Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ode to food

I'm so flippin' hungry, but I've already eaten a meal...almost four hours ago. I want to eat. Not just eat, I'd like to binge eat. I think that all too often I daydream about all the stuff I want to eat. When I get there to eat, my appetite is so small that I can barely fit down half my plate of food. I guess that's alright. But what's a girl to do when she likes to clean her plate? It's such a satisfying feeling to eat. I love eating. It wasn't always that way, and still ebbs and flows as the weeks, days, hours and minutes of my life pass. My relationship with food is sticky. A little crusty around the edges, possibly. Taboo-ish, maybe. I don't hide the fact that I used to struggle with an eating disorder from anyone. And you -- yes YOU -- you may even have that little snippy thought in your head when you see me: Oh, she must never eat. But I do. I assure you that I do. And I eat a lot...or I used to.

Growing up I never had to watch what I ate. I know, you hate me. But blame my father's genetics. I could eat nearly everything in site (and most often did) with nothing to show for it. I was always an active child, and for some reason I actually liked to eat healthy. I remember disliking candy when I was little...I'd ask Santa for fruit rather than candy in my stocking. Nearly all of my Halloween candy would go uneaten, and only half of what was eaten was consumed by me. The rest was the work of my father's sweet tooth. One of my mom's favorite anecdotes is of me gnawing on broccoli through the plastic bag at the grocery store. She swears that it was my voracious appetite for veggies as a baby that drove this event and not my voracious need to chew on whatever I could get my infant hands on. Whatever the case, it was a parable of my early years. I was pretty healthy with my food choices...food wise, anyway. It's not to say that my emotional reasoning behind eating or not eating was healthy.

When I was 14, I was introduced to the word diet. I had a modeling contract. I had inches to lose. Places to tighten. A 14 year old being sent to a personal trainer. Then came emotional eating. When your own mother snaps at you about the carbs in a cracker you dig out of the pantry as a snack one afternoon, eating in secret becomes the norm. Guilt ensues. Calories are counted. And somewhere along the way, I ate (or rather didn't eat) my way to a lifetime of disordered eating. In retrospect, my eating was most likely always disordered. But that is another post entirely.

I remember the scary lady who was my "personal trainer" for a day. I remember all too well the words she said to me the one and only time my mom took me to her gym: You should view food as fuel for your body and nothing more. Nothing more? I started to bawl and the trainer was confused. She didn't understand why this had upset me so. It upset me because the thought of eating as a mere way to give your body fuel to burn took away this huge comfort. Eating was the teddy bear I had clung to in hard times. I love the way eating makes me feel. I love the food. I love the tastes. I love the smells. I love the social aspect; having that steak and eggs with my dad at that tiny country diner when I was 11 was so nice. I remember reporting valiantly to him that I'd cleaned my plate and eaten all of it. I love the memories food created in my mind. Looking back throughout my life, my memories are often earmarked by the food that was consumed at that moment. I can remember the taste of my Gran-gran's potato salad like it was yesterday. The mustard, the relish, the feel of the boiled egg in my mouth. She passed away long ago, and I'll never be able to physically taste her divine potato salad again, but the exact flavors and feelings are there; etched permanently in my memory. I love the way food fills you. It fills your senses; it fills your tum. It's instant gratification personified. I love food. Even through the tides of my hatred of food within my lifetime, I've loved it. For without true love, there is no true hate.

And so, here I am. It's nearly midnight and I just polished off a big fat sugary bowl of cereal. I'm not sure if I was truly feeling hunger at that moment, or if I just wanted something to fill a void within me. As with any vice, some is never enough and more just leads to that vicious cycle again. I never trust my hunger. I don't even know what true hunger feels like. That feeling was gone long ago -- either ignored long enough or filled up enough to never appear fully. For it is, I think, when I do feel hungry I am confused. I'm disoriented by my own silly relationship with an inanimate object that seems so alive in my mind. I often wonder what eating is like for people with normal relationships with food. Moreover, what's it like to not even have a "relationship" with food? What's it like to give fuel to the machine only? To stop when full? To eat when hungry? To recognize hunger as need? To recognize hunger at all? I wonder. Daily.

I love food and I love to eat. Right now I could eat and eat...and eat. I don't think it's hunger that's driving this urge. Whatever it is, I feel compelled to eat myself out of house and home. Everything. I resist, however, because I know better. A lifetime of restricting and recent illness has left me incapable of doing in excess the thing that I look to in these times. It's not to say that it's a bad thing...it's more to say that I'm mourning the current space between myself and food. My appetite is shrunken due to my shrinking stomach. The bad gallbladder that left me vomiting for a week has now betrayed my innermost yearnings: to eat enough to fill all the holes I have inside my heart. Since it's not quantity I am currently able to go after, it must be quality I've sought out. Instead of eating tons of food, all I crave are all the horrible things one should never want to begin with. Junk food.

Yes, I suppose, everyone's got their vice.

5 comments:

Veggie Mama said...

This seems a lame comment in response to such an in-depth and heartfelt post, but nonetheless...

I don't think ANYONE truly has no relationship, or even a healthy relationship, with food. At least no Americans. Some people might think they do, but in the end, we're all a little disordered. That's not to marginalize your problems, but to let you know, when you wonder what its like, that maybe there's no such thing as normal.

B said...

Not lame at all. Sort of comforting to know maybe I'm not abnormal :) Thanks for stopping by.

Kelly said...

It seems like most Americans taking eating just as your personal trainer said..fuel for your body. So sad..Whatever happened to slowing down..savoring the food, tasting the intricate flavors, different textures, and all the delicious aromas that come from kitchens. Everyone it seems is in such a hurry to eat..there are so many fast food joints. I used to take eating for granted..but now I am trying to instil in my kids to appreciate all the wonderful goodness that comes from slowing down, enjoying it all, chewing thoughtfully, and not just shoveling down food so mindlessly you can't even taste anything. It is so sad that the 'trainer' would say such a thing to such a young impressionable child. Check this out
www.slowfood.com

Mimi aka pz5wjj said...

I love food too! I can't imagine what that must have been like when you were 14!

I just want a cookie!!!!

Farrah said...

I love your honesty. It makes me feel real and more secure in my own areas where I am not sure how I measure up. Thank you.

I tend to tell myself sometimes that I "deserve" to eat what I want, why I don't know. But then I get upset with myself for not eating better and feeding my son better things. Somehow it makes me feel better in the moment to eat the sweet, etc... but I totally regret it later. It is a self-control issue for me I think. I have very little will power.

You are not alone. We do all have our vice. Some of us more than one.

P.S. Thanks so much for tagging me. My seven are up. It was a fun thing to think about. :)