Pass Me a Loaf, Please
Have you ever denied something so strongly that its absence added weight to your body and psyche? What if it was a source of joy for you as a child only to be lost indefinitely in the cracks of the expert advice and cultural difference, as you grew up?
When I was a kid, I had a special affinity for freshly baked bread. My mom used to pick me up from the kindergarten with a fresh warm bun or a baguette in hand to bring a smile to my face and joy to my stomach. In those days, a large torn piece of the crusty goodness, with nothing on it, tasted better to me than any fancy cake from a gourmet bakery. It still does. Or, more precisely, it would if it wasn’t for the endless decades of self-loathing and guilt that came with the bread ban and healthy dieting culture in my youth and adulthood.
I was a plump child, with chubby cheeks and a little belly, full of energy and excitement. I was never obese or even majorly overweight. My family never encouraged or practiced sports or physical activities, and all troubles, tributes, and trepidations were mitigated and healed by various forms of eating. All women on the maternal side, with whom I had a stronger bond, carried a lot of extra kilos on them. They were passionate, smart, and caring matriarchs. I liked them. They considered the extra weight to be a genetic inheritance, which they half-proudly and half-desperately announced in friendly-turned-bragging conversations with strangers. My weight and shape landed on the borderline of the healthy norm. But, my curvy physique allowed me to belong and resonate with the bloodline of these women, to be one of them, and I took it as an inevitable part of my nature.
As the years passed by and I migrated, embraced local culture, and transformed from a chubby girl into a mature woman, I made a series of decisions that turned my life to differentiate greatly from my mom’s reality or her blood female relatives. I chose an entrepreneurship path, risk-taking environments and situations, flexibility, adaptation to the changing environment, workaholism, and intense academic pursuits — all the traits that I have admired in my father or other men in the family, although secretly because these matters were not much valued by their strong-minded and control-desiring ladies, so beloved by me. I replaced the definition of love for spouses and children from suffering, pity, and desire to be needed with the acceptance and freedom of choice. Simultaneously, I have maintained the same weight which I had since the teenage years (aside from pregnancies): a nauseating and excruciating borderline gap of sixty-eight-to-seventy kilos for a hundred-seventy sm height. In my head, a shadow of the extra five kilos, which I wanted to lose forever, ceased to disappear.
The price of the weight stability came to me in the form of insane stomach discomforts throughout my first marriage, incredible all-day morning sicknesses, and food sensitivity, as a result. I had to cut and modify a lot of products in my diet. I stopped consuming sodas, fancy lattes, or alcohol cocktails, chips, ramens, and salty snacks. I don’t buy frozen pre-cooked meals, and do not eat out more than three-four times a month. I don’t do drugs, don’t smoke, and have maybe 3–4 glasses of wine a week (if that). I avoid raw garlic, onion, eggplants, and beans of any sort. All of this helped my digestion, reduced my joy for life, and completely failed to get rid of the extra (at least, in my perception) weight. Extensive daily walks and occasional band or weight training didn’t shift things either.
I retained my must-have cup of coffee or two, as a rebellion(even during pregnancies) and invited all health freaks, who opposed it, to go to hell. I needed to enjoy at least some treat before my life became completely bland. A slice of cake, a bar of chocolate, a rice dish, or pasta two or three times a month were my carb cheats. But none of them sparked as much emotion in me as a slice of bread. A piece of a baguette for a sandwich or a multigrain croissant for breakfast sent me on a rollercoaster mind trip as if I did something highly illegal for my body and the punishment would come upon me any minute. I felt that I was gaining weight from sniffing and thinking about bread more than I was from eating it.
My vicious bread cycle would have seen no end to it if it was not for two consecutive insignificant events, which have altered the aging narrative.
Two weeks ago, I caught my children calling our new Bernese Mountain puppy “our little sweetheart fattie”, as they rubbed her belly.
“She is not fat”, I yelled at them in anger. “She is beautiful.” I turned to pet her and repeated intensely. “You are not fat, my little girlie. You are beautiful. You are absolutely gorgeous. Don’t listen to them.”
“Gee, mom, this breed is supposed to be fat. Fat dogs are the best!” My kids replied. “Don’t you think you are overreacting?”
On the fourth round of the same dialog, when the voices got higher and higher, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t talking to a dog anymore. I was talking to the little girl who loved bread with so much joy. She wanted to hear that she was beautiful. That her passionate, smart, and caring femininity was not a result of the inheritance of the extra-weight genes, but a collection of ingredients that made her gorgeous on her own.
A few days later, when I picked up my son from school, we stopped by the grocery market and bought a freshly baked baguette. As we walked and talked about his school, my day, and a million other unimportant important things, interrupting each other and munching on the bread, I suddenly stopped and smiled.
“Mom, what’s up with you?” My son asked.
“When I was little, my mom used to walk with me after school just like this, with the baguette in hand.” I paused. “It made me so happy.” I felt tears welling up in my eyes. The joy of my childhood was so simple. Why did I deny it to myself for so long then, trading it off for a fabricated perception of health and beauty?
This morning, after I took my son to school, I stopped by the bakery, bought a small round loaf of rye bread, and ate a big part of it on the way home. With nothing on it. Just like I did, when I was a kid. I pledged to myself that from now on I refuse to feel the guilt about the things that bring me joy, even if they are not approved by the experts. I explained to myself that I already became the woman I wanted to be and I don’t need to hold on to the extra-weight heredity as a sense of belonging and connection to the strong female bloodline, with which I resonated less and less. Most importantly, I promised myself that I will buy a different kind of bread every Friday from now on because I restrict myself enough in all other diet-related ways.
The hell with the extra five kilos.
As the saying goes, wishes do come true, you just need to stop wanting them.