Summertime, Sno Cones and Size Acceptance

     This past weekend, my 1.5-year-old nephew came to visit. Hayden is such a joy to be around! He is funny and smart and tender hearted! He has a contagious laugh, a smile that melts your heart and big ocean blue eyes. He loves to play with his John Deere dump truck, blow bubbles, throw the ball for his dog Clover and press any and every button or light he can get his hands on!

 

     Because he is the first grandchild of the family, my parents have gone all out since the day he was born! My mom has multiple new toys and clothes waiting for him every time he comes to town to visit and my dad is already planning for Hayden’s future with larger John Deere supplies and camping gear for our family land in Longview. My parents flood Hayden with new forms of entertainment every time he is in town and this past weekend was no different.

 

     Their backyard posed as a theme park complete with a blow-up elephant pool that included a slide and inflatable palm tree, a new sand box with big buckets and colorful shovels, a plastic blue rocking horse and a sno cone maker with assorted colors and flavors to choose from.

 

     When I arrived to my parents’ house after work one evening, I found Hayden running around the backyard with his turquoise swim trunks on, a big bright smile on his face and cherry red sno cone juice running down his chin and across his belly.  As a 1.5- year- old, Hayden loves to feed himself. This means that sometimes food actually makes it into his mouth and other times, like this particular occasion, it runs down his face and tummy! But Hayden didn’t mind. He just dipped his little spoon into his icy cold sno cone and pulled out a heaping mound of red cherry flavored ice popping it into his mouth and laughing as most of it dribbled down his face.  Then, cherry stained from the tip of his nose to the bottom of his belly button, Hayden proceeded to splash around in his pool, build sand castles in his fluffy tan sand and enjoy the summer day!

 

     There is something about the way a toddler freely plays and enjoys their body. The curiosity that starts as an infant about their pointy toes, soft bulging belly and wiggly fingers is comparable to none. The excitement a baby experiences when they learn of a new body part and what it can do, how it works.  The joy of learning that clapping both hands together makes a happy noise and patting your belly sounds like drums. Untainted by a diet culture, a cruel world that makes money by brainwashing people to hate their bodies and distrust their hunger signals. A world where we hide shame behind a swimsuit cover-up and use hash tags to discuss beach bodies and “summer ready” diets.

 

       As adults, we dread shopping for a bathing suit, worry about how we are going to burn off the calories that we ate at a summer cook-out and most of us wouldn’t be caught dead running around in swim trunks with cherry red sno cone running down our bellies!

 

     I think children have a lot to teach us when it comes to the pleasures of eating and nourishing ourselves, body trust and size acceptance.  They teach us that each day you can learn something new about yourself and be thankful for a healthy and able body. They also teach us that the foundational component to proper nutrition and a healthy relationship with food is learning how to accept and embrace our current bodies versus striving for the thin ideal. Children model the importance of not letting guilt or shame around your body keep you from living an abundant life and enjoying time with loved ones this summer.

 

     When Hayden took a bath that night, he patted his belly like a drum with his two little hands and laughed as it made a funny noise. He kicked his feet around and tried to snap his fingers like he had seen his Paw Paw doing earlier in the evening.  Hayden may not always love every little detail about his body. He may grow up and notice flaws or imperfections, challenges that he’ll have to face. But for this past weekend, Hayden accepted his body and enjoyed his summer to the fullest. Sand box, swimming pool, cherry red stained belly and all!

 

 

Summertime, Sno Cones and Size Acceptance 

The Table

     If your kitchen table is anything like mine, it has many roles in your home. It functions as a desk by holding mail, bills, invitations and advertisements. It is a landing place for a heavy purse and leather briefcase at the end of a long workday. The kitchen chairs pose as clotheslines for freshly washed linens that cannot be placed in the drier which makes for an awkward conversational piece when you have dinner guests over and are frantically removing clean panties from kitchen chairs as they arrive. 

 

     Dinnertime in our house often consists of pushing all of our belongings on the table to one side and attempting to clear space for our dinner plates. I don’t know why, but having things on the kitchen table has always been a pet peeve of mine. I guess I want the table to always be a welcoming place for someone to come and rest and to be nourished at any given time. Not a crowded fast food restaurant where the bar hop has to anxiously wipe the table before anyone can be seated.

 

    Recently, my husband and I went shopping for a dining room table. We were looking for something big, a table that could seat lots of friends and family. We walked around the furniture store discussing options and comparing our preferences. He liked strong and sturdy wooden chairs with a matching distressed bench. I preferred soft and warm cloth chairs that invite someone to stay for deep conversation and laughs long after the meal is over.

 

    We compromised and left that day with a long wooden distressed table, five strong and sturdy wooden chairs with a bench and two soft and warm cloth chairs for the ends of the table. We weren’t sure how it was all going to fit in the dining room, but we would make it work.

 

    It wasn’t two days later when I talked my husband into going back and looking for more cloth chairs for the table. I had arranged and rearranged and just wasn’t feeling the wooden and cloth chair mix. We drove back to the store and the people started to recognize us, commenting that we were back so soon. We stood in the back corner of the store discussing options and reviewing prices. I looked like a little kid begging quietly for her parent to get her a lollipop at the checkout. We agreed to the additional cloth chairs, or at least my husband gave in, and after making our purchase and loading the chairs into the truck, I promised to stop following the furniture store on Facebook (considering that’s how all of my purchases from this store started).

 

    We got home and once again arranged everything just perfectly with a wooden centerpiece holding dark green moss balls and six straw circular place mats to go around the table.

 

    Since that time, we’ve had small dinners for two with homemade pizza and a bottle of wine. We’ve hosted family for Mother’s Day with a roast and sides and have had friends over on multiple Friday nights to grill out in the summer and catch up around the table. 

 

    In her book Bread and Wine Shauna Niequist talks about the importance of gathering loved ones around your table. She says, “Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love because food is one of the ways we love each other and the table is one of the most sacred places that we gather.” 

 

I loved her book so much that I am currently re-reading it (I never re-read books) and have the above quote painted on a distressed piece of wood that hangs in our kitchen.

    I had never really enjoyed cooking, but always felt that as a dietitian I should. It seemed like everyone I graduated from my nutrition program with ended up on Top Chef or as a food blogger/ photographer. I’d see many fellow dietitians providing cooking demos and recipe ideas and meanwhile I was just trying to figure out how to order my Wal-Mart online pick-up.

    

    Niequest encouraged me to understand the importance of nourishing others and of hosting people around my table. She encouraged me to become more curious about cooking and to show myself grace when meals didn’t turn out as planned.

 

    I find it interesting that in today’s diet culture, we’ve lost the importance of gathering people around the table. We are so controlled by rigid food rules and fast paced schedules that we are no longer taking the time to nourish ourselves and loved ones and to enjoy the satisfaction of a home cooked meal.

 

    I’m intrigued by places like France where people sit at diners for hours eating rich foods and enjoying meaningful conversation. A place where the server isn’t breathing down your neck ready to give you your check so that the next table can be seated. A place where customers don’t walk away feeling guilty after their meal, but are simply grateful for the satisfaction of eating.

 

    Did you know that the United States is one of the only countries where nothing is listed in the Dietary Guidelines about the enjoyment of eating and the pleasure that should be found in food?

 

    I wonder if we are so busy running around frantically over our “obesity epidemic” that we are missing out on the most important part.  We live in fear that if we actually enjoyed the food we ate, then we might not be able to stop eating and we might gain weight. So we stick to restrictive diets or fast convenient meals and we go about our lives.

 

    What if we took the time to clear off our tables and to clear out our minds? What if we slowed down, poured a glass of wine and gathered our ingredients for a new recipe while Frank Sinatra played on Pandora in the background?

 

    What if we invited people over, into our homes and into our lives and shared a meal with them? What if we learned what it meant to properly nourish and care for our bodies while finding satisfaction in eating?

 

    The table has been an important place for centuries. Jesus gathered His twelve disciples around the table at The Last Supper and as he broke the bread He said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” With the cup He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

 

    Are you tired of punishing yourself through restrictive diets and rigid rules around eating? Are you tireless trying to keep up with the latest health trend and experiencing a decreased quality of life because of it? Are you worn down, depressed and hungry for more than what food can offer?

 

Gather around the table. 

Our new dining table
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist