with wine saying, “This is my blood.”

I simply can’t accept the idea that the bread-eating, wine-drinking God-made-flesh was knowingly “poisoning” his body with what he ate. I understand that Jesus lived embedded in a particular cultural context. But even still – I don’t think he would have chosen bread and wine as the sacramental elements to represent his body and his blood for all future generations all over the world if they were things we were never intended to eat.

wine and bread

Here is the bottom line. I don’t believe we were meant to live part of a life. I believe in living a full, rich, abundant life. And for me that includes tasting everything. There are times when I choose to cut out some sweets or starches for a while because my body is telling me that’s what it needs in that season. And it is important to me that I honor and respect my body.*** But I will never stop eating those things completely. Not because I can’t, but because permanently removing those things takes away some of what abundant life means to me. Shauna Niequist**** puts it so well when she describes her life on a rigorous diet of no gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or sugar:

“I felt great. I lost some weight, started sleeping better, didn’t ache at all. Success! But at the same time I felt like I wasn’t living in the same world everyone else was living in. It was like choosing to live with the volume turned all the way down, or going to the beach and not being able to put my feet in the ocean. My senses were starving. Eating such a restricted diet on an ongoing basis wasn’t going to work for me…There has to be a way to live with health and maturity and intention while still honoring the part of me that loves to eat, that sees food as a way to nurture and nourish both my body and my spirit.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have come to believe that there is something holy and sacramental about food itself-the way we nourish our bodies with the gifts of the earth that God has provided for us. And the more I’ve thought about this, I’ve been struck by the sheer beauty of food as a sacrament. Could the act of eating itself be worship? Could working with our hands to prepare the gifts of the earth for the table be a form of gratitude for God’s provision that spills glory out into an ordinary moment? Could savoring the common elements of paper-thin pizza crust covered with sweet pears and creamy gorgonzola and spicy arugula, drizzled in balsamic be a way to experience uncommon grace? After all, why do we speak words over our food and call it grace if not because there is grace there to be received?

“You say grace before meals.

All right.

But I say grace before the concert and the opera,

And grace before the play and pantomime,

And grace before I open a book,

And grace before sketching, painting,

Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing

And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

G.K. Chesterton, “A Grace,” Collected Poetry

________________________________________________________

*Of course, I don’t believe that any amount of love for and enjoyment of food excuses overeating or gluttony. I would never try to make the case that I should feel free to eat as much as I want of whatever I want unchecked. I think it’s wrong when I eat far beyond what I need, or when I eat to try to satisfy some appetite that isn’t really physical. These things don’t get a pass just because I am embracing my love of food.

**A few years ago after many doctors and a couple of years of tests, finding and removing polyps, and chalking up lots of digestive issues to the all-inclusive “IBS,” I tested off-the-charts positive for a bacterial overgrowth in my small-intestine (SIBO). This was treatable by an unbelievably expensive antibiotic, but according to my doctor, once you have this problem, it almost always comes back. No one knows what causes it, and there is no cure that prevents it from ever coming back. However, the bacteria feeds on starches. So when it is flaring up, one of the best things I can do to manage it is to cut starches out of my diet. Also, like many women, there is a direct correlation for me between the amount of starch I eat and my weight.

***I am learning to find balance by listening to my body. If the SIBO is active and I’m not feeling well, I stop eating starches until the cycle is over. If my clothes are tight because I’ve been letting my appetites run out of control, I treat this as a physical symptom I need to address for my health. Obviously, if you have some sort of serious food allergy, you have to listen to your body in that as well. Believe me, I’m not advocating that someone with celiac should think having regular bread is more important than being healthy. I’m talking about my own feelings for my particular situation.

**** This is from Shauna Niequist’s excellent book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table.