Over the last year, I have finally given up trying to control my food in order to control my size. But what I realized this week is that I am still trying to control my food to control my mortality. The truth is, we can't control our food, our weight or our mortality and I think that makes us all very uncomfortable, to put it mildly. If I plan out a day's meals, half the time I don't want to eat what I planned. These days, there is no way I'm going to force myself to do so if I am not going to enjoy what I am eating. I am going to eat what is appealing in the moment, whether it's a cupcake or a bowl of bran cereal, a plate of broccoli or a cheeseburger. It's not sane thinking to think that I can control my instincts or my wants and needs. Not to mention the number of times we think we know what we are doing in the day, week or month and then plans change. Babies are born, vacations come and go, we move, we get new jobs, kids get sick. There is always a measure of instability in our lives that is impossible to plan around.
For some months now, I have been okay with that. It's ok that I'm going to be the size I am because I am going to eat what I want and I'm not going to try and control it, because its futile. But then I see a new book or read a new article about all the foods I should be eating for my "health". Before I know it, I am back to thinking about how to control my food. This time for "health's" sake. And what do I mean by health? It's ok, I'll say it. Not dying. That is what I mean by health.
The media has me convinced that I need to eat certain foods in order to be healthy and, in my mind, avoid disease (cancer) and not die. There are lots of people who have cured themselves of disease because they changed what they ate, among other things. I believe that can happen and I powerfully believe that food does influence and affect your body and even your longevity. But it's not the only thing that can affect your longevity and it's far from foolproof. Even those that cured themselves were not only changing their food, they were changing their whole mindset on life and that is the ultimate in powerful healing tools.
I realized yesterday as I was listening to a great podcast -(Food Psych with Christy Harrison) that here I am still trying to control my food and this time, it's not because of my fear of fat, it's because of my fear of dying and leaving my 3 young children without a mother. I am no longer afraid of fat and no longer think that fat is going to kill me. I have the book and the movement Health at Every Size (Linda Bacon) to thank for that. So why am I still convinced that if I don't eat a mostly plant based diet and avoid sugar, alcohol, coffee and fried or processed food that I am a goner?
That fear has gone deep for me and I am only now really beginning to tease it out into the light. The truth is - I could eat all those things that I equate with a long life and I could still get hit by a bus tomorrow. The bigger and deeper step that food is asking me to do now is to accept the unknown. Accept the uncertainty. Accept the lack of control. We try to find ways to control what scares us but the only thing you can really do is let go of the fear.
I woke up this morning to take my daughter to band and saw that a neighbor had crashed their car into a tree on our street. I don't know if they are ok as I write this. All I can think of is how useless it is to worry about whether I ate enough spinach yesterday or drank enough water. We cannot control our mortality or the life things that are going to happen around us. On the way back from band, driving through my neighborhood again and about to pass the accident scene, a giant deer raced across the street at top speed and I missed hitting it by inches. The universe is blowing my mind this morning, teaching me to get over this idea of a perfect diet or controlling my food as a way to be sure that I will be here tomorrow.
This is not to say that those who promote such ways of eating are wrong. This is a reminder to myself that it's not the whole story. It can't promise anything. Our bodies also react to the thoughts we have inside and if you are eating healthy foods and thinking toxic thoughts then you aren't doing yourself any favors. It's a balance. The goal is to aim for the things that ultimately make you feel good, not feel wrong and fearful.
Don't waste time trying to perfect everything around you, like your food. Instead your time would be much more wisely used to appreciate what you have and to be present for all the things going on around you. Life is short, and for that very reason, it does not make sense to spend your time living in fear that you are doing it all wrong. It's a lesson the perfectionist in me is still learning, but now that I can see the truth in my behavior, I am resting easier than before.
Let go of the fear, that is the thing that will really kill you.