Before I got pregnant, I thought I took good care of myself. I ate well, I got regular exercise and sleep, I drank water and practiced good self care all around, but when I found that I was carrying a tiny human inside me, I re-evaluated my whole lifestyle. Suddenly, all the food I ate would be used to help build a baby in addition to building me, so I became much more careful about what I put into my body.
When my baby was born, I breastfed him until he self-weaned at 14 months. He began having what I referred to as "people food" at 5 1/2 months and his first foods were avocado and a finely ground grain. I made all of his baby food by pureeing it. Apart from the occasional teething french fry, he didn't eat processed foods until he was over a year old.
Now at 21 months, he is an adventurous and healthy eater. He eats two scrambled eggs with cheese and splash of canned milk most mornings, drinks organic milk with added vitamin D for brain development and has fresh fruit with every meal, whereas today I had two pieces of dry wheat toast and coffee for breakfast, chicken nuggets for lunch and cereal for dinner.
My toddler eats better than I do.
I could defend myself by saying that I'm too busy to make myself a meal, but that's nonsense. I could eat the same meals that my child eats, I just choose not to. I prefer to make popcorn after he goes to bed or heat up frozen meals for my lunch because I pretend that it's easier, when I know full well that in the long run eating that way will just make me feel bad physically and emotionally.
Why don't I treat myself to the same healthy food that he does?
Part of it is my own "food weirdness," which is years of evolution paired cultural messages about food that cause me to prefer fatty, salty foods when I feel stressed. I tell myself that I work hard and am strapped for time so I deserve breaded processed chicken to get me through the day. I fail to plan for the future and act as if I'm not going to devour anything in front of me when lunch comes because I am focused on the baby, and I use it as an excuse to get fast food. Fast food that my body will use as best it can to fuel and repair itself. As a culture, we fail to nourish our bodies when we eat in this way.
I deserve better than this, and so do you.
I deserve to pay attention to my own diet in the same way I pay attention to his diet. I deserve to have a choice between eggs or cereal in the morning with a side of fresh fruit. It's in my house, and I'm not doing anyone any favors by sacrificing my own nutrition when there is plenty of food to go around, with much of it destined to nourish the neighborhood birds because my child has thrown it off his highchair.
Sometimes people say they can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables, which I understand because I can't either (unless it's for my child, who I would fall on a live grenade for.) When I was pureeing all that baby food, I got frozen or canned (check the salt content with canned food.) These fruits and vegetables are often picked at the and preserved at the peak of freshness and cost much less than fresh and last longer. In the past I have frozen lots of spinach that I bought fresh and eventually had to steam to save it from the compost. Now I just get it frozen.
Eating healthy may be a lifestyle change, but the better care we take of our bodies, the better care we take of our minds.