Lately I have been thinking more about the theme of appetite in my life, and in the lives of those with whom I work. On the most basic and physical level, we all know what appetite means. But to really follow one’s appetite is still somehow a radical and revolutionary act. I have been wrestling with, and bearing witness to, the resulting devastation to women’s health and self-worth as long as I can remember.
I have no idea exactly how I escaped the insane and demoralizing diet mentality growing up. I know I am in a strange minority of women who have never, ever, seriously been on a diet. Maybe it is only because I happen to have a body shape and size that genetically and naturally was one deemed “acceptable” to society. Maybe it is because I was a tomboy and not at all a “girly-girl” interested in fashion. Maybe it was because although my mother was sometimes on a “diet”, it was mostly a joke even for her and she truly allowed us access to all foods in a completely unrestricted manner. She even had a saying “ A dollar spent at the grocery store, is a dollar saved at the doctor’s office.” She knew that feeding her family well was a gift both physically and emotionally.
Nothing was off limits food-wise in our home. Food was not a moral issue, it was about nourishment and nurturing both. Homemade beef stew topped with biscuits and TV Dinners; fresh Michigan sweet corn and peaches and Captain Crunch—all had a place at our table. We usually had something home-baked—Chocolate Chip Cookies, Texas-Sheet Cake, Apple Crisp—to snack on when we arrived home hungry from school.
It is likely that all these things combined led, for me, to a relationship with food that is deeply joyful, delicious, communal and restorative. And to a relationship with my body that is grounded in self-trust, and a sense of fun, power, and functionality. I have a sense of awe and wonder at the mysteries and miracles of my body, and ALL bodies.
How amazing it would be if we could all, collectively, break free of the body-shame and fear-based attitudes toward food and our genuine appetites. To embrace our hunger as the true impulse that sustains life, to be honored, and nurtured, and ultimately used to guide us in our own personal development and growth. I have read there is only one inviolable truth for us all that applies to nutrition and food: eat or die. Learning to boldly claim one’s appetite, and then to act on it without shame or guilt or fear is a path I strive to model for and nudge other’s to follow.
Our bodies and our appetites contain immense wisdom. Eating is about survival, despite what we have been led to believe regarding the need to “watch” what we eat. But eating is also about satisfaction and joy, energy and engagement. We ignore or suppress our appetites at our own peril. Today, I feed myself without apology, every single thing for which I truly hunger.
Linda R. Glass, M.A.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor