eating in intentional community

Ok, so after my last post several people asked about what I meant when I said I would be living in an “intentional community.”

Here’s what I mean: Along with around 15 other people from around the world (mostly from within the U.S., but we also have a Canadian woman, a Korean family, a Kenyan man, a British woman and a British-Japanese woman), I have moved to a community in Pennsylvania and committed to living here for the next nine months. I’m living in what amounts to a dorm – I have a single room, but the ten of us who share a floor share four bathrooms. We have assigned jobs associated with preparing our meals, cleaning our living spaces, and so on. We eat all three meals together every day. (Everyone here is on sabbatical from work, so we are not going off to the office for the majority of the day; we take classes, some of us are working on outside projects, and so on). I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has (except the name of the community; although if someone is really interested you could e-mail me – fatgirlonadate at gmail dot com and we could talk more).

But what I really want to talk about is the food. The food here is incredible. Fairly traditional, but mainly vegetarian, mostly local (including much that comes from the big garden and green house right on campus), prepared by a staff of cooks and the residents themselves. But I have some concerns about eating here:

First, it’s an adjustment to be eating on such a schedule – and to always set aside time for eating. Back at home, in my “real life,” I would eat breakfast in the car, lunch at my desk, and dinner on the sofa. I rarely sat down to a meal. There is something very relaxing about knowing precisely your next meal will be – it takes most of the control out of feeding oneself, and for someone with as many food issues as me that’s something of a relief.

Second, I’m finding myself somewhat worried about my weight. Now, I’ve come about a million miles in accepting my own body – and fat bodies in general – since I started reading Shapely Prose just under a year ago, but I still struggle with it. Right now, I’m worried that I won’t fit into the airplane seats when I fly home for Christmas (this has never happened to me; in fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m quite small enough for this to never happen to me, but I am always wracked with fear about it when I fly). I’m also worried because I’m unsure of how much or what kind of exercise I’m going to get here. I have access to a pool and a gym, but it’s difficult and complicated to get to. There are no classes (and that’s the main kind of working out I did before I moved; I took yoga and pilates and tai chi and water aerobics and a dance class). There’s a walking trail, but that’s only good as long as the weather holds. Finally, I’m worried – and, on the flip side, interested – because my eating is so different here than it has been in the rest of my life. I eat regular meals, with a variety of foods*. I don’t snack. I don’t go back for seconds. We do not have desserts, except on birthdays and other special occasions. I do have some of everything at each meal. The food is rich. The portions vary. For the first time in a long, long time I have no idea how many calories I’m eating. Overall, this – along with the regularity of meals – seems like a good thing. But what if I wind up gaining weight? WIll my fledgling fat acceptance tolerate that in myself?

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5 responses to “eating in intentional community

  1. If you already know some Tai Chi and yoga, is there a space where you can do these things by yourself? Is there anyone else in the house who knows them, or wants to learn some basics? I know some of us have an easier time exercising with someone else. Movement is good for you, regardless of weight gain or loss, or lack thereof. But these two disciplines have the advantage of not needing a lot of space or specialized equipment.

    As to the question of weight gain, yes, you might gain some weight. You might lose some. You might do neither. One thing I can almost guarantee is that you aren’t going to gain so much weight that you won’t fit on the plane going home. The only way that’s likely to happen is if the airlines directly sabotage you by reducing the size of the seats again.

    Perhaps this experience can wind up being a positive step in your FA journey. After all, if you eat as much as you like at these meals and don’t gain a huge amount of weight, maybe it will help you to get past a few of your issues so you can relax around food.

    Let go of calorie counts. Weight is not a simple matter of calories in/calories out. It’s a complicated balance of many things, including: genetics, medical conditions/prescriptions, diet history…literally dozens of things over which you may have little or no control.

    Try to trust yourself and your body. Most of us have a set point our bodies tend to hover around, whether you’re carefully toting up those calories or not.

    The real measure is how you feel. If your body feels good and your emotional state is good, then you’re probably doing what you need to do to be at your best. Remember: your dress size is not your overall health. It isn’t a measure of your morality, either. It’s just a number…even if we all need reminding of that fact now and again.

  2. You won’t gain or lose weight, I promice. Food has nothing to do with fat and your weight is solely a product of your genetic setpoint.

  3. First of all I want to say how happy I am to have you posting. I love your writing style, and I am actually incredibly interested in this intentional community experience you’re having; I’ve always found the idea very intriguing personally.

    Now to talk about the food thing. I grew up eating the way you describe, and the only times I gained weight was when my body made me, nothing to do with my diet. You are describing a very healthy way of eating as far as I can tell. I think you need to concentrate on your self-acceptance to any changes that occur to your body. I have a feeling that those changes my be healthful ones, considering the way you’re eating now as opposed to the way you were eating before. Exercise is always important of course, but don’t expect, try not to expect of want exercise to keep you at the size you are now. Unless you have an underlying health issue that is making you larger or smally than you should be than if you eat heathfully you will stay at or achieve your healthiest weight.

  4. Okay, now that you’ve settled in, time for you to come into the city and meet me for a drink. Are you near the train station?

  5. My husband lived in an intentional community here in Chicago. The purpose was different, but I kind of get what you mean by it. You will learn a completely different way of life. I have. Just by being married to this man for only three months, my habits have changed. I ride my bike daily, I walk to the store, I cook more than we get take-out. We save our aluminum foil. I know that sounds funny, but when you think about it, most people use it once and throw it out.

    I’ve lost so much weight without really trying and I am enjoying my new life. The trick is to enjoy it. :-)

    Just as you are learning a new way of eating, you’re learning a new way to live. Don’t worry about your weight. It sounds like you’re having fun so far, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.

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