let them eat pound cake

All week, my older son kept asking me to make the pound cake I made on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s so good mom. That’s my choice for our Super Bowl food.”

Setting aside that pound cake is NOT football food, I hesitated. I’m not a calorie counter or a dessert rejecter, but I couldn’t get past the pound of butter, half a dozen eggs and other fine ingredients in the recipe.

He persisted. “I’ll do all the work.”

“Fine,” I said, figuring a more fun activity would lure him away from the kitchen. But on Saturday, he set out the four sticks of butter to warm up to room temperature and started measuring ingredients. We didn’t have enough milk, so I begrudgingly drove to 7-11 to pick up a quart, only to return home and find we were also nearly out of sugar. Back to 7-11. Grumble, grumble.

He requested my presence in the kitchen a few times, mostly to ask “does this look right.” The batter looked perfect and tasted delicious. For an hour and fifty minutes that cake baked while I napped/read/napped on the couch. He pulled it out of the oven a little early (I didn’t adequately explain the toothpick trick to determining doneness) but an overly moist cake is better than a dry cake, right?

Once his masterpiece was cool, he immediately sliced right in. “Want a piece, mom?”

And more so than the Patriots’s loss, this is the moment of the weekend I’m flabbergasted by. I almost said no to my son’s homemade pound cake. Why? Because of the butter. The sugar. The eggs. The flour. All wonderful ingredients. And social pressure to say no to dessert because it’s fattening,

I quickly shook off the voices in my head and cut a piece.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I’d just spent Christmas watching my mom—programmed her entire life (probably by her mother) to say she wasn’t hungry or just wanted a little—forget these food shaming lessons to eat and indulge. It was the most I’d seen my mom put on her plate in my entire life; watching her take seconds, thirds and eat dessert filled me with joy. And it got me thinking…

Growing up, on the regular my super skinny mom would say at dinner, “I’m not eating. I’m so fat.” She never told me I was fat. Never pointed out the curves I cursed. Never gave my plate the evil eye as I helped myself to buttery vegetables and creamy pastas. But when you hear a message daily, reinforced by watching your 110-pound mom eat iceberg lettuce and cucumber salads, clearly unhealthy ideals and patterns take root.

I thought I’d rejected society’s obsession with body, size and weight. I love to tell the story about the scale registering 17 pounds less after I spent three months in the wheelchair than it had before my accident as an example of how weight doesn’t matter. I wasn’t healthier. I wasn’t stronger. My muscles grew weak with inactivity. I’m still regaining strength and flexibility, two years later. And maybe that’s the problem. I’m slowly but surely resuming a fitness regime that minutely resembles the one I used to have, so of course I can’t mess up progress by eating rich, dense pound cake, right?

Think again.

I’m glad I caught my hesitation before Jack noticed. I’m glad I ate not one but two pieces of his cake. (We barely had any left for the Super Bowl.) I don’t want to be that person who looks in the mirror and only sees the flaws. And I won’t let some crazy, latent hangups hamstring me now.

What to bake next?

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30 days

Sunday marked the “end” of my Whole 30 eating challenge. But it’s just the beginning of a new way of thinking about food.

Over the last 30 days, I eliminated dairy, gluten, wheat, sugar (including wine, excluding a moderate amount of fresh fruit) and the so-called “bad fats”. I didn’t eat beans or grains (even quinoa) and only limited types of nuts. I learned to drink my coffee with coconut milk, and I didn’t even indulge in the s’more layer birthday cake I made from scratch for Jack’s birthday. I went to happy hours and out to dinner with relative ease, sticking to water, both flat and sparkling.

“How much weight did you lose?” a few friends have asked. The rules of Whole 30 included no hitting the scales, but I checked this morning, and the answer is two pounds. Weight loss was not the point though; the benefits have been much more extensive. I have more energy because I’m sleeping better. The inflammation around my gut has decreased. My skin looks amazing. The only time I found myself ravenously hungry was when I didn’t get enough protein at the previous meal. Oddly, I really haven’t craved anything and didn’t cheat. No one ever believes me, but it’s true. When you give your body what it needs, you lose the taste for the bad stuff.

I don’t intend to sound preachy, so skeptical readers, don’t take it that way. We all have our own particular relationship with food, and mine is reward driven. “I’ve had a bad day, so I deserve this” and “I worked out today so it’s okay to indulge” are phrases that frequently swirled around my head. But I was “rewarding” myself by ingesting foods/beverages that actually don’t make me feel better. What’s up with that?

Many people wondered what my first meal would be once I’m off the plan. But with the exception of indulging in a glass of wine or a nice piece of cheese now and then, I plan to remain compliant with the Whole 30 plan. So this morning, I had the breakfast I pictured on the first day: hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado.