I never liked food as a kid, except cheese and spaghetti.
I never learned that it could nourish you and heal you.
I never learned to plan for it, prepare for it, savour it.
I grew up with a mom who was an emotional eater. From the time I was little, when her parents both passed away, the freezer was always full of decadent chocolate ice cream. She fueled up on cereal, tea and toast between cracking open the freezer.
My father just ate whatever tasted good and he still does. He will eat Chinese food for breakfast, chocolate cake for lunch and some chicken fingers and a bag of fuzzy peach slices for dinner. He also makes sure to turn the bag upside down and drink all the sugary crumble at the bottom. Can’t waste good sugar! He washes each meal down with pop, beer or something with a kick.
I was confused by food as a kid. As I became an adult and learned more about nutrition I had a bitter taste in my mouth reflecting on the damage my parents were doing to their bodies with their eating habits. I struggled to educate myself about nutrition and eat healthy. Then I found a balance and an appreciation for it by looking at food as medicine for my body. Found it was something worth my time and energies. That it can be healthy and taste good. And yeah, sometimes I still faceplant into a block of cheese with my mouth fully unhinged, like a singing muppet.
Three years ago, I entered into the stay-at-home-mom sisterhood: a role that comes hand in hand with homemaking, and deciding what my family eats, and when. It is exciting to watch your baby take their first bites, and I remember hoping I could continue feeding them carrots, chickpeas, apples and all the other foods that make us healthy. #jerf #healthy #homemade
Yet the treats sneak their way through your front door. They saunter in, hand-in-hand with a bakers dozen of Disney movies you now have memorized and an eleven gallon tub of used hot wheels you kick under the couch each night.
Ice cream, jelly beans, chocolate chips. They’re in pint-sized doses, but it’s enough to act as the purse of bribery, the grumpy busters or the sweetly placed reward.
In the day-to-day struggle of parenting toddlers, it feels wonderful to make your kids so happy with something so simple. A glass of cocoa with marshmallows can make my kids shriek and hop in place while they wait for their portion to be allotted. I laugh with my husband at how they say ‘delly bee’ when I’ve promised them a jelly bean to pay off their blind obedience. Yet, I quickly learned to hide all the ‘good treats’ and use my ‘magic-treat-appearing’ talents on careful reserve.
Then the kids are napping, or in bed for the night. Coincidentally, at this time I’m hungry, and there happen to be spotlights shining on the bag of chips, or angels hovering over the cookies, or some cake jumps off the counter and shoves itself into my face.
I always thought emotional eating was for people who couldn’t handle their emotions in healthy ways. I always thought it was for people that were weak and couldn’t say no to themselves. But now I understand the lucrative, the furtive, the taboo whispers of my pantries.
Now I understand emotional eating.
On most accounts we eat healthy as a family, or even questionably, if you caught us during our total gluten-and-dairy-free phase. As my brother pointed out, chickpea patties in a lettuce wrap cannot be titled a ‘burger.’
But when the hours drag on, the tantrums are draining, the body is sluggish. I have a hand on my coffee and another hand reaching for something secretive and sweet. Something I can’t have in plain sight. Something I have to consume before tiny eyes pop open and little mouths flap wide like baby birds.
In slow shifting sways, watching how treats change the moods of my kids, how it is something ‘special,’ food has become my reward too. It can make me feel better after some hard hours in ‘the office.’ With my thirty years of seeing the spectrum of healthy and non-health eating, I’m still finding struggles with food I never knew I had.
They were just hidden under big bumper stickers shouting ‘Eat Your Veggies!’….. and your cake too.