My return to joyful eating
Where food and body transformed from enemy to ally.
I was always curious about food growing up. People would say things like, "Carrots are good for the eyes and milk is good for the bones!" With a mother working in the hospital, an aunt-psychologist, and an acupuncturist family-friend nearby, healers from various perspectives formed my understanding of health and wellness. Having been in sports most of my life, food was necessary fuel. As adolescence approached and with that, body-comments and pressure from all directions, I learned my body could elicit different reactions from people around me. Food and movement became tools with which I tried to control my changing body as well as the world around me.
I never considered a profession in food until I lived in Peru for a "gap" year between high school and college. I intentionally say food instead of nutrition because I was interested in both food's interaction with our bodies, as well the impact food has on culture and visa versa. While living in Peru, I saw communities organize around food in a whole new way. I appreciated the importance of food in cultural expression, a sense of belonging, and completing celebrations. And nothing brought me home like the familiar smells of food from my home-town.
This was the only billboard advertising I saw the whole year I lived in the Sacred Valley. No female bodies exploited to sell product. Taken 2006
Upon my return to the States, the culture-shock was hard to swallow. Living in Peru, specifically the Sacred Valley, I was sheltered from media exploiting women's bodies and the body-shaming messages woven throughout daily conversations. The only large-scale advertisements I saw were for beer (as pictured above). Women wore what was comfortable, dressing primarily for function rather than fashion. Bodies were all shapes and sizes and no one seemed to mind.
My time in Peru was the first of many shifts in my relationship with food and body. I wish I could say my healing moved forward without falter but it did not. It was two steps forward in Peru and one step back in college. Two steps forward living on a farm for a year, one step back during my first adult, cross-country move. My grip on perfectionist eating, body-checking, and regimented exercise tightening and loosening with each shift.
Eventually I committed to 4 months of training for my first marathon, the training of which resulted in a much deeper appreciation for my body.