Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Role Does Food Play in Your Life?

My Sexy Insides

I run and eat my veggies
to my body I must be kind
but just as important
is how I feed my mind

Unclenched and wide open
my mind and heart must be
this is the only way which
allows for me to see

How beautiful the world is
and all that it does hold
whatever my thoughts create
is what I'll see unfold

Feel free to call me pretty
but look deeper to find what hides
what I am truly proud of -
that is my very sexy insides

Amy Penwell

Alright. This post will be short and sweet. Like my daughter or the birthday cake I ate last Friday at her birthday party. Short…sweet.

Let’s just go there. Come on. We haven’t visited a hot topic in a while.

So, here it is.


Yep, that’s right.


We all have a relationship with it…kind of like a family member. We bring her in, sit her down and spend a lot of time with her. Sometimes she is entertaining, at other times she is comforting and then there are other times when she is all business, satisfying our hunger and strengthening our bodies.

Our relationship with her is often rooted in the messages we got as young girls from our “girl boxes.” As a matter of fact, in one study, the number one fear for 81 percent of 10 year old girls was "getting fat."

That’s right. It’s not nuclear war, death or global warming. It’s getting fat.

My first peek into an awareness of how food can be so deeply entrenched in our psyche occurred when I was 26. I was training for my first triathlon. I became increasingly concerned with what food I put into my body. The caloric count, number of carbohydrates, fat grams and protein amounts I ingested were an important part of my training regimen. To be honest with you, I wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be around.

I was eating out with friends at a Mexican restaurant and per my usual and much disciplined self, ordered the salad. “Would you like that in a bowl or a tortilla shell?”

I rolled my eyes. “Dang. You mean I have to decide. Why don’t you decide for me?”

“Tortilla, of course!” the waitress responded.

I devoured that salad. I was hungry. Training for an endurance event like the Ironman requires a lot of fuel and RE-fuel after an intense series of run, bike and swim workouts.

And there I was, at meal’s end, up against the ropes…it was me versus the tortilla bowl. Our boxing gloves were on and the fight was fueling up. Who would win? I backed into the corner of my mind and tried to pretend it wasn’t there. But it just kept taking those visual jabs at me.

A left first, next a hard right and then I caved. I broke off a small piece. I ate it. It was good. So I broke off another piece. I ate that one too and I’ll be darned. It was good too! I ate that entire bowl, in teen tiny bits and pieces.

By the time I was done, there was nothing left but the oily wax paper on the plate beneath. My plate was empty, my stomach was full, and the shame was initially unbearable. Her voice was whiny, shallow and judgmental. “Molly, you were doing so well…at least until you got to that bowl. How could you? Is this in line with your training program? Is it? Molly, I’m asking you? Is it? IS IT?

And in that moment…a little light bulb went off. I realized, as simple as this sounds, that the Molly who walked into the restaurant is no different as the Molly who just finished that darn bowl. I am strong, athletic, articulate and funny. I am kind, caring and compassionate. Whether the tortilla bowl is in or out of my belly has absolutely NO effect on who I am. The food I put into my mouth doesn’t define who I am. I do!

I'll admit I'm a little embarrassed to be sharing this moment with you. I'll also admit that I'm 49 now and had plenty of time to develop a "functional" relationship with food, but it can all still be very, very complicated. Most of the time it's healthy, but sometimes when I'm stressed, tired, or anxious I may reach for those boxing gloves again and go a few rounds with myself. And if I'm really honest about it, to suggest that it can sometimes have a kind of power over me…well…makes me feel shallow, hollow and a little silly for admitting it. Talking about it is a bit like being caught right out of the shower. Somehow owning up to how we view food reveals something about our vulnerabilities, bared there for all to see.

Believe me; I’ve had my share of issues. (Who hasn't?) As many of you know, my numero uno challenge was alcohol…but food, exercise, relationships…they’ve all sat down for dinner with me on occasion, to test, challenge and, at times, shake me into confronting my own feelings of self-worth and where my real power comes from.

These days, Tortilla bowls, Reese’s peanut butter cups and my daughter’s birthday cake all have a place in the Molly Barker “food for life” pyramid. So too does moderate exercise, veggies,daily hugs, plenty of water, fresh fruit, my best try at 8 hours of sleep and love. Yep, that’s right love is on that pyramid, right there at the top!

It’s all connected to my living a healthy, honest, forgiving and full life.

What role does food play in your life and how has it changed over the years? Let me know right here or email me at molly@girlsontherun.org. If you don’t want to share, that's cool. Try journaling about it or take a minute and consider where and how food plays a role in your life.

And to see the fact cited here and other ones as it relates to our behaviors around food, check out this website:


1 comment:

  1. Molly - awesome post. I have never commented on your blog before but eating is such a touchy subject for a lot of females... especially atheletes... I know... have seen it/been there. I applaud you for this and please know how true and meaningful your words are. Thank you.