Yesterday, a parent of one of my patient’s heard that I was headed to Chicago this weekend for a field hockey tournament and her response was one that I have heard so many times, and I cringe whenever I hear it. I cringe because I don’t yet know how to handle it – I either ignore it completely or I step up onto my soapbox. Either way, it’s not helpful or satisfying to either party.
“Oh, Chicago? They have SUCH good food there…and of course, YOU can eat it since you’re so active – you’re so lucky!”
Heard that before? I hate it. For two reasons.
1. I’m not active so I can eat “whatever I want”. I’m active because it’s a social opportunity, it helps me sleep better, it reduces stress, it’s a challenge, it makes me physically and mentally strong – I could go on and on, but nowhere on my list of reasons would food appear. So people telling me that is awkward because it’s not true.
2. By them saying that, it means that a) they equate being active to being able to eat whatever you want – and not only is there so much more to being active, but that’s simply not true. And b) (the one I think is most important) they’ve associated guilt with eating foods they like.
If I had a magic wand when working with my patients (or even talking to friends and family), one of the first things I would do is remove guilt people feel for eating treat foods – and here I’m defining treat foods as those that are energy dense and lower in nutritional quality. All foods fit – some just more in moderation than others – and they need to fit into our diet. Otherwise when we finally “cave” and eat the food we’ve denied ourselves (and we will), we feel guilty. And then swear ourselves off the food again…and the cycle continues.
I LOVE chocolate. And I have little control over chocolate so I don’t keep it in the house – because at that point I know I wouldn’t eat it in moderation and it would likely be consumed in quantities that mean I don’t have room to eat my higher nutrition quality foods (I REALLY love chocolate). But I have chocolate at least 2-3 times a week (but how many times a week you “treat” yourself is really an individual thing – whatever allows you to feel satisfied and not restricted). I buy it in smaller quantities, eat all of it, and feel great. And do I binge sometimes on it – sure. But it doesn’t happen often because I allow myself to have it regularly, I don’t restrict myself from it, so when I do find myself in front of LOTS of chocolate, I don’t feel the need to binge as much. And when I do binge, there is so much less guilt associated with it.
But I certainly wasn’t always like that. I used to be much more like that parent. And I think it started when I was in grade 8 and wore leggings one day and some girl in my class said something along the lines of, “Wow, your legs are skinny – you’re lucky”. I doubt that I had ever thought about how skinny I was or whether that was a good thing – until that girl told me I was and apparently, according to her, it was a good thing. Then when I was 15 I went away to summer camp for a month and gained weight – not a whole bunch, but enough that when I came home my dad said, “Wow, well you certainly look healthy” which was code for: You didn’t starve while you were there. I remember skipping breakfast during high school, going vegetarian in university, and denying myself treat foods (and then bingeing whenever I came in contact with them) all in hopes that I would get my skinny grade 8 legs back and I would never be referred to as “healthy” again. Then I met someone who showed me how to have a good relationship with food, who taught me that food fuels my body so I can do the things I love to do. It took a few years but I’ve been able to change my thinking and while I’m far from perfect in my “food thoughts”, I’m no longer chasing those grade 8 legs and calling me healthy is a compliment.
So how did I respond to that parent’s comment?
“Chicago does have great food and I look forward to enjoying it”.
What else could I have said?
Today is field hockey – and I’m not supposed to run in the morning on these days but, I’ll be honest…I had secret plans to run anyway. However, the weather gods must have heard ’cause I woke to the sounds of torrential rain. So I took that as an omen and didn’t run. But I’ll tell you, I’m not sure how pleasant I’m going to be today…especially if field hockey is cancelled tonight due to thunderstorms which are in the forecast.
I figured the diva wouldn’t want to walk in the rain but I still needed to take her out for a little walk so I donned my rain gear (such a good look, no?)
And headed out. It was torrential at times and then would change to light rain.
And when I tried to turn back – and shorten the walk – guess who had a fit? Yup, the dog who hates walking, WANTED TO WALK. THIS MORNING. WHY???
However, she did NOT want to walk fast…
Like really? We can’t walk any faster than this?? Apparently not. Not without forcing a throwdown which I had no interest in dealing with.
(although this is my Friday!)