I slide my finger between bone and gristle. Moving it back and forth until I catch a thick piece of white meat and pull it from its hiding place. It shreds as I remove it, one part willing, one part fighting to get away.
She’s happy, my daughter. Sitting strapped into the straight jacket that is her high chair, her feet kicking endlessly. Thwack, thwack, thwack, until I’m afraid there will be a bruise on the back of her heels. Happy pain. Joyous pain?
I barely get enough meat on my own plate but I’m transferring, bit by bit, until she has a small white mound on her green plastic tray. Slivers of chicken, slivers of fat, slivers of nail grit that she laps up like a puppy, sucking on her finger tips and looking at me with those big brown eyes.
I repeat the process with the rice, white but tinted yellow from the melted bliss of sugar and butter. Two large heaps, she likes rice. She pounds on it with her tiny fingers, smushing it down until it’s no longer plump and round. Flat little wafers, scattered.
Sometimes she throws it, white tufts raining down onto the stain streaked carpet that used to be cream-colored, long before she was alive.
I used to get angry. Stop that, stop that right now. We don’t throw rice. We eat rice. It reminds me of all those boisterous kids back when I worked at Pei Wei. How they would file into the booths and grind rice and Pad Thai into the cushions with grubby hands sticky from soy sauce.
Her daddy still does. Get angry, I mean. Stop giving her rice, she’s just going to throw it. But we shouldn’t shy away from things we love just because they are difficult.
Next is broccoli. Tiny little trees, I tell her. Meant to make you strong. Bow your head and thank them. Thank you for your nourishment, I say. Because I’m no longer religious, but gratitude is needed, required, in my house. Sometimes I’ll catch her whispering to her food, and I wonder.
Green is everywhere. On the tray, on her hands, captured on the ends of her curls because she’s piled broccoli leaves onto the crown of her head. I think, wow, she’s beautiful. I also think she’s going to hate me when I wash that out later.
My own tray is only sparsely so, green having diminished with every transfer. Just enough bought to feed the three of us, just enough bought to balance the budget. It fluctuates, both. Going from here to there. I tell myself that I’m creating a better foodship. That I’m happiest when my stomach isn’t stuffed so full I can barely breathe. When that ache in my chest is gone. When I’m not sitting in front of the toilet, or on the toilet, praying for death.
She crushes a broccoli head into a mound of previously smashed rice. It blends, whacked once, twice, three times between fingers modeled after her daddy’s hands. I meet her eyes and there it is. That look. That big, brown-eyed look of joy.
I know where she got it from. This…excitability. This innate pleasure for odd things. That toothy grin broken up by a cheek full of chowed meat. Me. I’m that way. Despite the ache in the joint of my thumb, still trying to wiggle loose the last bits of chicken meat. Still trying to feed my daughter all of me.
I grin back, how can I not? When she’s giving me black girl joy. I raise my hand, the last shred of white at the tips of my fingers, dripping juice down onto her tray, wetting the dried rice. Her mouth is full but in she shoves it, finding space for chicken, and love, and determination, and growth, and gratitude.
Weight loss since having the baby has not been easy for me. I want to be one of those aggressive achievers and just say “I just didn’t want it bad enough” but that’s not true. I want it bad, so bad I’d cry in the shower, but it wasn’t until I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg that I realized the reasons why I haven’t been able to make headway.
I won’t go far into the book right now, because I plan to review it, but it changed the way I saw my life. Far beyond weight loss. It changed how I saw my buying habits, my daily routines, and even my issues with relationships and boundaries. The book talks about why we do the things we do and why it’s so hard for us to STOP doing them.
The book uses real-life examples for how we’re led by our choices, how small habits we start now rule the rest of our lives, and how marketing creates needs in us that we wouldn’t normally have. I feel that this came at a perfect time as I’m trying to declutter, minimize, and track my spending.
So with the tools from the book in mind, I noticed that many of the reasons I haven’t lost weight were combinations of childhood traumas, bad memories, and insecurities.
I eat too much.
One of the reasons that I eat too much is because I eat to be full. Oftentimes, I eat until my stomach feels sick or because I have food still left on my plate. I don’t know about you but I grew up with my adoptive mom constantly saying “the kids in Africa are starving and look at you wasting food.” This was exacerbated by her trip to Ghana, Africa on a mission trip when I was nine. So, not only does my lack of portion control affect how much I eat but my inability to stop eating until my plate is full makes it worse.
Another reason is because in my formative years, when I was creating a relationship with food, I didn’t get enough to eat. As you saw in my creative nonfiction essay “Levels of Acceptance” my brother and I were sometimes treated like animals while in the foster care system. We were expected to eat on the floor, in a locked room, or in a closet on a paper plate while the foster families we stayed with enjoyed dinner at the table.
My adoptive mom told me – after reading the essay a few years back – that she would’ve approached food and mealtime differently if she had known I’d been starved at other foster homes. What she doesn’t know, and what I still don’t have the heart to tell her, is that some of the places we went (for respite) while living with her did the same thing to us. Also, her putting locks on the fridge didn’t help. We often joked how I had such a huge appetite when in reality I was merely trying to eat a ton of food because I didn’t know when I’d have it again, especially when there were so many foster kids.
If you haven’t seen the movie The Platform on Netflix, you should watch it. Today.
I’d rather just…not.
When I was a sophomore in high school I got a job just so I could buy food for myself. My mom got so angry at me once because I wasn’t buying cool clothes or other necessities. She said, “you work so much but you have nothing to show for it”. My response was “FOOD. I spend all of my money on FOOD”.
One of the greatest things about having a naturally stocky and athletic build was that it didn’t take much work to lose weight when I was a teen. I had a high metabolism, an active life, and walked everywhere. Especially to the library. I ran track from late middle school until my senior year of high school. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. My motto was to eat as I pleased and work out just enough to maintain my weight – 116lbs at the time (and 5’1).
This does not compute with a woman who just had a baby and is nearing 30. This year I will be 29 and had the same mindset although I’m 176lbs. I still thought that if I just worked out a little bit I could offset the five strips of bacon I had for breakfast (on top of the two eggs, one piece of toast, and the smattering of tomatoes and mushrooms – see, I eat healthy most of the time. I just eat too much). This is just not true. To make this work, I needed to create a fitness habit, a healthy lifestyle, and change my relationship with food overall. But I don’t want to. I love food. I love eating. And I love bacon.
I even have a bacon tattoo.
As I talked about in my recent post, I have this fear of failure and fear of success. Although I’ve done major work this year to love myself and feel more confident, I still don’t know how beautiful I’ll feel (said with starry eyes and overdramatic jazz hands). A part of me is afraid that I’ll lose weight and I still won’t be beautiful. Or that I’ll start a new lifestyle that is health-forward, but I’ll still be fat. And back rolls, side fat, chafing thighs, and looking like I’m 6 months pregnant every time I eat is not my jam. This is counterproductive because the fear stops me from working out which means I’ll never get rid of those things. It’s a vicious emotional circle.
I’m ready to move on though. Thanks to the universe for my growing emotional intelligence.
I try too hard too fast
To cut this short, and not unload all of my personal trauma on you at once, I’ll say the last part is
“the hard try”. I’m the type of person that wants to get started TODAY once I make a decision. I fall in love with hobbies and want to buy all the accessories or take all the classes or join all the Facebook groups. So when I say I want to lose weight, and I hate the fact that I can’t wear an outfit I like, I’m ready to go. RET TA GO. This is not a healthy approach. I go hard for the first few days, I burn myself out or stress my muscles out and then I quit. Then I cry about how nothing is working or how ‘I just can’t do it’.
This time I’m trying a One-One Method. I’m adding One Habit and One Nutritional change. For the habit, when my guy leaves for work (or after lunch on days he’s off), I’m going to work out, or walk (with the baby), or do a yoga session, etc. This introduces an excersize to my life every day. It doesn’t have to be hard-hitting or a long session. It can be a few stretches or a two-mile run. SOMETHING.
To help with a healthier foodship (get it? haha), I’m going with the Eat More, Weigh Less method. This usually entails eating more fruits and vegetables and carbs than meat as well as other things. Obviously, your interpretation may be different than mine, and that’s ok. This week, I’m starting with paying more attention to my portions for every meal.
— I’m also continuing my food journal and have added Naomi’s meals as well.
To help create this habit without burning myself out, I’m doing this for one week and will reevaluate next Saturday. I’m not rushing myself or looking too far into the future or being afraid of what the outcome will be. I’m staying present. Oh, and I’m not telling my guy. This is on me and I can’t use him as a crutch anymore.
So, if you’d like to hear more about me, or what’s going on, or if you just want to be nosey subscribe and stick around for more posts. Or follow me on Instagram (@JadeBethJ) to see my story progress.
I took these photos today. I’ve gained back the weight and I’m back at 176lbs exactly. How wild.
I’m trying really hard to stay focused on my dream but I am not disillusioned by this new plan to lose weight. I know that just because I decide I no longer want to be fat, or have left over baby flub, it doesn’t mean that I will suddenly have all the will power in the world to do what needs to be done. I haven’t before now, it’s not a matter of ‘just do it’ as some say. You have to work toward that level of resistance (in my head this is with a french accent…why?)
Yes, I’m dancing my way around the fact that often times I have low self control. Very low. Oh man. Those who follow me on Twitter saw that, when my guy left for work the other day, I posted:
I will not eat Tony’s Oreos.
I will not eat Tony’s Oreos.
I will not eat them in a box.
I will not eat them with a fox.
I will not eat them with a mouse.
I will not eat them in a house.
I will not eat Tony’s Oreos, I say.
I will not eat them, I should pray.
I can’t believe he just left them on the table without any explicit instruction for me NOT to eat them. They stared at me ALL DAY. I ate one, then two and then I held off. I felt really proud of myself and the fact that I didn’t stuff my face the moment he left. But….then he got home. He didn’t eat them. Of course my first thought was “yes, now I can eat a few more”. I ate five more. The next morning I ate two more while packing my bag for campus and also my gym clothes. I was so happy, while crunching on Oreos, that I found my gym lock, not noticing the irony of it all. Then I left for school.
On my way home, I stopped by Dollar General. I meant to just buy some things for Naomi, for bath time, but what I ended up doing was getting Reese’s Cups to “pay” Tony back for eating his Oreos, a package of vanilla icing Zingers for me, a box of chewy LemonHeads (that are currently sitting opened on my desk as I write this) for me, and a bag of hot fries (still unopened) for me. I did get some rubber duckies for Naomi so it wasn’t a complete failure. I barely got into the car before I’d broken the small packet of Zingers open. I said I’d just eat one, I thought, there’s no need to eat all of them in one day: Three come in a pack.
So, the gym is only about 5 minutes away from where I was and only about 5 minutes from my house. I thought I had the self control to wait but nope…I ate the second one in the parking lot of the gym and as I ate it I felt guilty. I’d said ‘in this new year, I want to take my weight loss more serious than I ever have before’ but here I was, shoving unhealthy food down my throat. I only just noticed at a free personal training session, last week, that although I’ve been doing a good job in the gym I haven’t been working out nearly as hard as I should be. I haven’t been exerting enough energy or sweating nearly enough. I guess you could say I have forgotten how to work out?
Anyway, so I paused when I got out of the car because there was a guy in the car next to me. I’m not sure if he saw me stuffing my face but I felt really embarrassed. So much so that I snatched my bag out of the car, slammed the door and made a beeline to the front of the gym. I’d been caught by some guy who was probably a health nut, who never ate a Zingers before a work out, and I felt like I might cry. I said I would take this seriously!
I changed my clothes and got up to the machines. The moment I hit that treadmill, it was as if another me took over and I went hard. I added more weight than I had previously. I hit both legs and upper body, and I even got in some cardio. I ran a bit. Hit the cycling machine. I didn’t take long breaks between sets, keeping everything hot. I felt motivated to work out, if not for the fat – to just get the Zingers out.
Does it make you feel some type of way to know that hours later I ate that last piece of Zingers? I’d worn this cute sweater to campus, that I got yesterday for $4 from a Ross sale, and I was feeling beautiful. Despite that set back, I had worked my ass off in the gym, sweated out all of the shame and self- pity (yes, honey. I’m the queen of pity parties). I was back on the high of life and before Tony could see me, I scarfed down that third Zingers and promised myself I wouldn’t eat the hot fries in the same day. I’d hold off. And I didn’t.
A part of this whole meditation and being in the moment thing is that I have to let all that ish go. Yes, I felt ashamed and embarrassed but that was then and this is now. I can’t dwell. I must move on. I know I will mess up again but I also know that tomorrow I will be back in the gym, moving toward my goal and that is what matters. That I don’t give up.
After a much needed 2.5 hour nap – my guy let me sleep a little long as I needed it more emotionally than physically, I cooked a health(ier) dinner for Tony and me. Fish and pasta. And Naomi had a bit as well. She’s now able to eat on her own and is learning to pick up foods (it’s so cute). I felt happy to see that even though I didn’t have the level of self control, yet, that I wanted, I was making sure Naomi was fed and trying different things. All in all, it’s been a roller coaster of a day.