As I was momming (yeah I just made that word up, it's ok) around town this morning, hustling kids to school and otherwise being the productive Heifer I aim to be, I pulled into the drive-thru of my favorite cawfee shop and ordered the usual: large cawfee, two creams, no sugar, thankyouverymuch. I waited, my brain buzzing with the anticipated caffeine jolt, I heard a commercial come across the radio waves and grab hold of my mind. I stopped tapping my fingertips on the steering wheel and paused. Heifers, it was thought-provoking.
I can’t recall what the commercial was actually for (no surprise there), but the line that grabbed me was: FEED THE BODY, FILL THE SOUL.
Hmmmmm…..as I inched my car a few feet closer to cawfee heaven, I let that message roll around my mind.
Feed the body.
Fill the soul.
Two sentences, one message, a virtual call to action. By feeding our bodies, we are filling our souls.
Once I had my cawfee and rolled back into traffic, I thought about what that means. When we eat, we feed our bodies. When we feed our bodies, we fill our souls.
No, no, no.
I couldn’t help it. It was like those psychology experiments you see on Dateline, when they interrogate witnesses who say one thing but shake their heads to indicate their real inner selves don’t agree at all. They might be saying, “No, I didn’t steal the Oreos.” But they’re nodding along, letting us all in on the inner workings of their double-dealing minds.
I wanted to nod along to the idea that by feeding our bodies, we’re filling our souls. But no matter how many times I let it roll around my mind, my head kept shaking right-to-left. No.
Every day, for the majority of my life, I fed my body crap. I was obese - I fed my body whatever it craved. I ate Doritos as a meal, washed down with Mountain Dew and followed up with a serving of shame and regret. I polished off entire pizzas, hunkered down in my apartment, alone on a Friday night. Well, that’s not really fair. It wasn’t "a" Friday night; it was every Friday night, for years. I gave my body what I hoped would not only satisfy my actual physical hunger but what I hoped would satisfy my other hunger: that empty void inside my soul. I desperately tried to simultaneously battle back my demons while feeding my soul. I only ended up doing the opposite, of course. I fed my demons and starved my soul, and I got really...shall we say...fluffy....in the process.
The irony sort of beat me over the head. I was lucky not to spill my cawfee and swerve into oncoming traffic.
I know the point of the statement is that if we feed our bodies healthy food, we also feed, or fill, our souls. I get that the message is supposed to be uplifting and positive. I’m not knocking the idea that we should pay attention to how we eat and how that food affects our bodies. If anything, that’s a message I sing from the hot asphalt as I run another mile in the Arizona heat. Food matters! Good food matters! Food can be, as the saying goes, the best medicine or the worst poison we consume, and that choice, heifers, is up to us.
I just stop and shake my head at the idea that food is what fills our souls. I think it’s a dangerous concept and a murky one at that. It was that way of thinking that helped me justify binge-eating candy at midnight or a box of donuts as a reasonable breakfast (which, as it turns out, is not the case...not even three donuts is a reasonable breakfast...who knew?)
It was the basis of a never-ending cycle of food, shame, regret and more food. I was trying, really hard, to eat my way into happiness. I was trying to shove down all of the emotions I was too scared, naïve or damaged to face. Food was like an antacid, suppressing the neglect and hurt of my past but never curing the root cause of why I needed soothing in the first place.
Five years ago, I took the steps to not only lose weight but to finally dig up and uncover the reasons I thought washing down a bag of chips with soda was a good long term diet plan. Sure, we all have our splurges, but I needed to understand and really get to the heart of why my splurges happened every day, at every meal and every few hours. Was I really asking a roll of Smarties to fill my soul?
I was (bless my little Smarties-smitten heart).
Today, I am happier, healthier and stronger for the journey I’ve taken along the road to not only weight loss but also overcoming food addiction. That addiction was pretty rooted in this whole idea that food could be the answer to questions I hadn’t even fully formed and certainly couldn’t ask out loud. Food was my silent best friend, always nodding along and promising me the world, or at least the feeling of connection and approval I needed.
Today, I don’t rely on food for anything but fuel. If I eat reasonably and with good intention, my food does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it fuels my body, keeps my mind engaged and gives me the energy I need to tackle mom life, wife life, work life and all the runs and workouts in between.
Food gives me energy. And thank goodness it does. Being a Heifer isn't for the faint of heart. It takes energy. Lots of energy.
But Heifers, I don’t rely on food to feed or to fill my soul. I rely on my family, friends, work, my faith and my community to nourish my soul. Maybe that’s it….I nourish my soul, and my body, instead of simply feeding it. I look for what makes me feel connected, safe, happy and at peace, with myself and with the people I love.
Maybe we all have our own way of getting this nourishment. For some of us, we run. Some of us paint or write or cook or do the hokey-pokey in the living room with disco music and light strobes. (If you do that hokey-pokey part, though, maybe you keep that to yourself?)
The point is: food isn’t how I nourish my soul, and that shift in thinking (and behaving) has been instrumental in my shift from overeater, slow-mover, emotionally suppressed Melissa to the Heifer I am today, cawfee in the left hand, steering wheel in the right.
Food isn’t my best friend. It doesn’t take the place of my family or my faith or my crazy running pack who call out (literally): run, heifer, run!
Food is my fuel source and energy source. I take it and appreciate it for what it is. And I never give food the power it doesn’t deserve because I’ve learned the hard way that food can fuel my body but it cannot fill my soul.