My Tortured Relationship With Food

Dear Food,

I have always loved you. I love your sweetness, your crunch, your smell, the way you fill me up. I depend on you to stave off physical hunger, but also to make me feel better about the way my life is going, or to push down feelings I don’t want to address, or to soothe myself when I’m stressed or lonely or bored. This addiction to you has not been good for me. It has made me fat and lazy, and it allows me to avoid feelings that I would rather not think about. This has also made it difficult to be as fit and active as I would like to be.


Often, the anticipation of you is better than the fact. I look at a candy or a croissant, or I smell something cooking, and the eating is often a disappointment, because you aren’t as satisfying as my mind tells me you should be. So I fill myself up on cake that is not top quality, and then have another piece, just in case that might taste better. I give in to you, not because I’m hungry or because I crave you, but just because you’re there. You call to me, and I answer.


I am grateful for the connections you have made to my childhood, to memories of my grandmothers and my mother, and how they fed me so lovingly with cinnamon rolls, pies, and homemade bread. Smells of baking take me back to those times, but when I bake anything I’m not doing it to feed someone else lovingly, and I end up eating most of it myself. Sometimes I find myself looking for anything that feels like a treat, and end up with graham crackers or cinnamon toast. I often think I’m hungry when I’m not, and I continue to eat long after my stomach is full.


I come from a long line of women who were overweight. My great-grandmother A. was diabetic, and died of blood poisoning related to her disease. My grandmother B. had high blood pressure all her life, and bad knees. My mom also had high blood pressure, and developed diabetes later in life. I don’t need or want these health problems, and some of my own problems, like sleep apnea and incontinence might actually improve if I were at a healthy weight.


What could life be like if I didn’t have this addiction to you? I could spend more time thinking about and planning activities that I could really enjoy: walking, hiking, camping, working out at the gym, playing with the twins. I would take frequent breaks from reading and writing to keep my joints from getting stiff, and I could exercise every day and feel good all over. I could enjoy you when I choose to without feeling guilty if you aren’t the healthiest thing available. I could say NO when I really don’t need you or want you, instead of the social eating that so often pulls me in. I could eat smaller amounts of good foods every day, and not feel deprived or unsatisfied. I don’t need to make cooking and baking and eating central to my identity or way of life.


I have friends who are wonderful cooks, who don’t have this problem with food, and I envy them. There are food shows on TV, food articles in almost every magazine, people talking about recipes constantly, and how delicious those foods are. I don’t need that kind of focus in my life. I can cook and eat simply, enjoying whatever I choose to eat without having to dress it up with new sauces or spices, without chasing after the next great recipe. I can choose small portions when eating out, or set aside half to take home to eat later. Imagine, being able to enjoy a good meal twice, instead of gorging myself and then having nothing left.


I wouldn’t have to feel disgusted with myself when I lose control and binge eat. I could lose some of the excess weight and feel better about myself and within myself. My body would feel stronger and healthier. I could buy healthy foods most of the time, and my house could contain only healthy foods. If this were so, I might not be obsessing about whatever is (or is not) in the cupboard or the refrigerator. I would probably sleep better if my stomach weren’t so full, and would feel good when I awaken in the morning.


I don’t need you when I am watching TV or reading. I don’t need you during coffee hour after church. I don’t need you when I’m driving in the car, just to have something to do. I don’t need snacks during my book group, or cake at a celebration. I need fuel for my body, but I don’t need excess fuel that will be stored as fat. I can’t live without you, but I don’t have to be controlled by you any longer. Food, you are not the boss of me!


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