Proud2Bme | Bon Appetit, Mademoiselle: Ditching the Dieting Daze for a Summer of Inner Love

Bon Appetit, Mademoiselle: Ditching the Dieting Daze for a Summer of Inner Love

By Brie Mathers--I am sitting, legs crossed on the sidewalk of an outdoor café in Old Montreal, the dew covering my skin from yoga class lifting into the summer night as the sun's final salutations bow low against the ancient architecture of the Vieux-Port.

A Canadian flag flutters the only hint of color against the tawny-gray buildings whose crevices bear the stories of the ancients, the steady clip-clop of a Clydesdale horse carrying the promise of romance to the drones of people who, like me, have come here to be swept away.

Sky gives way to pink lace and the skirts ride higher across French thighs. The French have a way of being in their bodies, a subtle embrace that expresses itself in the sashay of hip beneath the golden tongues of light cast by the old-fashioned streetlamp that is turning on. Leaves tousle as the Québecois walk by, their hands frolicking. Montrealers know how to live. And from the all-night eighties dance clubs teeming with Portuguese pro-soccer players to the yoga studios carved into old lofts whose walls are steeped in practice, it is much more than my skin that is glistening. But it wasn't always this way.

The first time I felt fat, I was four in the bathtub with my big sister, already skinnier. The next time, I was six. It was before ballet practice. I thought I looked fat in my leotard. When my first grade teacher, the adored Miss Vanderkran, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "light as a feather." Don't even get me started about age 11, the year my snowsuit left me feeling like the Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. But it wasn't until I was nearly sixteen and had just won the second largest track meet in North America for my division that I decided to do something about this "fat problem."

The arc of my life set like a runner in her blocks and my psyche tore itself to ribbons against the shifting sands of my unfolding female form. The gun went off and so began the yo-yo dieting war; a voice of self-loathing moved in to occupy the innocent territory of my terrified mind. Armed and dangerous. My heart rate plummeted. The Canadian Olympic track and field coach took me out for lunch to get me "back in the game." But I was on a different track, playing a different game in a different field. Destination: emaciation.

Then came therapy. Freedom with food may have given my organs what they needed to keep on breathing, but it couldn't touch the tyranny of image. While I promise here and now to stand up tall and command a beauty re-defined--deeper, subtler, softer, healthier, more diverse, truer--I would be lying to not admit that to arrive in this place I have over and over been swept off my feet by the glossy knight of image. Even if I know that all that glitters is not gold. I, like so many of us, have participated in a consumer culture whose profit is contingent upon infinite hungry ghosts with unending cravings--a reality that stands diametrically opposed to what our increasingly fragile planet most desperately needs. Not only had I lost all intuitive knowing that my body is of the earth, but all of my actions opposed both. Earth, my body, I am calling you home.

Looking back on my dieting daze I can say one thing with certitude: the pursuit of being any different than how nature would have us is a colossal waste of energy. It doesn't work. It makes us miserable. Buying in makes corporations rich and women sick and obsessive. It inhibits and impedes us from contributing our deeply needed voices to the collective conversation. It shrinks our passion and our world.

I remember what it felt like to fear fat and for food not to feel good as it landed in my body. If that thought hits home, you may want to expand your circle of inquiry. A genetic predisposition to addiction was part of my world and when the checks and balances of my system got looked at, it explained a lot. I discovered an undiagnosed hypothyroid condition (that was at last uncovered by a naturopath after my mom, who for years suspected this, had me medically tested over and over again). In short, basic chemical pieces of the puzzle effortlessly resolved when vital neurological and hormonal chemical processes got the attention they needed. For me that resolution came through natural supplementation.

But my greatest medicine (alongside yoga – yum!) has been, and continues to be, food itself. While in the case of disordered eating, Hippocrates' famous statement, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" may seem ironic, what happened when I started to think of food as energy changed the fabric of my life. I believe physiological reactions can be spun by enzyme-depleting ingredients in processed foods, and that mainstream food systems and the conglomerates aligned behind them (eh-hem, Monsanto) have refined and redefined food in ways that are ultimately unsustainable for both our bodies and the planet. Roughly translated, high school was when I started eating junk food and feeling like crap.

Treating my body as the earth I tread gently now. I shop the local farm stands. I eat plates of sprouts and dark leafy greens. I attend to of my iron stores with organic red meat. I choose wild fish and love a good Japanese sweet potato whipped up with ghee and sea salt as much as the next girl. I eat chocolate avocado pudding for breakfast almost every day to feed my heart. And yes, I enjoy a really yummy piece of chocolate cake throughout the days of my moon cycle. Now my brain sings, alive with healthy fats. My nervous system relaxes, soothed by the greens. And my body image has never, ever been better. It's not from looking in the mirror and saying, 'Dang girl, you look gooooood' – although that's hip too. It's that my body, through self trust and intuitive eating, has become a site of celebration – a place to live that is comfortable, cared for and complete, no touch-ups needed.

Immersed in my francophone escapade of cuisine and care, I envision being swept away as a plate heaped with Indian food slides onto the table, "Bon Appetit" and "Mademoiselle" tinkling through the air. I look up sheepishly from the creamsicle drink (dreamy) that I'm slurping the final dregs of, eyes laughing, lips still stuck to my straw... as the waiter (Pierre-Luc as I imagine him to be called) gives a wink and a smile to his clearly anglophone patron.

Flirtation is fun, but I know my knight in shining armor lives within me as the satisfaction of being a voice in a well-nourished body that stands for women's appetites of all our shapes and sizes. Here is where we lay down our swords of hunger, raise our diversely colorful flags, reclaim the temple and take back our light. Now is when we choose fun and freedom over the tyrannical imprisonment of the inner dictator. Because when we do, the cream of who we are rises to the top of our lives.

Now grab your skirt – whatever the width of your thighs – because the fat-free, media-controlled mindset is not en vogue with what your soul is truly crying for. The beat of the night is calling, and you can sizzle up a summer Montreal-style that makes a healthy foodie out of you, nourishing not just your evolving body but your awakening mind. Dive within and discover what your beautiful, adorable, creative, wildly diverse, authentic, intelligent being is really hungry for: a powerful new legacy of love that ignites an appetite for life.

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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