Explorations in the World of Ella’s Nutrition

Winning the reader-selected topic poll with an impressive 33.33% of the vote, I thought I’d talk about nutrition and body image today. However, instead of focussing on my own nutrition and body image, I thought I’d talk about some of my second-grade students and how the girls are already beginning to perceive themselves as fat and unattractive.

I was standing in the hall today, while the students were lining up to go to the bathroom, and one of the little girls came up to me and gave me a hug. It was incredibly sweet, and as I untangled her arms and sent her back to her place in line she said, “Wow. You’re so skinny. I wish I were thin like you. You ate a huge bowl of soup at lunch, and you’re still soooooooo skinny.”

(Necessary background information: I am currently around five foot four and around 104 pounds. In short, I am underweight and probably look it.)

I was shocked. Sure, I get bizarre questions and comments from kids all day long (Today, one of the boys wanted to know if the carved wooden monkey bead on my necklace was a real monkey that I had trained to stay still, and another boy is convinced that jalapenos don’t actually exist.), but I’ve never heard anything like this. It certainly would have been easy to laugh it off with a “thank you, that’s very sweet,” but I do not want to become another member of society telling these girls that in order to feel good about yourself, you have to be underweight.

While I stood there trying to come up with an appropriate response, other girls started to chime in as well, making comments about the small size of my waist and wrists. If I wasn’t teaching second-graders, I would have loved to be able to have a frank talk with the girls about body image, but seven-year-olds aren’t ready for that. Instead, I pointed out that my mother is also quite thin and that metabolism and size are often hereditary. I told them about my frequent bike-rides, and pointed out that while I did eat a lot of split pea soup at lunch, it was low in sodium, organic, and homemade. My entire lunch was well below four hundred calories.

I tried to emphasize that being thin doesn’t mean that you are healthy and that you do not need to worry about being thin while you’re seven. I have absolutely no idea if any of it sank in, but I’m glad that I did not allow myself to become part of the silent majority that urges girls to be thinner, thinner, thinner and makes them feel bad about themselves if they don’t look like the ideal girl that the media portrays.

I know that it is impossible for a world to exist where people never worry about body image, but I do know that if whenever possible we all take a stand and model healthy body-image and food relationships, we can create a world where I don’t have seven-year-old students obsessing about their weight. As a still recovering anorexic who started down that path when I was eight (if you want my anorexia story, click here), I know that it is imperative for girls (and boys) to have healthy role-models in their lives if they want to prevent themselves from falling down the rabbit-hole of eating disorders.

You can also find me collecting lovely images and words on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/. I’d love for you to follow me on my trek into the wilds of tumblr.

Ella’s Latest Transgression

I must apologize for it was I who lied about eating breakfast. I didn’t have the toast you lovingly purchased at the bakery yesterday. You bought me raisin walnut bread, my very favorite, and I left it sitting on the counter sheathed in its plastic bag. Instead, I found my brownie from last night, floating in melted ice cream and ate it and Welches’ Fruit Snacks on the floor of the bathroom, sitting on the bathmat with my towel draped over my head.

Instead of tasting delicious, the brownie was gross. It had soaked up the melted ice cream like a sponge while it spent twelve hours in the refrigerator, and it tasted rather funny. Refrigerated melted ice cream is never very good. But I ate it anyway because if I threw it out, you would find it and I didn’t want to have to break it into small pieces and flush it down the toilet. The nutritionist said I had to stop doing that because it hurts the drains, which is something I already know. But there are only so many places to hide. You always find it when I put it in balled-up tissues.

The Fruit Snacks were better, but I had to eat them quickly so you wouldn’t find me. When you don’t eat the small gummies deliberately by flavor, they taste rushed and bland. I had to chew them quickly and I think I swallowed one whole. Something caught in my throat and I had to cup my hands under the tub’s faucet to drink. But the water was hot and didn’t taste right. I know now that you should never steep gummies in water to make tea.

And then I didn’t tell you. Not at all. Because you would sigh and say, “Ella…” in that tone that means that you are very disappointed in me for not just doing what I’m supposed to for once because it is so very obvious that I’m being ridiculous. And I would tell you that “it’s a disease, Mum” to justify my deception.

But I am sorry for my transgression. Tomorrow I will eat my breakfast. I will measure the Grape Nuts while you watch, and I might even have two eighty calorie yogurts.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

On Poison Apples, Steak Tumors, and Other Food Related Phobias

In the past two hours I have been poisoned three times. To be perfectly clear, poisoning in my book means being in close contact with food I deem inedible. The first time was when I was making myself hot chocolate using a new mix, and it didn’t smell right. I leaned over it when it was still steaming to get a nice whiff of warm chocolate and I was met with something that smelt like little bits burned chocolate on burned plastic. So my mom said that she would drink it.

Then, I went to eat an apple. I got out the vegetable peeler, because I can’t eat things with peels on them or without cutting them to make sure that they don’t have any bad spots, and started peeling. You know how there are bruises on apples that look really grainy, are pale brown, and are supremely yucky? Well, this one was covered with them. Like any logical person, I screamed, dropped the apple and peeler, ran across the kitchen, and hid from it behind the refrigerator door. (Yes, I am 17.) My mom and dad ate the apple with dinner.

The last time was when we were all sitting at the table, eating these nice sausages from the Swiss German butcher. I had to work really hard to even convince myself that it was okay to eat the sausages and that they weren’t filled with icky stuff that I could see and didn’t know about. In a bite, about a third of the way into the sausage, I discovered something hard. Naturally, I immediately started gagging and spit everything in my throat and mouth out onto the plate. (I’m a champion gagger-on-food-and-spitter-outer-of-said-food.) My parents were oh-so-happy about that. The cats were even happier.

I wish that I could say that I hope that things could go back to the way that they were when I was x-years-old. Unfortunately, I can’t recall a time when I was a “good eater.” I made Pippa drink my milk for years, and I have never been able to eat meat without dissecting the entire piece with my knife and fork. I cut out the little bits of fat like they’re cancerous tumors.

I honestly could become a surgeon with my steak knife dexterity. Anybody got something they would like cut out of them? I’d give you enough of my Xanax so you’d feel really dopey. I wouldn’t cost as much as a regular doctor, and I’d clean everything with rubbing alchohol and boil it twice. Maybe throw a little bleach in there, too. It’d be great. Let’s do it! Just kidding. Not really. I totally would do it. Just kidding. I’m lying. Just kidding. Just kidding.