“There’s Something For Everyone Here.”

The lovely Aubry Smith recently posted a review of my new book, which you may read in its entirety here.

But here are some of my favorite parts, with my comments italicized and in brackets:

“I’m also nine months pregnant, which brings its own set of complications to the table: I indulge in some cravings, but I have a bit of anxiety from reading too many baby books that warn us that “every bite counts,” and that promise if I just put all the right ingredients in my mouth, out comes a perfect, healthy baby (although, somehow all of my kids have survived the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper cravings). There is also the fear of gaining too much weight.”

{Yes!!! YES! I am fond of pointing out that during one pregnancy I lived on Canada Dry ginger ale and Breyer’s vanilla ice cream, and that during the other, I was all quinoa-kale-organic eggs-etc. One of my kids gets every virus that goes around. The other has hardly been sick a day in his life. Guess who was gestated on which diet? But that’s a post for another day…}

“Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that Stone is a realist who pushes us toward the ideal. Using William Webb’s hermeneutic of redemptive movement, Stone insists that we start where we are, and make slow movements toward embracing the vast goodness of food. Don’t eat in community yet? Schedule 2 or 3 meals and build from there. Can’t afford organic, local, free-trade, cage-free, or otherwise ethical food yet? Try making one meal per week that fits the bill and work up as you can. Never cook from scratch? Pick a simple meal or two to practice with, and when you’ve perfected them, pick another. There is something for everyone here.”

“I also appreciate Stone’s non-snobbish approach to food. So your friend serves you non-organic vegetables or meat raised unsustainably? Accept the gracious gift with love, just as it was offered to you. While encouraging us to care for creation, Stone also pushes us to love our neighbor. She doesn’t attempt to solve all the complicated ethical questions, but she does help us think through them and perhaps live with a little tension as we wait for God’s justice to fully come to our broken planet.”

“I’ve been craving cinnamon rolls for weeks – the gooey, homemade kind that usually brings me a lot of shame after eating it. You know what I did last week while in the middle of this book? I made some. I kneaded that dough for 15 minutes and longingly waited all afternoon for them to rise. I didn’t skimp on the ingredients to save calories. And when I pulled them out of the oven after dinner and served them to my family, I ate one. I soaked up the excitement and pleasure of my little boys who weren’t expecting dessert. I praised the God who put all these ingredients on earth just for our enjoyment. And I just really enjoyed my cinnamon roll.”

{Yay! YAY! I wrote this book hoping that it might help people enjoy God’s gift of food a bit more in a culture that has endless food anxiety, and to raise questions of justice and ecology and health WITHOUT adding to that food anxiety.}

Thanks, Aubry!

Speaking Out, Part One

{I’m away this week. In addition to the delights of being with family & friends, I had the opportunity to speak to a MOPS group in New Jersey. I’m going to share some of the talk with you here. If I get my tech stuff together, I might even go all fancy and post it as a podcast so you can hear my squeaky little voice.}

So, I’ve struggled with how to organize this talk because I feel like there are two sides of me that I bring together in my writing, and each one is the “real me.” The first side is the person who likes to tell stories and to find the humor in things. The second is the geeky side that likes to read and research things and find facts. Sometimes I’m able to strike a balance between the informing and fact finding and the story-telling, sometimes, I lean too far to one side or the other. So I hope that today our time together can have some of that balance.

What I would like to talk about today is food. Specifically, eating together as families. More specifically, how central and shaping and important that can be in your life and your child’s life. I happen to think that how we view food tells us a lot about how we view ourselves. How we relate to our families. Even how we relate to God.

I grew up a Christian, with a pastor for a dad to boot, but my mom is Jewish. And I don’t know how well you might know the Jewish stereotypes, but we are a people that have a notorious love for eating and for worrying. So, you know, the little gatherings of my mom and her best friends (Jews, too, by the way) involved bagels, and cream cheese, and lox, or Danish pastries and coffee, or Chinese food, or whatever, but it’s like, here are all these women, different sizes, different shapes–and they’re enjoying their food, but at the same time, they’re worrying. They’re like, punishing themselves for eating. Like, “this is great, but I shouldn’t be eating it, I’m fat” or “I’ll take JUST A SLIVER of that cheesecake” or eating two different kinds of cake while insisting on Sweet N Low and skim milk for their coffee–not because they like it that way, but because they’re “cutting calories.”

I was quite a thin child. And it wasn’t like I tried to be that way. Actually, I’ve always loved food. And I didn’t think of my body as something that I had “shaped” in anyway, because, you know, kids tend not really to think like that. But always, always, I was aware of one big thing: when you got to be a grownup (or at least, more grownup, you had to punish yourself over the food that you ate. Calories were BAD. Fat was BAD. Even seemingly harmless BREAD and PASTA became BAD. I would eat whatever I wanted, sure, and stayed thin, probably because that’s just how I was. But older women would tell me: “just you WAIT. when you get OLDER you won’t be able to EAT LIKE THAT.”

I began to think that I was something like a self-inflating life jacket. You know, the kind where you pull a valve or something on this flat thingy and slowly but surely it, you know, inflates? I was just kind of waiting for a valve to blow and suddenly I’d have a body that I’d hate, because pretty much all the grown up women I knew hated their bodies, or, at the very least, didn’t like them and beat themselves up over them and did weird things with food and diet. I mean, I even kind of wondered not whether but WHEN I would start going to Weight Watchers meetings myself. (My mom had been a lifetime member.)

What happened next is not that interesting, just because it’s the story of disorder that’s, sadly, more normal than abnormal in our culture. I began to fear food, began to overexercise, just generally developed an obsession. And it had a kind of religious significance, because the Christian diet plans were making their rounds in those days. So I felt like I had to be “Slim for Him,” that there needed to be “More of Jesus, Less of Me,” that I had to “listen for God” to tell me what and whether to eat, and so on. I counted calories and fasted and “did penance” for my indulgences with exercise and, you know, pretty much punished myself for everything I ate. I can remember many days in high school when I’d get by on an apple for breakfast, a banana for lunch, with diet cokes in between, and then only at the end of the day allow myself to eat dinner, and I’d still be anxiously counting calories and figuring out how many sit-ups I still needed to do before bed.

I have to condense the story here, but I want to tell you two things that helped me get to the place I am now, which, admittedly is not perfect, but which is undoubtedly a much, much happier place, a place where I can have the occasional chocolate croissant with a cup of coffee with cream and not feel “dirty” or like I need to go run 6 miles to “get rid of it.”

And for you readers, you’ll just have to return to get the rest of the story…

Am I too thin to say “accept your body”?

Last week, I received a comment on the Audrey Hepburn post–in which I urged that one can be beautiful no matter their size–that gave me something to think about. You can read the comment in full on the original post (here), but this snippet sums up the basic point:

“This is a message that is very lovely, but I have to say…you look beautifully thin in all of your pictures. It seems to me that it is somewhat easier to share the epiphany now your figure is closer to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

I have already responded, and you can read my response in full, but the question implied in the comment has continued to pester me. Would I be as happy/contented with food and my body if I were NOT thin?

This is what I’ve concluded: that THIN does not = the source of my happiness.

(Not to mention, there are PLENTY of ways in which I fail to meet our culture’s standards of beauty. I do believe I actually WEIGH MORE than Audrey Hepburn ever did–and I’m, what, ten inches shorter than she was?! I’ve even got me some visible attributes–low muscle tone, spotty-lookin’ teeth (the front ones are caps), scoliosis, blue sclera, skin that’s thin and easily bruised–of a bona-fide genetic disorder! My “defects” are in my DNA, people!)

But you know? We all carry marks of our brokenness–whether visible or not.

These days, though, I’m pretty much comfortable and content with my body, scars and bumps and all. I have a healthy relationship with food and I’m reasonably active and things like {food/exercise/my body} don’t take up an inordinate amount of my time or my mental space–my contentment is NOT because I’m a certain size, a certain weight, or a certain level on some index.

Here’s the strange thing: my body hasn’t really EVER changed all that dramatically (you know, except for the pregnancies). Yet ten years ago, this body was a torment to me, and I had no idea how to eat without overdoing it or under-eating or just plain feeling guilty all. the. time.

I was terrified of food, terrified because LIKE ALL NORMAL HEALTHY PEOPLE, I liked food. I thought that indifference to food was ideal, and all interest in food was gluttonous, possibly sinful, and would make me fat. Thing is, it’s kinda hard to avoid eating. So I would eat, but because I felt so disconnected from my body and my appetite, I never could seem to feel contented and satisfied. I was also terrified that I would lose control and eat too much, which happened too, sometimes, because, again, I was so disconnected.

Now here’s an important point. I don’t think that this way of thinking is particular to me or in any way unique. Rather, I think it is a way of thinking that is particular to a consumerist culture. This is not to evade responsibility for my own thoughts and actions, but instead, to put those in a bigger context.


Think of all the ads for weight loss products and programs and gym memberships and everything else. They always carry with them the promise (the lie) that YOU YOU YOU can change your body–that it’s raw material for shaping any way you desire–if only you’ll buy this, do that, have enough control, pray enough, or whatever. And think of food advertising and the general culture surrounding food today: it’s all about having it YOUR way and making things suit YOUR taste and shaping YOUR identity through what you consume (I AM a vegetarian, I AM an organic consumer, a dieter, an overeater, or whatever.)

And think of all the cultural baggage surrounding eating and dieting and thinness. This quote from Harriet Brown, author of Brave Girl Eating, a memoir of her daughter’s anorexia, seems to me particularly true of our culture:

“We…have fallen for the notion that food is a regrettable necessity. As if the ideal, the holy grail we are all working toward, is to do without food altogether—and as if we not only should but could attain this state, were we good enough, determined enough, strong enough. As if that’s what we should want.”

But you know what?

All of this stuff? It’s very ME focused. And THAT–not overeating, not being overly fastidious, and certainly NOT loving food–is the essential definition of gluttony: your stomach gets in the way of loving God and your neighbor.

I no longer see my body as a raw material to be shaped by my own willpower with the help of consumer products–I see it as the handiwork of a wise and wonderful Creator.

And I no longer feel guilty admitting that I LOVE food!–Because I see it as a gift from God and the fruit of rich and complex histories involving both nature and culture.

Am I only able to feel this way because I’m a certain size and shape? I don’t think so. Truly, I no longer buy the lie that only THIN is beautiful. I’ve known too many truly beautiful people who didn’t conform to any standard of beauty in any way.

And I’ve known too well the ugliness–within myself, an ugly self-centeredness–that comes from an obsession with thinness (and looks in general). If God had seen fit to build me big instead of small–or if the years see me growing rounder (which they probably will)–I really hope my message would (will) be just the same:

~Your body is a gift, but who YOU are does not = your body.

~Your beauty does not depend on your looks.

~Food is a gift meant to be eaten–WITH JOY.

{Of course there’s more to my story than this, but I’m saving other parts for other days. Meanwhile, Thank you for your comments. I welcome them eagerly and treasure each one.}