Friday, January 14, 2011

body image, healthy eating, and morning sickness

It's taken me days to write this. Days and tears and honesty that I wasn't sure I had. And a homeopathic remedy that's worked well for my mood swings...

...that, and the promise of a chocolate milkshake on the way home as a reward, if I get through the last of it today.


Food and I have a long history of failed attempts at a functional relationship.

I have a history of eating in ways that weren't healthy in order to attempt to be thin. I have a history of vague attempts at dieting (and then gaining more weight back than I'd lost to begin with). I have a history of living in a household where food was controlled to the Nth degree (my best guess is that a trained evaluator would diagnose my dad as having Aspergers and sensory processing disorder; his food preferences are very narrow, and anyone who doesn't agree is just. plain. wrong.). I have a history of alternately not eating for days, or binging on everything in sight when I'm depressed.

Add in the very disfunctional way our society approaches body image for girls and women, and you've got quite a mess.

For me, any "diet" that requires counting sets off a very bad sort of loop - and it doesn't matter if that counting is calories, carbs, proteins, or points. It's a way of imposing control, and control and I, too, have a very disfunctional relationship, except under very specific circumstances (and even then, I still worry that the very existence of that exception to the rule, by its very nature, is disfunctional in some big ways).

It's only been the last few years that I've really come to terms with this history, and come to see that there are other ways of approaching body image and food - ways that celebrate food without putting down the body I have, ways that celebrate the body I have without making me miserable about the body that some folks think I ought to have. Ways of eating that focus on nutrition, on giving my body what it needs to be its best (whatever that best is). Ways of exercising that focus on moving because it feels good, not because it's some magic ticket to some idealized body.

The last few years are probably the most functional my relationship with food has ever been - and that's not to say there aren't days where this fragile bridge of friendship has broken down under the weight of all that history. I eat until I'm satisfied, but not past that point. We mostly eat at home, and we eat things made from real foods - things I can identify, things that aren't in cans or boxes. I eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis than I ate in a week as a kid; I try new things, I use spices (we had onion and garlic and cinnamon and salt and pepper when I was a kid). I cook with cream and butter when a recipe calls for it, without agonizing over the fat or calories - I find I tend to eat less when I eat things made this way, because my body is satisfied more quickly.

If I'm gonna have dessert, it's usually going to be something fabulous, because I deserve it - why waste good calories on bad food?


Pregnancy has a funny way of interfering with all this progress.  I had issues when I was pregnant with Acorn - morning sickness really threw things off, and my relationship with food was very tentative then. I tried hard to stay in a zone of peace about it, but regularly failed. There were points where I couldn't finish a hamburger because it was too much food. And the list of foods I couldn't stand to eat because of food aversions was a mile long.

This pregnancy, the morning sickness has been far worse. There've been days where I know I didn't consume 1000 calories, and I know I didn't keep all of it down (and you see that number there? there's a number because that's how paranoid I've become). I've been told protein is the key to preventing pre-eclampsia, but how do you even begin to count protein grams when you're vomiting six times a day?

And then I got medication for the morning sickness, but I still don't feel like eating. I know it's not good - it's been very clear the last couple of weeks that the less I eat, the more anxiety I feel, but we're already at a point where I'm paranoid about eating the wrong things, and fearful that the meds will stop working, and the resulting waves of anxiety means there are times I just don't eat anything, because it's easier....which just makes the anxiety worse.

On top of that are the cravings. This time is not so bad as it was with Acorn (largely because the whole idea of food is right out much of the time right now). And the more rational part of me knows that following a craving is not a bad thing - my body is smart and it knows what it needs, especially if I'm otherwise eating well. But I'm rarely that rational right now, and I'm not eating that well to begin with. Part of me worries that the craving foods are displacing protein, or vegetables, or any number of more healthy things that my body and my baby need. Part of me just doesn't want to eat at all, because it's easier than possibly being sick, or arguing with myself about whether it's the "right" thing to eat. Part of me worries that I'm not eating enough - and clearly, when I'm not eating at all that's true, it's just hard to know what constitutes enough when you have no appetite and are likely to vomit if you eat too much, even with meds.


I'd say that it's more important to me not to pass all this angst on to Acorn than to actually fix it....but really, that's a sign of the stress inherent in the current situation. Our needs are equally important.

Acorn has always been a kid with feeding issues. A combination of sensory issues, bad experiences, a trach, and a lack of experience has meant that oral feedings have been a challenge. We are only recently not feeding him via feeding tube, and most days, he still doesn't eat like most other kids his age. He eats more foods than my dad, which says a lot.

It's taken a ton of work to get to this point....but here we are, maintaining weight and growing without the tube, completely normal for his age in terms of weight and height.  It's been a struggle for me too - I hate peas, but he eats them happily; even though the smell of eggs right  now makes me nauseous, I've made him eggs in the last week.

There's a lot of work that goes into putting on a good face for him - into encouraging him to try everything (even things I can't stand, even when I'm not pregnant), into encouraging him to eat a little of everything, in encouraging him to ask for food when he's hungry. In short, into helping him build a good relationship with food from the beginning.

But the pressure on me, from me, is huge, and right now I'm not sure I can keep it up.

Last night he and I had mozzerella sticks and peanut butter toast for dinner - he wasn't thrilled with the toast, but he ate the cheese, and we had a nice dinner together that we both enjoyed. That counts for something, right?

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