The Basics

I'm not always good.

Over Easter weekend, Josie’s grandma sent her a beaded bracelet. I was sitting at Josie’s little table, my knees tucked comfortably under my chin, when Josie decided Mommy should wear the bracelet. I pulled my fingers together and she slid it onto my wrist. Then she took one step back, crossed her arms, tilted her head to one side and then to the other and said, “Oh, cute!”

I don’t know exactly when she saw me do that but it was clearly me. No question. We’ve moved into the mimic phase. Speaking of little mimics, I have a funny story to share: one day when my sister went to pick up her two-and-a-half-year-old from daycare, my niece pulled a baggie of snacks out of her bag, held it up and said, I kid you not, “These aren’t my f*cking goldfish.” Gee, I wonder where she picked up that sentence construction and vocabulary. Ah, I do love that story.

My point: I’ve been trying to be a good girl. I try not to curse… often, I wash my hands frequently, and I try to eat well and get plenty of sleep.

I haven’t always been a good eater. I was on an elimination diet – no gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, egg or nuts – when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had chronic abdominal pain and gi problems and I thought of food as something that made me sick. I ate plain chicken and steamed vegetables. I drank distilled water. That was it. I was all knees and elbows and weighed 30 pounds less than I do now.   

After my cancer diagnosis, a nutritionist pointed out that if I didn’t start eating, and stop losing weight, I wouldn’t be able to get chemo. And then where will you be? Not much later, I saw a naturopath who told me the most important things I could do were eat and sleep.

These two statements revolutionized my approach to health. I had always thought of diet and nutrition as vaguely important, but in my previous healthier days, I ate primarily for pleasure or to fill my stomach. Gradually, I began to think of eating as an opportunity to stay healthy through chemo and to boost my immune system.

Even when I got busy and run-down from treatment, my goals were clear. Meal planning, grocery (and sometimes handbag) shopping, and cooking, activities that used to be conducted on a time available basis, were suddenly worth cancelling plans to accomplish.

Let’s just stop there and think about this: cancelling plans so you can go to the grocery store.

Is there anything more important than your health? Eating and sleeping, these are the skills I want my little mimic to learn.

Now tell me about you. Do you make eating and sleeping priorities? Have I told you how much I love it when you leave me comments? Have I mentioned how cute you look today?

13 thoughts on “The Basics

  1. Tami

    Eating and sleeping have always been opportunities for indulgence and luxury to me. I love to cook and eat good, interesting food. I love to sleep. Oh how I love to sleep in! Which is nothing but a foggy memory at this point in my life, as mother of two young ones. But thinking of eating and sleeping as health necessities, that’s a newer idea for me. I sure think a lot about food and it’s impact on our health a heck of a lot more now that I’m feeding little people. And I think about sleep more, too. In a fond way, in a longing sort of way. I really admire how you take care of yourself and your family. It’s a lovely example you set out into the world.

  2. Barb

    Did I ever tell you the story of my sister’s (at the time) 4-year-old and the car we made out of a cardboard box? We drew all over it and it even had flaps for the windows. He was sitting in it one day and his much older step-brother started teasing him, so he pointed his index finger sternly at him and said, “Don’t fuck with my window or you’re going to get a time out.” Aren’t those stories priceless?

    I swore at the dishwasher went it wouldn’t close about a month ago, and for a few days after that Sam thought it was funny to say “fucking thing” even though he had no idea what it meant. I hope that’s gone and he’ll just stick to mimicking the way I call slow drivers morons.

    Leave it to children to hold a mirror up to us so we can see how ridiculous we are sometimes. And that has never been more true as it is right now. I was not prepared for how quickly he started repeating everything I do and say. God help us all. 🙂

  3. Barb

    Oh, and as far as the food-as-health idea, I couldn’t agree more. My father was diabetic and several years before he died he and I read The Zone together and it really got me thinking about the foods we eat and how they affect our bodies. I’ve been mostly conscious of food as a way of boosting my health ever since. My refrigerator is almost always pretty bare because I buy mostly fresh foods and I buy it as a need it so I don’t end up throwing it all away. Dinner tonight was fresh kiwi, fresh locally grown tomatoes with 18-year-aged balsamic and olive oil, organic yogurt, and steamed zucchini. If a plate is that pretty it has to be good for you. (Here’s not to say I don’t indulge in crap occasionally… like the nutter butters from the hotel vending machine I ate at 2am last week.)

  4. Tami

    In a few weeks I’m starting a class all about eating to reduce inflammation. The idea is that much of what ails us is caused by inflammation, and a diet high in fruit and veg can reduce said inflammation. I am running into people all over Vashon who are swearing by this concept… They report increased energy, reduced pain and fatigue, even old, chronic pain is disappearing. Oh yeah, and lots of weight loss. I’m excited to learn more.

  5. danny

    on kid swears – the other day my 4 year old daughter was playing with legos and her construction, I think it was a car, would not stay together… she heaved a big sight at one point and said, “I can’t get this god damn thing to work…”
    i had to muffle my laughter from the kitchen…

    on eating healthy and setting an example –
    i have the goal of feeding my family mostly fresh home made food – it is a goal – it is a ways off…
    however, i think we eat well, a range of tastes and flavors from all the food groups, and we eat together, both of which, imho, are very important…

    on sleep – i don’t sleep enough, and both my therapist and my acupuncturist say that fixing changing this would deeply help my health and my outlook – somedays i can get to bed by midnight, often i can’t, there’s so much to do, and think about…

  6. Tami

    Growing up I always thought my mom was a health nut. No sugar cereal, no pop, that kind of thing. I was talking with a friend, lamenting our junkfood-less childhoods…and she said, “all those gross carob chips!”. And it hit me. We had no carob. And once in a while, we got those fried hostess pocket pies…wait, my mom wasn’t a health nut! She was a dieter! And a very frugal one! So no junk that she might eat, but for the occasional weight watchers frozen dessert …so NOT healthy! And those pies… when they were 10 for a dollar. My world is turned on it’s head.

  7. Patricia

    My story is about my four-year-old, who, when asked how she liked the lentil soup, said “It tastes like shit.” Oops. Of course, that was 30something years ago and “fuck” was still kind of underground, or she might have said “The fucking soup tastes like shit…” (Why is swearing so fun???)
    But to the more important point–I am pretty good about food, but I always forget about SLEEP. So thank you for this!

  8. Katherine Post author

    Hey Danny! Very good point about trying to feed your kids a variety of tastes and flavors. Spices can be so good for you that its great to give them a wide range. That’s something I could definitely work on.

  9. Jody

    Food has always been an important part of my life. I grew up eating home-grown food. My parents had a garden and canned and froze food for the winter. We raised our own meat and got milk from a farm down the road. I totally agree that what we eat is a very important part of staying healthy. However, I also have learned that, at least for me, it is important not to give food too much power. Our health also depends a great deal on piece of mind and a lightness of being. At one point in my life food was an obsession and it made me very sick. I think about this as I cook for and eat with my two daughters. We try to have fun with food. We buy organic and local as much as possible, we grow a small garden and learn where food comes from, and we try to eat healthy most of the time but I don’t stop them from having junk at a party or occasionally at their own house. I want my girls to have a healthy, happy relationship with food. I don’t wan’t them to set their expectations for their own behavior so high that they constantly feel like they are failing (I find myself in this place sometimes.) Not really sure how I accomplish this or even if it really is in my control but it is something I feel is important for mothers to consider with regard to food. Have any of you thought about this?

  10. Jody

    Oh and when I asked, “Have any of you thought about this?” What I was really meaning was, “I would love to hear your wise thoughts on this aspect of food and our children.” I did not mean it to sound accusatory….but as I read it back it sort of looked like it.:(

  11. Katherine Post author

    I agree completely. Really my goal is to minimize exposure to toxins in a very general/global sense, but also to make sure that we are well fed in the hope that our bodies will be able to process and purge these toxins when we encounter them. I try to keep the big picture in mind and not be too fanatical. I agree with you that its important to let kids eat junk at parties and in social situations. But, if their diets are healthful otherwise, and they’re eating lots of produce, the junkfood doesn’t have as much of an impact, their bodies are better equipped to process the food and move on. Does that make sense?

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