Read Part One here.
So, about my weird relationship with food.
Here are a couple of things about me.
1. I’m the oldest of nine kids. By a lot. While I have a sister who is only two years younger than me, she and I haven’t lived together since we were 13 (me) and 11 (her.) She and our brother lived with our mom. I lived with my dad. So when I was 15, my dad went to prison and I was left with six siblings from 5 to 13 years younger than me, and a step mother who hated me. She liked to go to school on Friday (she’s a teacher) and come home Monday morning to get ready for school again. As a result, there were weekends where we ate frozen burritos, canned corn, and tap water to get us through the weekend. (I still can’t eat a frozen burrito, 20-some years later.)
2. I was an incredibly awkward, shy child. Food made me feel good for a while.
3. I spent 7 years as a single mother. While poverty wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, spending 7 years petrified that I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids (and having dreams about frozen burritos) kept me hyper-alert about food.
4. I come from a family of addicts. Alcohol, meth, heroin, pot–you name it, and someone I love has a problem with it. Food is my drug of choice.
5. I believe that as a result of Climate Change and Peak Oil, things in as we know it are not goign to be as we know it for ever. Combined with my niggling fear of my family starving, having a store of food is very important to me. Also, while I’m not an active Mormon, I have lived for 23 years in an area where Mormonism and Mormon-style preparedness are prominent.
So all of these things, combined with a pretty consistant pattern of starving/binging (dieting/failing) has led to an unhealthy attitude about food, an unhealthy body, and a need for change.
Preparedness is important to me. I will not, if I can help it, ever be in a position again of having a house full of kids to feed for a weekend and half a dozen frozen burritos and two cans of corn as the only available food. There is a level of food (about two weeks worth) that when my pantry gets below it, I get incredibly anxious. Even if those two weeks are store-brand canned vegetables and cases of Spaghettios. It doesn’t even have to be food we normally eat (we don’t eat those things as a general rule), which isn’t particularly constructive. I’m working on that part.
I spent years, in a sense, competing with my siblings for food (and being the oldest, always feeling like I couldn’t have enough because I had to feed them.) Then, by the time I was an adult, and only had to worry about feeding my own small children, I spent most of my time making these intense dieting rules. Often I cut out one whole food category (fat, sugar, carbs, meat…) Sometimes more than one. Sometimes everything but grapefruit and hardboiled eggs.
The result? Serious anxiety when there is even a hint of the perception that I can’t eat as much as I want. So even though I’m the mom now, and my kids have plenty to eat, and there is nothing stopping me from saying “Don’t eat this pizza, it’s my special stuff. I’ll make one for you guys,” I get that old anxiety when I try to do that.
Ah–the recipe for binge eating.
You might be wondering what the point is of spilling my guts here.
My theory is that learning how to have a positive relationship with food is similar to recovering from any other addiction. And the first step in recovery is recognizing and accepting that there is something that needs to be recovered from. Sharing your desire to recover is another first step.
Food is clearly vitally important to human existance. Food is the key to my health, since all I need to recover from the ill effects of gluten is stop eating it. Food, and the average person’s ability to produce some, is key to getting through whatever is coming with regard to the larger future. Food nurishes the people I love.
Food has been my enemy for 30 years.
No more. Whatever else comes from this self-care month, and my self-care goals, the absolute understanding that food is not my enemy is the most important thing. Food heals. Food brings people together. Food is art. Food is to be celebrated, not feared. Enjoyed, not scarfed in secret loathing.
I started this blog in exhaustion, after my latest attempt to Lose Weight Once and For All, resulted in two weeks on the South Beach Diet. I started this blog with a post about No Weigh. No more weighing. No more dieting. I’m just taking the first steps. 30 years of conditioning isn’t reversed in a matter of a few weeks.
You know how sometimes you get into something, and you realize later that it had some deeper meaning in your life? That’s how I feel about substance abuse counseling. It feels like it’s all coming together. In the past year I’ve tried to use my training to put myself in food-addiction recovery. But something was missing.
I finally realize that was missing was that the goal was always to lose weight. Not: I will break my addiction to food. But: I will break my addiction to food and lose 150 pounds. It doesn’t work that way. It never will.
No more dieting. No Weigh.