Food – A Complicated Relationship
Helen Austin is a singer, songwriter, and classically trained musician. Originally from the UK, Helen now resides in Vancouver with her family. You can follow her shenanigans on her Facebook, Twitter, or see her on Youtube.
People who haven’t know me for over 20 years won’t know that I used to struggle with my weight. From the age of about 14 I weighed myself and calorie counted constantly while having no resistance to sausage rolls and chip butties (an British delicacy of salted fries on a huge buttered white bread roll).
It went even further downhill with university, the discovery of recreational drugs and a chocolate vending machine at the end of my hall. No one had ever taught me how to eat healthily and we were in the middle of the FAT FREE everything era where they just packed everything with fillers and sugar. I looked and felt unhealthy.
…I have a 16 year old daughter who is familiarly drawn
to the wicked ways of the comfort carbs…
It took a 3 month trip to Africa and then a solid relationship to give the room to really figure out how the eat properly (real food, small portions) without having to spend my life at a gym and by the age of 28 I had finally figured it out and got to a weight where I have stayed ever since. At 29 I became pregnant and, not being one of those women where the pounds just ‘drop off’ while breastfeeding, I had to do it all again… twice. So while people think I am just ‘naturally thin’, I am most certainly not. I have just learned to accept that I can’t live on donuts and feel healthy. Nor do I live on lettuce and carrots. And everyone knows I love my wine and chocolate
20 years and a lot of research later I have a 16 year old daughter who is familiarly drawn to the wicked ways of the comfort carbs and it was a quandary for me. Should I let her experience what I did with the risk that she never figures it out or should I talk to her about it? I see all sorts of blogs saying not to even mention body size to your daughter. It’s a minefield and decided to go with my gut (and my fear) and talk to her… gently.
I try to lead by example and eat mainly healthy stuff (not just salads!) made with real food, including fun stuff. One of the most important things that I want her to know is that she, like me, does have a weakness for simple carbs and if she is going to eat them be aware that they ALWAYS lead to wanting more (I can’t eat just one cookie). If I talk to her about food or she is being hard on herself, I remind her that everything I say is out of love and I always ask her if she would like me to shut up. She has never asked me to shut up (and she would… she has plenty of other times on other subjects) and seems to really want the information on how to stay a healthy weight and have good skin, balanced moods etc.
When I run out of ideas or advice I always return to the best thing you can do for your body (in my opinion) and that is to drink water. 12 years ago I had nodules on my vocal chords and now drinking 1.5 litres of water a day is essential for the sake of my voice but I find that it really helps with just feeling physically good.
There does’t seem to be a right answer for girls, food and body image but as long as I am able to talk to my daughter about it in a positive way I feel good about my chosen path. I purposefully don’t have a scale in the house so no one can obsess and I tell my daughter that the upside of figuring it out food/weight when you’re young means that when you hit your 40s it’s not so much of a shock!