Guest Post: Mara on Perfection and Compromise
January 1, 2011

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It’s New Year’s Day, and the first thing I want to do is to wish you all a very, very, very happy new year! I hope you had beautiful celebrations with your loved ones.

It’s that dreadful time of year when half the women I know start talking about how they need to “clean up,” “detox,” or “pay” for their holiday “food mistakes.” The gym is flooded with people trying to work off the Christmas cookies and champagne, and ads for fancy juice fast packages assault me every time I log into my gmail account. I can’t say I’m sorry that I’m flooded with counseling emails at this time of year, but I am very sorry indeed that January seems to be the season of well-intentioned, but overly strict resolutions. It reinforces all of the cycles of “good/bad” behavior that I work so hard to steer my clients away from: living healthily is all about making reasonable habits stick, not holding oneself to impossible standards and then feeling terrible when those standards prove elusive.

When I began blogging, I never expected to write about body image and self-acceptance, but it quickly became one of the topics I care most deeply about. I’m a veteran of disordered eating, and a veteran of more body-loathing than I care to say. Now that I’ve reached what I believe is a happy relationship with my own body—never an easy one, perhaps, but basically a harmonious truce—I like to share what meager wisdom I have with the women and men who read Choosing Raw.

I also like to direct my readers to other bloggers who embody what I believe is a healthy attitude toward self-acceptance—physical and emotional—and that’s why I love Mara so very much. Her blog, Medicinal Marzipan, is all about body love. Mara writes with passion, grace, and humor, and she’s never impervious to the realities of being human. For that reason, I believe she’s the perfect woman to help welcome us all into a new year. Let’s remember to make 2011 a year of celebrating the best of ourselves, all the while striving to do justice to our highest potential. Mara, I know you’ll say it best.

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In 2007, on one of my last days of raw food school at the Wigmore Insititute in Puerto Rico, my class was sitting around a table together recounting how amazing it felt to detox over the last weeks, and discussing how of course we were never going back to our wicked cooked food ways. And because I am honest to a fault, and I cannot seem to keep it to myself, I cautiously admitted that I was fairly certain that I was going to start drinking coffee again IMMEDIATELY upon getting off the plane.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t loved eating raw for the three weeks I was there, it was just that I loved coffee, LOVED coffee, and when I drank it, it reminded me of my father and being a little kid. It made me feel productive and pulled together. It was my favorite thing about waking up in the morning.

Later, in a one-on-one meeting with one of my teachers, I admitted that not only did I intend to drink coffee, but I intended to merge my new-found love for kale with my old favorites. [I’ll continue to be vague here because I do not DARE mention cheeseburgers on my beloved Choosing Raw.] My teacher laughed at that point, stating that it didn’t matter so much what I ate, as long I chewed it carefully, eating with love and good intention.

This statement was the most important thing that I took home from those three weeks.

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Food brings us to the table. It connects us with the people that we love. So often, it is more than nutrition to fuel our bodies, it is a reminder of how we were socialized as children or the cultures that we grew up in. For many, food can be as addictive as substances for exactly all of these reasons, but it does not have to be. Over time, it is possible to re-pattern our brains, and learn to consume consciously. It’s important to eat with intention, to honor our hunger cues, and pay close attention to our cravings.

When I was a kid, I hated food. I hated how I wanted to eat, and I hated what it did to my body. I found myself caught in a perpetual cycle where I felt fat, loathed my body, turned to food to comfort myself, and in result felt fatter and restricted my caloric intake, until the whole cycle started again. For twenty years, I went on every diet I could get my hands on. I ended up defeated, worn out, and completely at odds with my body and it’s needs.

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If I’ve learned anything since then, it’s that loving my body means treating it kindly. It means making mistakes, and moving on.  It means balancing chocolate with kale, and coffee with water. It means that I am not going to make myself crazy trying to eat perfectly all the time.  Loving my body means consuming the food that makes me feel good, makes me feel healthy and nurtured, but it does not mean driving myself crazy.

After leaving Puerto Rico, I got off the plane, and on the way home we stopped at the best ever farm stand in upstate New York.  I cautiously purchased the most delicious cider donut and cup of coffee of my life.  Upon first sip of that cup of coffee, I’d never felt more alive.

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Sometimes, perfection is about making compromises.

And loving yourself just the way you are.

 

Mara writes *almost* daily about all manner of self-love, body image, and healthy living over at Medicinal Marzipan. If you’ve got a question or just want to say hi (who doesn’t love that?) she can be reached on twitter, facebook, or shoot her an email at medicinalmarzipan[at]gmail.com.

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    20 Comments
  1. Great post and I appreciate your level of honesty. Coffee would be one thing I would not want to completely eliminate either. It’s so tasty. I have made a conscious effort to reduce my consumption though – it was getting out of hand!

  2. A very honest post! I too have a love of coffee. When I became a vegetarian I started to re-examine my coffee useage and started limiting myself to only 2 cups per week. I found that I actually savored and enjoyed the coffee more than I did before! I have found a new appreciation to coffee and now choose my coffee brand carefully. Cheers to balance, and living a life of perfection with pleasure 🙂

  3. Love this post and love your blog, Mara! Your sense of balance and dedication to living your life that way is so refreshing. Thank you for sharing your story! It is so helpful for me as I continue my journey to balance “healthy” foods with cravings.

  4. WOW. Thank you guys so much for all the wonderful comments! And Gena, seriously, I adore you and that intro had me all twitterpated – it was such an honor getting to be your first post of 2011. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do believe in clearing out the old and making space for the new. In 2011 I hope to run, jump, stretch, and play more, as well as making food/life/sleep choices that keep me feeling my best and most energetic so that my body can keep up with all the things I want to get done! xoxoxo

  5. Great post–thanks to both of you for sharing insights. I just put up a blog today about how regularly–seasonally–renewing resolutions is a good way to maintain them. I totally agree that all the hype about cleanses and getting back on the wagon that pervades at this time of year is so counter-productive and toxic.

    Happy new year to you both, and I’m looking forward to checking out medicinal marzipan: sounds so good to me!
    love
    Ela

  6. Excellent post. So often people talk about balance, but I think this takes balance to a new level. It’s not just about balancing ‘healthy’ foods with those that are ‘unhealthy’. It’s about enjoying that cup of coffee as well as that kale salad.

  7. I have a similar relationship with coffee. I adore it and can’t see myself giving it up. I have in the past ( for 6 months even! ) to see if it was contributing to some health issue , but I actually feel better when I drink coffee. It helps me focus and I can honestly say that the first sip of coffee every morning is one of my favorite things of the day!

  8. Mara, I love your sense of BALANCE about this all! I read tons of blogs…too many…haha 🙂 But sometimes I read blogs where the blogger is so black and white; that if they have one piece of cooked food if they are a raw foodies, or have an extra dessert, or coffee, or miss a workout, or get 7 hrs of sleep not 8, they truly get so upset that they have somehow “undone” all the good they do by making xyz choice. I always try to think of life in the big picture and not get hung up on each and every choice to the point of driving myself crazy…and it sounds like you have similar thoughts…awesome!

    raw food school at the Wigmore Insititute in Puerto Rico = never heard of that…but oh that sounds amazing!! I was in Costa Rica for a month 10 years ago getting my yoga teacher training and I would love to do a month in PR. Another lifetime when my daughter is older perhaps 🙂

  9. Ok, I am going to say (and perhaps my post tomorrow will shed some more light on this) that January can be a good time to set intentions and get your life organized if you feel out of sorts or run down after the holidays. Doing a no-so-drastic clease of sorts like eliminating sugar or alcohol can really make you feel better. Some people can handle eating cheeseburgers and coffee and feel fine, others feel awful and don’t know why. Taking these things out of their diet can really help them on a road to better health.

  10. I really like this post, just perfect to be read on the first day of the year!
    Love this sentence: “Loving my body means consuming the food that makes me feel good, makes me feel healthy and nurtured, but it does not mean driving myself crazy”
    That’s the way to go!
    Happy New Year Gena and Mara!
    Ana

  11. this post is perfect and really hits home for me. thank you for posting this, and i needed to read this to start off my new year. and thank you for linking to the blog i will definitely be reading! happy and healthy new year to you Gena and Mara, heres to loving ourselves and eating our meals with love and good intention!

  12. Love the quote from your teacher, so true and inspiring at the same time. Food really is a gift not an enemy, thanks for sharing Mara.

  13. So happy to read this post today! My own New Year’s Day post is called “January Diet? Nope, I bought bigger clothes.” and actually thought a lot about Gena as I wrote it. She has inspired me, through her posts, to feel great about my new found love for food and subsequently for my rounder, healthier body.

    So, Mara, I’m feeling particularly united with your philosophy and approach to food and life. Bravo! I look forward to checking out your blog!

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