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Portlandia Food Rehab

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Food and Behavior: Two Peas in a Pew

Two pews in front of us this morning at church an adorable little boy with curly strawberry blonde hair and a slobbery smile gave both my sister and me a mini revelation, and it wasn’t about the Gospel.

We’ve all experienced it, you’re in church and a baby screams, or a child throws his or her book on the floor in a tantrum. We onlookers laugh and smile because we all know how difficult it can be to sit still in church ourselves. The crying and screaming eventually subsists after some fresh air and a talk in the hallway and Mass goes on with minimal interruption.

“Cookieeee cookie coookie”, the little boy sang and lifted his treat in the air with a smile that could melt anyone’s heart.

The onlookers on both sides of the aisles smiled adoringly. After finishing the cookie, he walked down the aisle to another pew. His mother waved him over and his father rewarded him with another cookie for listening.

As Mass went on, the boy’s behavior grew progressively worse and I couldn’t help but think, maybe the cookies were the problem after all.

At one point he even sat next to a woman in another pew, digging through her purse and playing with her bright orange wallet. Mortified, the boy’s mom tried to bring him back over; but, in an attempt to prevent a tantrum, the woman who owned the wallet let him play with it until he was distracted again by another treat, this time pretzels from the father.

By the time he started wandering around the pews with two pretzels in his mouth like a seal, his mom finally had enough, scooped him up and brought him to the hallway. 

That’s when I hear crunching. The father, significantly overweight, was now eating the cookies and pretzels he had brought for his son. 15 minutes before communion. Watching this and thinking about how the child was rewarded, I couldn’t help but think of how fundamentally wrong this remedy is for training behavior problems.

My sister turned to me after having observed this scenario with one word, “blog”. 

So here I am writing.  It struck a chord in us both because we’ve seen this in our own lives. We know that our dog was rewarded with people food when she was good. We know that food can be your best friend in the moment and your worst enemy on the scale later. The point of this lesson is not to be judgmental of the parents for not knowing how to train their kid or for having a food addiction. The lesson of this scenario is that it relates to all of us. It teaches us a lesson about just how powerful food is for our behavior.

Being surrounded by so many people who make bad health decisions makes us feel better about doing that too. In a culture that is driven by consumerism, that lives for instant gratification and microwave dinners, is it any wonder why we are obese?

Ask yourself, what do we choose to reward ourselves with? When we celebrate big events? When we teach a dog to sit?

Food.

Chocolate ice cream sundaes after a long stressful day at work. Cookies and candy at lunch when our company announces its revenue went up. Bones for the dog when he learns a new trick, bones for the dog so he stops barking.

Because it is so prevalent, and everyone likes it, food has become a reward for good behavior, and a bribe in the hopes of escaping bad. Food is energy, but food can cause us to lose control. Control over our bodies, our daily structure.

But we must heed the consequences. Just as children feel a little bit better about behaving when they are rewarded with that cookie for sitting still, stress eaters gain a little bit of happiness when they eat their peanut butter chocolate cake after work. In both cases though, the happiness is short-lived. That satisfaction from the junk food goes away, and not only is the problem left unsolved, but a much bigger problem grows from it. In the child’s case, he hasn’t really learned his lesson and begins to realize bad behavior is rewarded. In the adult’s case, those bandaids on the bigger issue turn into unwanted extra pounds.

I know from experience. Having this blog has been great for many reasons, I’ve been able to share interesting articles about the latest in toxicology–chemicals to beware of, I’ve been able to showcase my homemade recipes and make people excited about cooking. But, it has also been detrimental to my own nutritional awareness in that it only has encouraged me to think about food that much more.

I began to realize how hypocritical this blog has been for me,  I am giving nutritional advice, but could not seem to find balance and structure, and haven’t liked the person I looked back at in the mirror. Just because you are eating healthy, organic food, does not mean you can stop watching calories. And just because it’s organic chocolate, does not mean you’re not eating too much of it! 

So I decided to make a change. 

This summer so far, I am proud to announce I have lost the 8 pounds I gained over the duration of having my blog.  An achievement, sure, but I still have a ways to go, about 15 more pounds, since I’d really like to get back into the shape I was in before I got mono junior year of high school and stopped caring about calories and watching my weight.

Being overweight is a struggle. You feel bad about yourself, you don’t like shopping anymore because you’re embarrassed that you’ll have to go up a size. Behavior is as important in eating and health as it is in any other part in your life. You can not change a child’s poor behavior without discipline and structure, just as you can’t solve the issue of your self-criticism and embarrassment with the temporary form of happiness that got you there in the first place.

In losing the weight, I am keeping motivational quotes I found on a fabulous twitter handle “@FitGirlsInspire” posted around my room. Along with the pictures of beautiful, happy, healthy people they post, was a quote by Gandhi:

Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.

This quote embodies everything we are. It encourages us not only to be healthy for aesthetic purposes, but for the kind of person we want to be. Do we want to be a self-conscious person, critical of ourselves and those around us? Or do we want to be proud of not only what we look like, but what we are doing for our health, for our spirit, for our soul, and for what we can do for other people…

The journey back to good health has a lot to do with behavior, and I’m glad that I had this wake up call today two pews in front of me, by a little curly haired boy holding a cookie. It is more encouragement for me to continue focusing on what I know, and working hard to achieve the goals I have set out to accomplish.

Going forward, we must not be afraid to spread the truth to others. When we become mothers, we should train our children not to look at food as an easy ticket to happiness, as it fades. Food is energy, and we have the power to choose the right kind to eat, and the right way to use it.

Bon appétit et Bonne Santé!!

xxxxoo

a more “NUTRISHUS” Trish