File these under: "more things I allowed diet and healthy eating culture to steal from me"
When I was a little girl, my maternal grandparents lived some 800 miles away and we only saw them about once a year which was a real shame because in many ways, my maternal grandparents and our trips home to see them were the best parts of what was a rather tough childhood.
I’ve held on to so many memories of them.
One of my favorites of my grandmother was when she’d be watching her “shows” (soap operas). She’d sit on the edge of the couch and I’d stand in front of her, between her knees, with her arms wrapped around me and her hands crossed in front of me. I’d stand there all safely wrapped up in her arms endlessly caressing the soft, smooth underside of her long fingernails.
Kinda weird, I know.
Weird to be so enamored by fingernails that I’d stand there stroking them - creepy even 🙄 - but as an adult looking back, I now understand why.
She was doing nothing but sitting there with her arms wrapped around me for as long as I wanted to stand there. It was one of the only times in my childhood I remember feeling like all of someone’s attention was centered on just loving me.
On just quiet affection.
Obviously, that’s not even what was really happening. It wasn’t quiet, there was a soap opera in the background and she probably didn’t even know I was there, she was so focused on her show, lol. But to me, that’s how it felt.
I’d stand there in my own little world, caressing her nails, with her arms around me, and felt held. I felt safe, loved, and important to someone in those moments.
And those moments were few and far between because they lived so far away.
Needless to say, like most people, my Grammy has always been so special to me - even now, years after her death.
And when we weren’t able to see them, we connected with them in other ways.
My mom, for example, baked a lot and most of what she baked were my grandmother’s recipes.
And she baked with me.
Eventually, I had made them so often, I could make them with my eyes closed, without even using the recipe.
They were my thing. My specialty. Even if I didn’t feel like eating them, I made them because everyone else loved them and I just loved making them.
It was something I knew I was good at, and it helped me feel closer to my Grandmother.
And then, diet and healthy eating culture entered my life in my early teens.
I learned that carbs and sugar were bad, they were poison, toxic, addictive, made you fat and I needed to stop eating them.
From that moment on, I was never able to just sit and enjoy a couple of my Grandmother’s cookies again (or most foods actually) without guilt, shame, or fear.
So much fear.
Fear over being unhealthy.
Fear over being or getting "addicted" to sugar.
Fear over potential weight gain.
And don't even get me started on what it did to my ability to trust myself to just enjoy a cookie or two or trust my body to tell me when I'd had enough.
How sad is that?
How unbelievably unhealthy is that?
The sickest thing is that my experience is not unique. That's what basically our entire culture is living in the name of "healthy eating".
And, because of my efforts to not eat them or to control how many I ate if I did "cave" and have some, I was never again able to just have one or two of my Grandmother's cookies. So I stopped making them.
Well, until now that is - but because of those messages, it took years of destroying and rebuilding myself to get here.
Back then, the harder I tried to control myself around them, the more out of control I felt.
Because if I had one, I was "bad" and if I was "bad" once, I may as well just keep being bad and start trying to "be good" the next day. <-- that thought and behavior pattern that we get stuck in is 100% caused by diet and "healthy eating" rules, btw. It's NOT your fault if you've been stuck repeating it. It's happening because you keep trying to "be good"... but I digress.
Anyway, I spent the better part of my teens and early adult life in this fight with my Grandmother’s cookies - not to mention my body, myself and food in general.
Then at some point, likely after I lost the weight, the fight became a war. I became a full-blown binge eater in 2007 and I stopped making her cookies entirely.
Everyone always thinks weight loss is the answer to health, happiness and ending their food wars but way too often, it all gets so much worse after weight loss.
Because then the fight to keep the weight off starts--and the realization that you worked soo hard and you still spend a whole lot of time not liking your body or parts of your body.
Anyway, it’s been so long since I've made my Grandmother's cookies at this point that my daughter doesn’t even remember me making them in her lifetime. She's 21.
My daughter grew up without my Grandmother's cookies.
Even after my relationship with food was healed and I recovered from the binge eating, I still hadn’t started making them again because I'm actually not a huge cookie eater in the first place and at that point, it had been so long since I baked anything that the once a year I might want cookies in the house, it's just been cheaper and easier to buy them than to get all the ingredients and bake them.
But this year, I happened to randomly be watching a movie in which someone was stirring a bowl of chocolate chip cookies.
Beautiful memories flooded back and now thankfully, without the fear and I got the urge to make them again.
So, I got the supplies, and my daughter and I got my Grandmother’s cookies back.
I’m a little out of practice but I fell right back into the groove pretty easily and not only has been really special to be able to share that with her but I cannot even tell you how it feels to be able to enjoy a couple of my Grandmother’s cookies again without guilt, shame, fear or bingeing on them until I’m sick.
And as I watched my daughter enjoying her cookie and bugging to make them again soon (while we were still making the first batch, lol), I got mad at how many years I let diet (and healthy eating/wellness) culture steal that from me.
Of course, I didn’t stay mad because I refuse to let those worlds steal any more of my peace or my life than they already have.
But the point remains.
NO food is as toxic, poisonous, unhealthy, or evil as the cultures that have taught us to fear, and carry shame around, certain foods.
Especially my Grandmother’s cookies.
What have diet culture/healthy eating rules stolen from you?
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