Last night, as I sat on my couch watching Criminal Minds season four and eating “Oops, we baked too much!” fifty cent sale Italian cream cake from Kroger, I thought about something that @missionfitchick had said on instagram. I recently started following her, I like her positive attitude, frankness about herself, and photos of healthy meals & snacks. The photos show up in my instagram feed between photos of people’s rescue dogs and giant hoagies, massive desserts and scrumptious-looking asian food from @visualnewbie, @foodchasers, and @paulie702, my favorite “foodie” accounts. It is a little bit odd to have decadent images of calorie-laden foods in between posts about getting healthy and losing weight. There’s where I’m at though – I’m a foodie: Top Chef is one of my favorite shows; my new year’s resolution for 2013 was to eat in at least one James Beard Award Winning chef’s restaurant; I geeked out the time I ate at Chef Chris DeBarr’s restaurant Green Goddess and he came by the table. I love food in a weird and dysfunctional way and I always have. Back when I restricted food, over a decade ago, I was pretty much the same. I would walk through supermarkets, breathing it all in, looking at everything there was on the shelves, even though I wouldn’t let myself eat much of it at all and when I did eat it was organized with obsessive rituals and rules. When I started getting over my eating disorder related behaviors, I didn’t really get “healthy” I just started eating again.
As I sat there last evening, eating this gigantic slice of cake directly from the container, the phrase “abusing my body with food” popped into my head. I’ve spent 2013 trying to get back into my healthy habits. In 2010 I lost about 40 pounds when I started running, and that was the only time in my life I have had a non-adversarial relationship with food. My thinking really started to change, I saw food as fuel for my body – not something to fear, indulge in, hide in, or vilify. Fitness was my focus, not food, and I think that’s why it worked so well for me. As I began to really enjoy running, I was able to really enjoy eating healthy, “clean” food to make my body even better at what I was achieving. I stopped indulging in the occasional bottle of wine because it affected my performance too much the next day. The first time I ran a mile without stopping was the first time in my life that I had not only done something that I believed I could not do, but I had achieved it on my own, doing it for only me and not to prove anyone wrong or to prove to anyone else that I was good enough. And then I stopped running.
It happened gradually at first. I started working instead of being just a full-time student, so it was harder to fit in exercise since I hate mornings. I started dating the alcoholic and I didn’t take my running shoes on my ten day trip to New Mexico. I’d planned to, but she’d thrown a fit, “Why would you want to do something without me!??!” That statement is ridiculously emotionally unhealthy, but I still left my running shoes at home. Little by little the healthy eating started falling by the wayside too. I’d been off diet frozen dinners but I started bringing them to work as quick, easy lunches again. I started eating fast food that wasn’t subway. Then I fell into a depression during the 2011 holidays and started eating sweets. I had never been that interested in sweets, but all of a sudden I really wanted them. I ate dessert every night when I was in New Orleans, LA with my family and then when Michelle (the alcoholic) and I officially broke up, I started going to Dairy Queen and Sonic for Blizzards once or twice a week. Before I knew it, it was December 2012 and I had gained back 30-35 pounds of the 40 I had lost. It’s been really difficult to get back into healthy exercise habits – I spent most of February and this month losing 2 pounds and then gaining them back and then losing them again. Something really has to change, but I’m tired in the evenings and work stress has made it seem impossible to get out of bed early enough to work out.
I realized that whether I was restricting or over-indulging, I have always been abusing my body with food. Whether I wanted it to help me feel better about a bad relationship and that breakup, or wanted the exquisite control of a body screaming for food and telling it that I was too strong for that – I have always been abusing my body, except for that wonderful nine month period in 2010 when I finally somehow got healthy. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why anorexia & food restriction is body-abuse, but some people might scoff, especially the “fat acceptance” crowd, and say “why can’t you like yourself how you are? why can’t you eat a piece of cake and be ok with not being waif thin?” I don’t feel good right now. I’m all for accepting yourself as you are, loving yourself, accepting limitations, and I do that as best I can and have struggled for years. However, I feel like there are people out there who just get belligerent about treating themselves like crap, no differently than the people are insist that there’s nothing wrong with them smoking because it’s their body their choice. It is your body and your choice, just like it is mine and everyone else’s – but an unfortunate side effect I have noticed to “fat acceptance” has been to attack people who are trying to get healthier, and that’s not ok either.
I don’t sleep as well as when I worked out and ate healthily, I don’t have as much energy, my depression is worse, I just don’t feel very good physically. When I think about all the crap I’ve started putting into my body again, it’s no wonder I don’t. Fried foods, refined sugars and carbohydrates, they taste amazing but they don’t do much good for your insides. I realized that my eating has become an extension of some of my self-hatred that really frustratingly still resides in me after 18 or so years of working really hard to get rid of it. I hope that phrase sticks with me; I think it will because it really resonates. It’s not saying I can’t have a piece of cake from time to time, because I can and I will, but saying that maybe when I reach for that fourth piece of bread at dinner that there’s something beyond hunger that’s driving me.
I posted a postscript to this, which you can view here.