I like to think my history with food is fairly innocuous, but as I write about it, I’m discovering that’s not exactly the case. For example, I don’t care much for vegetables (aside from standard salad ingredients) and so exist mostly on carbohydrates. This disdain for green things can be traced to my childhood where I spent many nights alone at the dinner table with a plate of cold, congealing vegetables and as much milk as I needed to wash them down. Canned spinach, stewed tomatoes, canned green beans. I loathed them, but because “children were starving in India and China” my eating those vegetables became imperative. Waste not, want not. Or something. I threw up all over my dad one Christmas when forced to eat Brussel sprouts.
I don’t care how much cheese you put on broccoli or cauliflower, I’m not going to eat it. Go ahead and oven roast the hell out of the Brussel sprouts and the green peppers, and use all the EVOO you want—I won’t change my mind. I still hate spinach and while I will occasionally eat asparagus, I don’t seek it out. I realize that my dislike of all things green is probably irrational and that, ultimately, most likely not healthy, but I’m not one to eat something (any longer) because I’m “supposed to.”
Other than the nightly battle over the vegetables, there wasn’t much more personal drama around food when I was a kid. Overall, we ate pretty healthily—mom never served us anything out of a box, she canned fruit and veggies, forbid soda and sugared cereal, made her own bread and even churned her own butter for a while. We drank raw milk, ate locally raised beef, and never went for fast food. But there were family issues around food—and without going too much into it, my parents had conflicts around food—both of them vying for control over what the other ate, how much, how often. As a result, I think I resolved not to care so much about food.
Then, during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school I went away to camp and came back about 20 pounds heavier. As a kid who’d never really paid much attention to my weight, I was astounded that my pants no longer fit. I didn’t know about eating disorders then, but I now know that I developed one. My mom’s Calorie Counter book became my best friend. I’d heard about girls who vomited after meals as a way to control their weight, but since I was not one for throwing up, I gravitated toward laxatives and became addicted to them and to eating raw bran (I know—nasty). I didn’t overeat or binge and purge exactly, but I figured the less time the food stayed in my system, the less chance it had to turn into fat.
The laxatives wreaked havoc on my digestive system, and I spent many years breaking my addiction. It wasn’t easy—in fact, even though I’ve not been addicted in many years, I’d say that it’s taken the better part of my adult life to get to a point where my digestive system functions normally all on its own.
When I found myself needing to lose weight as an adult for the first time, I knew I needed to return to a place of ambivalence about food. I couldn’t diet and I couldn’t rely on TLW to stop feeding me. I wasn’t going to return to using laxatives. I had to find a way to stop caring about food. No easy task. It’s like trying to stop caring about Christmas—I may no longer want to celebrate it or believe that it’s the birthday of the true lord and savior but that doesn’t keep it from coming around every year and taking up all kinds of psychic space.
One of the most difficult parts of cutting back on eating was convincing TLW that it had nothing to do with her. That not wanting to eat her amazing meals didn’t mean I no longer loved her or that I was rejecting her. As much as I have food issues, she does too, and historically for her, food equals love.
The best and simplest thing I could do was to start exercising. So I did. I joined a gym. Working out regularly not only sped up my metabolism but made me less interested in eating. After spending an hour at spin class, the last thing I wanted to do was eat something that would pile the calories back on.
Tune in tomorrow for G is for Gym. I hadn’t intended for this to be a multi-part piece. Funny how things work out.