I spent most of my twenties living in New York City, trying to get work as an actress, but mostly working as a waitress. For a while I worked at an Italian restaurant in Lincoln Center where the New York Philharmonic played and we served a lot of older people. And I was always both amused and baffled by the customers who would come in and ask for an Italian dish, but request it without garlic. I mean, it’s an Italian restaurant for crying out loud, everything was made with garlic!
Back then I wasn’t aware of the connection between food and health. As a young girl, I was very athletic. I loved playing all sports, but ended up focusing on gymnastics. I trained a lot and, as a result, didn’t have to worry about my weight, as I was burning more calories then I was consuming. I left the sport right about at the same time that I was reaching puberty. Bad combination! My body was changing and although my exercise routine dwindled, I continued to eat the same way. This led to weight gain and all that comes with it as a teen: self-esteem and confidence issues.
In the eighties, there weren’t nearly the amount of resources available to teens to help us figure out how to get back in balance. So this began my struggle with weight that eventually led to an eating disorder.
I started therapy while I was in New York hoping to shift the unhealthy relationship I'd developed with food. It was not an easy task as it required a lot of re-wiring of the messages I’d paired with food. But over time, I learned that if I could control the portion amount, I could eat whatever type of food I wanted. I noticed my body came into a natural balance and I entered my thirties with a new, healthy eating pattern.
Throughout my pregnancies I began to feel an even stronger connection with my body and I was able to begin to hear the messages it was sending me, particularly as it related to nutrition. I ate healthier during my pregnancies than I’d ever eaten before. My body was being very clear about what it needed and I found myself eating more whole foods and opting for fresh fruit instead of the processed desserts I’d always loved.
The years following my pregnancies, it was a little harder to hear the messages from my body. There was a lot going on externally, managing my new role as mom. So although I found myself returning to eating more processed foods, I was still able to continue to balance food portions and my body supported me wonderfully.
And then a few years ago, I experienced another shift. I was at our annual family reunion, which is synonymous with celebration of food. It seems that whenever I was surrounded by family, my old eating patterns surfaced and I'd make unhealthy food choices. But this particular year, my older sister brought a stash of healthy food and I began substituting some of the junk food for rice cakes and fruit and was amazed at how much better my body felt. I set an intention to continue to eat that way.
And I have for several years. That decision, along with regular exercise, has allowed me to have a healthier body then ever before. I still indulge in processed foods, but just in small quantities.
But here’s the thing: lately, even small amounts of those foods are just not sitting well in my body.
And I’m sad. I’m in mourning for the young girl (or even the older woman a few years ago!) who was able to eat whatever I wanted and not experience physical discomfort or acid reflux.
I began to feel the aging process was getting the best of me (read: I’m getting old!) until I realized that perhaps its not that at all. Perhaps my body has finally adjusted to a healthy way of processing food and its simply telling me to stay the course. I mean, I know I feel better when I eat healthier- no doubt about it. And this is my body’s message loud and clear: “You figured it out and its ok. You don’t need that stuff.” And what a blessing that as I age, I also have the gift of wisdom that my body is offering me. I'm very, very grateful for this body that has served me so well over my lifetime.
Will I ever give up brownies? Nosireeenoway! And I sincerely hope I never have to go into an Italian restaurant and request a plate without garlic. But at least now I have a better understanding of how my body is best served by food and I can finally say I’m in balance.