Friday, August 24, 2007

The Yogurt Wars

The other day I stood in front of the yogurt display at Trader Joe's for 10 minutes--literally ten minutes--tormenting myself. Vanilla yogurt for my son or plain yogurt? Vanilla or plain? Or, more directly to the point, a reckless devil-may-care 30g of sugar for my infant son or a somber 15g?

After 10 minutes I decided to get over myself and just buy the yummy vanilla yogurt. Within five minutes I was back in front of the yogurt, making the switch to plain. Oy.

I felt relief at having made the healthier, less guilt-inducing choice, but I also felt ridiculous. Just the other day I was making fun of other mothers who were so proud that their children didn't enjoy those sugary fruit yogurts. "It's yogurt!" I said self righteously. "No one ever got obese from too much vanilla yogurt!" And yet...there I was. What gives?

You don't need a Phd in psychology to know that the relationship between mothers and food is deep and messy. I think it starts when you are handed a tiny newborn: feed him or he'll die they say. And then they weigh him every day for a week just to make sure that you're not screwing the whole thing up.

In the beginning, solid foods were fun. One exciting first after another. And then he turned nine months, and all of the sudden EVERYTHING was on the table.

This new phase is wonderful, but also scary. All of the sudden there truly are right and wrong answers, good and bad ways to do things. You are teaching a child how to eat--for life--and every sallow looking, fatigued, overweight adult reminds you of the heaviness of this responsibility.

Who made this so complicated for me? Was it my Jewish mother? No doubt--I wasn't allowed a piece of junky white bread until I was 18--but also maybe my Jewish fathers. Our tradition spends tractates--and books upon books--dealing with the complexities of Jewish eating. And we are taught to consider every morsel that goes into our mouths, what it means for our physical and spiritual lives, for our place in the community, our relationship with God.

As a mother, as a Jew, food is serious business. And this, I think, is why I wound up standing in front of the yogurt display for 10 minutes, checking heckshers, checking fat, checking sugar, paralyzed with indecision.

1 comment:

Joyous Jewess said...

I've done the exact same thing! When I was pregnant, I was practically misty-eyed around the "yo baby" yogurts and dreamed about feeding them to my baby... now that I'm actually at the stage of giving my babies food, I discovered that there is a ton of sugar in these yogurts, and I decided I couldn't buy them. Then we were on vacation, and it was just so much easier to buy the small serving size "yo baby" so I did -- and guess what? The sky did not fall! Now that we're home, I'm back to plain yogurt with a jar of pureed fruit added, but I'm determined to be less rigid about these kinds of choices in the future (if I can help it!).