Mood & Food: A Meditation in 'Bad' Habits



As I sit on the couch, this beautiful Sunday afternoon, scooping Arahova spinach dip onto bacon cheese slider flavoured chips, I think long and hard about why I chose this particular snack instead of say, baby carrots and dip. I am in no way, shape or form a food expert, nor do I pretend to be, but rather a human, who like many other humans, has a not so simple relationship with food.

I mean, I love it, worship it, praise it and sometimes want to make out with it when I'm feeling blue, but lately I wonder if all foods love me back equally. To understand myself better I thought I'd do what I always do,  which is to write out my relationship to something, in this case grub, and see what surfaces.

As a kid, food was pretty much insignificant to me. I ate it when I needed to fuel up, or in between climbing a tree or throwing a temper tantrum. I remember liking generic stuff like Kraft Singles. The 80s were an awesome time where suburban parents kind of just fed their kids whatever was there, without worrying that they weren't getting enough kale in their diets.

As a teenager, I deprived myself of many of the comfort foods that I now enjoy today, not because I was heavy, but rather because I thought that it would clear up my acne-ridden skin. I was acutely aware of what seemed to me at the time, pock-marked skin, and the only way I felt I could control my self-disgust was by eliminating everything I thought caused breakouts.

By my twenties, my skin cleared up on its own and I started experimenting with calorific foods like poutine, croissant, and ice cream in all its varieties. I was still quite active back then, so the food renaissance hardly impacted my waistline. I remember when I started to date my partner, I could split a steak with his mom and not yearn for the taste of more. Food wasn't the last thing on my mind, but it also wasn't always the first thing.

Oddly enough, my little indulgences only caught up with me at 23, after another brief period of depriving myself while struggling with a particularly rough bout of anxiety and depression. As the story often goes, as soon as I felt better, my appetite seemed to triple, as did my girth. Everything not only tasted good again, but out-of-this world. It's something I've since never really gotten a handle on, not that I think that weight management is something you can just lasso. 

You see the thing is, I'm not someone who will tell you that upon deep reflection I finally saw the light and I now swear by detoxifying smoothies and kombucha-what-have-you. I like those things just fine but I also like slathering liver pate onto a French baguette. At a deeper level, the thing I struggle with is that I'm the kind of person who regulates my mood with food. If I'm feeling tired I eat. If I'm feeling stressed I eat. If I'm feeling overjoyed I eat. Which is to say that it's not only life's lows but also its highs that catapult me into a place where I eat too much.

I was at a party last night, and I could almost see snapshots of myself in my mind's eye, reaching for just one more slice of pumpernickle bread, one more forkful of key lime pie, just another swig of grapefruit beer. All these things are not inherently bad, just that I often feel like I'm reaching beyond them for that spiritual fulness that I never quite achieve. A wise man once told me that if you want to lose weight, you need to think up more creative and long term reasons for doing so than to just look good. And so, as I mull over ideas on how to be more mindful towards both my body and well, mind, I come up with the following reasons:

-Because I want to be kinder towards my heart

-Because I want to run faster when playing soccer

-Because I want to climb my apartment stairs without panting

-Because I want to bend down with the graceful ease of a ballerina

-Because I want to really savour the food I taste, whether it be pizza or pineapple, without squirming in anticipation of the next bite

-Because I want to teach my future children that you can enjoy everything without guilt, but also respect your body enough to feed it a fruit or veggie once in a while

-Because, because, because...the list goes on forever. But I know that whether I get married next year in a size 10 dress or a size 4, as long as my body feels strong and active, and as long as I continue to hash out my relationship with food, I'll be happy.

So stranger, what's your food story?

Ideas To Ditch The Flowers & Dinner Reservations

When it comes to Valentine's Day, I'm like a sponge that soaks up everyone's feelings about it, the enthusiasts, the skeptics and the downright haters. There are so many different vibes about this overly-commercial day that I'm kind of happy it falls on a Saturday this year.  Not because I plan to forgo celebrating, but because I think it gives everyone the flexibility to make it whatever they want it to be. Single, taken, whatever!

Over the years, my fondest V-Day memories with my partner have been the times when we botched it up royally. In the early days, he once slaved over a home-cooked dinner by candlelight only to have me stub my toe on a nail and worry that I might have tetanus throughout the whole meal. Another year, we made plans to go to this darling little restaurant not thinking that a late brunch of blood pudding and sausages would affect our appetites. By the time we got to dinner, we were so queasy neither of us could take a bite.  It's those kind of hilarious memories that shine brighter than jewels.

With that spirit in mind, here are some suggestions to make the day memorable, no flowers and hard-to-get restaurant seats required:

Celebrate your love of learning- Whether traveling in a pack, a twosome, or solo, a Saturday love-fest means that you can see the latest art exhibit at the AGO, watch the fishes swim at the aquarium, or contemplate the marvels of the universe at the science centre (sorry for being so Toronto-centric, but you get the point). I don't know about you, but nothing pulls at my heart strings quite like someone explaining the big bang theory to me.

Celebrate your love of food- Why spend a ton on an overpriced meal when you can have a culinary adventure in your own home? For a bit of food-nerd trivia, why not pick up a couple of diverse cheeses and cured meats each, and try to guess which region they came from. You can do the same with wine! I'll leave whether you want to include blindfolds and awards for good guesses up to your own discretion.

Celebrate your love of togetherness- With all the hyper-focus on romance during this one day, it's easy to forget about all the other sources of love in your life. Why not take a parent out on the town, get your in-laws a token gift, snuggle with your pooch or spend some time with your best friends watching movies?  This year we are getting together with a bunch of our closest buddies to have a family-style meal celebration. I can't think of a better way to spend the day!

Celebrate yourself- No matter what relationship status you tick off on your government forms, a little self-love is never a bad thing. I know that I'll take some extra care to make sure I exercise and drink my favourite tea, before truly starting my day on Saturday. What makes you feel energized and inspired? Ask yourself those questions.