Quite serious today.
I do not have a healthy relationship with food.
This may not come as a surprise, given my periodic posts about weight and body image and related matters. Yet to admit that there is something here beyond mere lack of motivation or willpower, is something I have been unwilling to do previously. It is embarrassing. Yet it is the truth.
As I mentioned over five years ago now, we -- particularly women -- are trained from a young age to be weight- and shape-conscious, and to look down upon those who are fat. Those early teachings haunt us all our lives: if we do not meet the standards we have learned, we are shamed, either by those around us (whether through subtle put-downs or more overt commentary), or by our own internalized standard whereby our worth is tied to our thinness. Self-loathing arises, so very easily; to be overweight is deemed a moral failing.
We were standing on the back porch of the house. It was the early 1980s, and I was a teenager, average in size and build compared with my peers. I am not sure how the conversation started, or why. Yet at its conclusion, she glared at me and said with tremendous disgust: "You're anorexic. I wish you'd get help." She stomped inside, the screen door slamming behind her. I was left standing on the porch, bewildered.
I did not understand why she said what she did then, and I do not understand now, some thirty-something years later, either. I was not anorexic. In fact, I had a healthy attitude toward eating: I ate when I was hungry, and I did not eat when I was not hungry. I was busy, active, naturally on the thin side. Why was she accusing me of something that I did not comprehend and had only briefly heard about in health class? And how on earth was a teenager, who could not yet drive and did not know even where to make a doctor's appointment, possibly enlist help if it were needed, anyway?
I contemplated, and then dismissed her statements from further thought. Yet, embedded in the recesses of my brain, was the thought that somehow, I was not right.
I have been fortunate in that I have not experienced either anorexia or bulimia (nor any of the other permutations of more serious eating disorders). Nevertheless, I periodically turn to food in an unhealthy way.
Most of the time, I try to make healthy choices and eat appropriate meals. Oftentimes, I succeed. Sometimes, however, I do not.
I sometimes use food to self-medicate: to placate myself in times of stress, loneliness, despair, frustration; to ease tension and to smother heightened emotions; to soothe myself when I am in need of comfort and there is no human adult to whom I can turn in the moment. To fill the emptiness. To chase away the Dementors.
It can be said: I eat my feelings.
I do not exactly know why I do this.
I just know that I do.
I was in grade school. My grandmother, who was looking after us that day, had walked my sister and me downtown to the five-and-dime store. Someone's -- either mine or my sister's -- change purse was missing on the way home, and we had to all retrace our steps. The purse was, fortunately, found back at the store. My grandmother's relief was palpable, even as she snapped, "You made me need a cigarette!"
Then, I did not understand what my grandmother meant. Why would stress, and then an accompanying relief, trigger a need for a cigarette?
Now, though, I understand what my grandmother had felt. Instead of cigarettes (I have never smoked), however, I prefer sweets -- simple carbohydrates and simple sugars are my addiction of choice. The problem is, too, that one small piece can so easily lead to another. Furthermore, if a food is something that is headache-inducing (such as certain types of chocolate), the craving for sugar to combat the developing ache in my brain becomes stronger: one wrong dietary step thus so easily begets another. And if I give in to the temptation, I berate myself, criticize myself. Hate myself -- for being weak, and gluttonous, and needy.
That is terrible to see in print. Yet there it is.
So where do I go from here?
I've already begun more often to consciously prepare meals that I know are particularly "good" -- more vegetables, olive oil, lean meats, fiber; fewer baked and processed goods. I feel good about these choices, and perhaps that will provide additional motivation to continue on this path (and to get back on the path if I fall off).
More importantly, though, I've enlisted help to cultivate better coping strategies (i.e., ones that do not involve food). I am looking forward to receiving some good advice, and perhaps some empathy along the way. And even perhaps, at some point, to talk about the why.
Things will get better.
I am optimistic.
I can do this.
Dad update: comfortably numb
5 hours ago