Tuesday, August 10, 2010

e.a.t.: a manifesto

My initials spell E.A.T.

This delightful accident was not lost on my elementary school peers. (Nor was the abbreviated version, E.T.).

Note the E.T. t-shirt. (That's some parental sense of humor right there.)

And so, perhaps it goes without saying that I think a lot about eating. And not just in the "Ooh, snacktime!" kind of way. I mean to say that I often ponder the act of eating. Writers wax wistful over the joy, the pleasure, the euphoria of eating. But there can be suffering, too, in that act: when there isn't enough to eat, when food becomes a bitter enemy, and even when food is an enabling friend, allowing you temporary respite from whatever emotion you're evading.  Eating is complicated.

Since modifying some of my eating patterns based on certain Ayurvedic principles and the wisdom of Geneen Roth et al., I've noticed other changes in my life as well: in the way I see myself, and in the way I see others.

Karen's piece "How I Want to be in This World," resonated so strongly, and I find myself going back to that notion, again and again. So what follows here is an essay, in the truest sense: a tentative attempt to explain how I want to be in this world. And how eating fits into all of that. It's a manifesto (a manifeasto? Too much?).


Food possesses no inherent morality. It is neither good nor bad. Some food is filling, or nutritious, or energizing. Other food makes me sluggish, or jittery, or downright sick. I'm Fancy P. before a plateful of fried clam strips, and I'll be the same Fancy P. after it. If I eat those clam strips because I'm struggling to cope with the stress of a deadline, I am free to do so. Permission granted by moi.

I want to handle those negative emotions -- anxiety, sadness, anger -- in a more productive way. I want to express those feelings, sit with them and know that I'll come out okay on the other side. Sometimes I can do just that. Other times, I'm lying on my bed eating fried clam strips. And it's all okay.

I am always doing the best that I can.

My body relies on my mind to remember what makes it feel like sick. Sometimes my mind doesn't listen. But often it will, and my body gives a big ol' high five to my mind. Thanks, mon ami!  But strengthening that communication between body and mind? That's a process of change I can get behind; I'm changing a behavior, not how much I'm worth.

I will not choose to wear something because it's slimming. I accept my body as it is, right now. Period.

I will not use food as a reward or exercise as a punishment.  If I'm feeling great, I can take a walk or jump in the pool and feel even greater. No problem! Look at me go! But I'm not doing that extra twenty minutes because I ate those clam strips. Nope. (Can you tell that I've eaten clam strips recently?)

Whatever it takes, I will smile when I see myself in a photo.

I drink hot water the whole day through. Sometimes I even infuse it with fresh ginger. My stomach feels like the champion of a hugging contest. It calms me, soothes me. I think it's even making me a better wife.

I will no longer focus on losing weight as a goal. If I lose weight because I'm eating thoughtfully and moving my body as much as it wants, I want to get excited for how healthy I am, how whole I feel -- not how much less I weigh.

I want to show the people I love how dear they are to me. Toward that end, I want to bake for them and for my neighbors, too: pies, and cakes, and confections -- fancy, all. But not as sweet.

I want to relish every inch of me, all the while accepting that my body will change, for it is earthly and temporal. (I am nearly twenty-eight and already going gray. Hooray for acceptance!) I want to remember that I am whole and good, and when I look out, I want to recognize the wholeness of my neighbor. Even (especially) the peevish ones.

And I want to be grateful, always, that I have a voice and that someone is listening. Thank you. I want to listen to you, too.


Friends, you've gotta meet Lois. She's eighty-three; she's witty; she's gorgeous. She inspires me. And if you say to her:

Your people want to make a statue in your honor. What will it be made out of and what victory will it commemorate?

She'll reply: "Chocolate. Having been on a diet for about 70 out of my 82 years, it will commemorate my brave decision to eat whatever makes me happy for whatever number of years I have left."



  1. Can I just say "ditto?" I want to do all of that, too! Well said, mon ami. And here's to you for putting it all out there. It seems to me that your manifeasto - I'm a sucker for good puns - is at once giving permission and offering up a challenge. Permission to be yourself, and the challenge to be yourself. How is it that that can even be construed as a challenge? That question makes me sad, because I feel it to.

    Here's to you, E.A.T. Lois would be P.R.O.U.D.

  2. Yes, Kate: it's giving permission, issuing a challenge...and sending up a prayer!

    I've just grown tired of feeling like I need to justify to myself (or others) my eating habits or the way my body looks. I think it's not only a matter of letting go of what others' think of me, but becoming more accepting of and loving toward other people. Loving energy begets loving energy, maybe?

  3. Holy moly......what a brilliant piece and on one of my favorite subjects.......I am so glad we have found each other!

    And thanks for the gorgeous compliment and quote.....

    Lois IS proud of you.

  4. Thank you, Lois! I'm so, so glad to have found you, too!

  5. Oh my...such an honor to be mentioned in this way! Thank you for such a beautiful meditation!

  6. A beautiful manifeasto and what a lovely introduction to both Karen and Lois. Thank you!

  7. Karen, I've thought so much about that essay of yours. I love it!

    Rosie, I just love this blogging community of ours. Happy to pass along some real gems!