If you even occasionally watch or read the news, you’ve probably seen a story on the rising obesity rates in this country, or seen an advertisement touting the amazing results of the newest diet drug or exercise program. Approximately 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and over 8 million Americans have diagnosed eating disorders. We just can’t seem to find the happy medium between binging, starving, overindulging, depriving, or just plain being happy with ourselves and our eating habits.

We’ve got a seriously screwed up relationship with food in this country.

People like to blame all sorts of things. Some people say runway models and skinny, airbrushed actresses make girls anorexic. Others blame television and video games for our expanding waistlines. Just last month, a lawsuit was filed against McDonald’s by a woman claming the fast food giant is using Happy Meal toys to market unhealthy food to small children (to read more about this ridiculous story, click here). But in the end, all we can really blame is ourselves.

If we are every truly going to solve our body image issues and really enjoy food again, then it’s time to get back to the basics.

Have you ever watched babies eat? They eat when they’re hungry. They stop when they’re full. They take their time and enjoy their food. Heck, Cadence can spend a full fifteen minutes sucking every last bit of sauce off one macaroni noodle before finally popping it in her mouth and chewing it up. How many of us take that kind of time to really explore and enjoy our meals? I know I’m certainly guilty of wolfing down my dinner because I’m in a hurry, and then not even being able to remember how it tasted.

It doesn’t matter what it is, Cadence is game to try it once, as long as I put it down on her tray where she can look at it, pick it up, put it back down, pick it up, give it a tiny taste, put it back down, pick it up, give it a longer taste, twist it around in her fingers, change hands, and finally pop it in her mouth. If only we were all so adventurous with new foods, we just might find a whole lot more things we enjoy eating. For instance, until just this past year, I never thought I would ever try (let alone enjoy) Vegan food. Yet I was game to give it a try when I was asked to write an article on a popular Vegan restaurant called Loving Hut in Glendale, AZ. I ended up loving every plate the chef brought out of the kitchen. Have I decided to become a Vegan? No. But am I glad I tried it and willing to try more? Absolutely.

In addition to their culinary adventurousness, babies also don’t spend time worrying about dieting or keeping up with crazy exercise regimens. They explore their worlds with unadulterated excitement–bending, stretching, reaching, walking, climbing and crawling every chance they get. Most of us consider ourselves intelligent, rational adults, yet we can waste a good 20 minutes just cruising the parking lot to find a spot closer to the entrance. You don’t need a celebrity spokesperson or any fancy high tech equipment to help get yourself in better shape, you just need to find ways to get up off the couch and get active. Channel your inner toddler and just get out and start enjoying the fine art of walking again.

So let’s stop obsessing over this unrealistic ideal that says all men should look like steroid-shooting beefcakes and all women should fit comfortable in a pair of size 2 jeans. Today’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to embracing our beautiful bodies and learning to enjoy our lives, and our food, again. Bon appetit!

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