It was the peanut butter. I've always been a sucker for peanut butter, and in Africa... it was EXTRA yummy peanut butter. When the jar is first opened, there is an oily layer to be swirled into the depths of the natural nutty spread. I started to eat it by the spoon during my time volunteering at a nonprofit called CATCH Projects in South Africa.
It was also the culture. In African culture, I learned, it is rude to not eat your entire plate of food. They eat fewer meals, but larger quantities at those meals. I continued to live my #snacklife and eat snacks every few hours and then indulge in this MASSIVE plate of rice, beans, and meat that they prepared for me at times. My housemates, thank God, ate more like Americans, and prepared normal-sized meals. It was the times I was out near the village that I was eating this larger portions.
One day, I walked into CATCH Projects and one of the mamas in the kitchen looked me up and down and said, "Em-ah-lee, you look very nice."
I said, "Thank you!" Thinking it had to do with my clothes, or something. But, no-no. No need to wonder. She clarified what she was referring to herself.
"When you first come here, you sooo skinny and look not nice. Now? You is FAT!" she said with a big smile, nodding her head.
It was true. I had gained some weight and even had to buy new jeans because the ones I came there wearing didn't fit anymore.
As the seasons begin to change here in Minnesota, I notice that I am gaining some weight again. Each year, my weight fluctuates by about 15-20 pounds. Depending on the season. Every single year. I lose weight in the summer, and then fall comes and I suddenly want to BAKE EVERYTHING and drink lattes with danishes and eat the red sauce pasta.
It also coincides with my healing process. A few months ago, I couldn't eat anything... and lost a lot of weight. In my "American mind" I was feeling good because I was thin. My body, truth be told, felt terrible. I felt sick, my stomach twisted in knots, and my energy low. I began to challenge myself to nourish my body a little bit more every day. This turned into straight-up binging. Like, not eating anything all day and then going on a rampage of food at night.
I decided, instead of judging myself- being kind to myself. I began to ask my body, "What do you need today?" Does that cinnamon roll with icing just look extra pleasing to you today? Have one. Enjoy it!
I'm also a huge believer in going #allorganic. So, I eat quite healthily, but what I needed was to give myself the pass to eat what my body was needing at that time. Without judgment.
I write this because I've had conversations with women MULTIPLE TIMES around the topic of food. Typically it goes something like this: "OMG, I had FOUR of those cookies... I am such a pig, I am going to work out later."
Or "I want pasta, but I am going to order a salad because... I just should."
Or "I can't have X, Y, Z because I am on a diet of strictly protein shakes (or some other lame excuse for a meal)."
I say STOP IT.
A friend of mine once said to me, when I was being harshly critical of myself, "STOP speaking that way, Emilee. I wouldn't allow anyone else to speak to you, as my friend, that way. So, I am not going to stand here and allow you to speak to yourself that way. You deserve better."
That hit me in a different sort of way.
She was right. I wouldn't allow anyone else to speak to her the way I was speaking to myself in my mind. So why did I do it to myself?
As I begin to put on weight, I accept it as a sign of health. Our bodies are subject to the stress of our ancestors. The stress of surviving. When we are stressed, our bodies react in this way... and we eat more. It's survival.
Instead of judging yourself for it, maybe thank your body.
"Thank you, my beautiful body, for protecting me. For telling me what needs to be nourished. I know that I'm extra stressed right now, so will you please work with me to nourish me in a way that is healthy?"
It need not be binging. It need not be eating a whole package of Oreos because you told yourself you couldn't have one.
Take care of your body. Take care of your mind. Take care of yourself. Without judgment.
Eat the cinnamon roll and the latte. How delicious does that one (scroll down...) look, by the way??