Food and the inner critic
I love food - I’m one of those “live to eat” kinda gals, and - to me at least - the thought of “eating to live” seems alien and sad.
I associate food with comfort, love, laughter, celebration, flirting, happiness. I suppose that I like to imagine I am like Nigella around food - I caress it, I stroke it, I use every sense to experience it, embracing each sensation in a way that is almost sensual. In reality I’ve become a bit of a scoffer since having the children, knowing I have approximately 3 minutes and 47 seconds before my son decides food is “yuck” or “funny”, or - on the rare occasion I fashion myself a delicious lunchtime feast that doesn’t involve a discarded babybel - wakes from his nap with a yelp.
I have never been “fat” - I am a classic hourglass, whose shape has been slightly broadened out by having two babies in two years and an obsession with Aldi chocolate. I now have a generous layer of fat around my midriff that, pre-children, was a simple “muffin top.” When I bend forward to pick up a megablok, I feel it squidge over itself in a bulging ooze. The rest of me is similar to BC (before children,
for any new readers) but bigger. I miss my pre-baby shape, but I do acknowledge the extraordinary things my body has achieved, and in that sense I love it dearly. I also recognise how lucky I am to be healthy, with a happy heart and functioning cells (too much heart disease and cancer in my family - but isn’t there in everyone’s these days?)
I am one of the more confident people I know. I am happy to stand in front of a mirror. I stand up in front of others daily and talk at them, and rarely feel body-conscious. I love fashion, make-up, colour, vibrancy.
So why does this keep happening:
“Ok, was that portion of porridge too big? Have some nuts with it? No don’t they’re going to make your tummy bigger. But aren’t nuts good for you? Yes but aren’t they fattening too? Yes but you’re getting so big around your middle and you can’t fit into that dress...”
“Why can’t I fit into that dress? It’s because you’re too lazy to run. If you ran you’ll definitely get to how you were BC. What’s WRONG with me that I can find the motivation to run? (You’ve got three jobs on the go and a blog and two young kids, but other women do it...)”
“Why did you get that takeaway Laura? It’s too fattening and you’re too poor... why are you so weak?”
“I’ve had a big lunch so I’d better a small dinner... when are you meant to stop eating in the day... oh maybe I should do 5:2... but diets are weird and make people sad and don’t work... or maybe it’s just lazy people like me for whom they don’t work... why am I so lazy...”
“You know that you just need to eat less and move more, so why don’t you do it?!?!?! Stupid girl. But I am always moving... and I don’t eat loads... do I?! Do I need a food diary?!?! Or no carbs?! Or protein? Isn’t fat good for you now? Or is it paleo? Or avoid dairy? What IS protein? Is a lentil protein? Add it to Notes so can google when kids asleep.”
I mean, wow. Just reading it back I feel exhausted. Who is this precious voice and why won’t she shut up? Why is she always there and when did I allow her in? Why is she some nasty, pernicious, insecure little whinger? And how is she helping? Perhaps it’s easy to dismiss this as the whiny privilege of the nice middle class mummy, who has too much time on her hands. But 1) I don’t have much time and 2) Am I really the only who does this? I doubt it.
But do others do it so much? Perhaps I really am a lazy Susan (oooh, cheese) who just needs to eat less and do more. Possibly that is the way to “bounce back” (YUCK). Will having my BC figure make me happier? I truly don’t know - I’m pretty happy already.
What I do know is that the thought of my children ever having such a vicious internal critic is harrowing and horrid. I never want them to feel that way, and I do my utmost to ensure we only talk about food in a way that celebrates its colour, its shape, its provenance (and we all agree that chocolate is amazing).
So how did I, a woman with good self-esteem, a positive upbringing, a fervent belief that women are amazing regardless of shape or fat distribution, allow this critic in? And how do I get her out for good?