“I moan with pleasure.
“Did you just have a foodgasm?” he asks, wiping ricotta from his lips.
“Where have you been all my life?” I ask the beautiful panini.”
― Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss
This is a stark reality. We love food. We feel it. We crave it. We want it. We celebrate with it. We mourn with it. We marry it, partner with it for life and take it with us to the grave.
I have loved food from the moment I can remember. There’s a photo of my brother and I when my parents were still together – taken in the Living Room of our old house out in the boonies, by a professional photographer. I bawled because I didn’t want to sit on the furry stool waiting for us. I was dressed up in a mint green polyester dress with my blond ringlets and matching green bows (a clear indication of my rebellious self of my 30s!).
In the photo, however, 33 years later, you can see the recognizable silver and red packaging of the KitKat hidden in my hand. Why was it there? I was given the chocolate bar so I would sit and stop being a pain. Emotional comforting from food, even at the age of 3…
Now, whether or not you want to face facts, we are overweight for a reason. It is rarely glandular, or genetics, or because we are big framed. It’s because we eat, have low self esteem and fail to move our bodies. You can argue with me if you like, but on average, this is why.
Why we eat – well, that’s for your to figure out. Maybe with some soul searching, asking family members of your past, through couselling, but the long and short of it is, we eat for a reason. For me, fast forward a few years from the mint green dress and I was faced with something no 8 year old (or anyone for that matter) should be faced with in life. A turning point that forced me to seek comfort because I was lost, stripped of my innocence and left with no protection around me. What does a young girl do? The absolute feeling of helplessness is terrifying. At such a young age, it’s not possible to logically work through what had taken place. I needed, at least the appearance of, that protection and comfort back in my life fast – and I found it in food. My blanket. My friend.
Then 30+ years later, see a morbidly obese, super fun and happy on the surface 30 something and my relationship with food continued to get serious – like real serious. The best love affair possible. It had gotten so bad, that I’m fairly certain I would leave my body when I ate. That, my friend, is true detachment. And distortion when it came to self-image. At my heaviest, I thought I looked my best. Riddle me that!
1.any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.
Crazy to think that food is really around to maintain life. When that shift happened for me, and it JUST DID about a month ago, that comfort that I once received from food was no longer. I eat according to what I’m doing in my day. If I know I’m on my treddie for 35 minutes and lifting until I want to cry for an hour, then I will eat to fuel that activity. If it’s a day where I’m sitting at my desk with a Zumba class and some push ups and squats to get off my ass, I’m eating a bit less. Food = Fuel. That. Is. It.
I attempted for over two years with no success to will myself into thinking food as fuel, but I didn’t believe it or at least I didn’t want to believe it. I loved chocolate. I was addicted to pasta. I ate oil-popped popcorn with a cup of butter and salt every night. I wasn’t ready to say good bye to all that, regardless of the fact that my stomach was half way down my thighs and I was a quarter inch away from needing that extra piece for the airplane seat buckle. All that is gone now because I came to know that I needed food for what it was there to do – its purpose; to move and grow and repair my body. But, this left me scared. Of what? I will tell you.
At night we are cozy and warm in our beds. Whether you’re sharing your bed with someone or not, there is a comfort knowing that for the next six – eight hours, hopefully, you will be resting, your body covered in the best possible sheets and blankets, the room dark, and nothing but the sound of your breath easing you into sandland. Then, you need to wake.
You need to strip your blankets, emerge from your nighttime cocoon, and leave the comfort to start your day.
For those of us who have used food for comfort, our day if filled with many moments of feeling that warm bed. Knowing that no matter what, we are safe. We are safe from whatever it is the outside world wants from us, protected to not feel lonely or sad or left out. Our food is our comfort. But to leave that behind, to shift from having a “something” that makes you feel safe, to letting go of that, can leave anyone feeling lost. So what do we do as weight-loss warriors, victors of our own fate and destiny. What I’m beginning to see and believe, is that if we don’t find comfort in ourselves, we can easily go elsewhere. And that, my friends, is not what this is all about.
1.a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.“room for four people to travel in comfort”
2.consolation for grief or anxiety.“a few words of comfort”
1.make (someone) feel less unhappy; console.“she broke down in tears and her friend tried to comfort her”
I have seen obesity survivors turn to many different things to offer them the comfort they once found in food. Take away a blanket and you’re bound to get cold. Looking for love and acceptance. That is one I have seen. If you are continually looking for someone else to give you the feeling that food once did, you will become just as emotionally dependent on that person as you were with food. And guess what, people are a lot more volatile than food would have ever been. They talk. They disappoint. They can easily become something that no longer fits on your wish list. So, filling that void with with love or sex or companionship, may actually end up being a pretty big risk. Think about it.
I have seen others turn to strict, regimented routines as it removes the possibility of surprise or disappointment. A sense of comfort in knowing what’s to come and what the plan is is a good thing. Is this terrible? I dunno. What happens if you’re sick or step on an tack and can’t make it to your archery lesson? Comfort in routines I get, but there may be some risk in putting all your warm and fuzzies into your schedule and planner.
Where or how do we console then? Well, I guess we all eventually need to learn to comfort ourselves. And I’m certain this can be learned. I am doing it now. The love and support you once found in food, can only be found within. And until you find that source of strength, you will be looking feverishly to fill that empty hole that food was always there to fill. Take solitude in yourself. And feel what it is you’re feeling and respond. And know it is okay to be alone with that…. Not this way though.
When I’m feeling a bit off, or can’t figure out what’s going on in my soul or brain, I retreat. My bedroom if I can, or the back of the party, or hiding in the storage closet (if you can’t find me, I disappear often for multiple reasons. It’s what I do). I listen to what’s going on in my head. Before, it would be slab on the Skippy peanut butter on a piece of bread and continue on until the loaf was gone. Now, I need to stop, recognize what I’m feeling and really talk myself happy.
I hope, for all of you who have left your extra weight behind for good, that you have found or at least are searching for what it was that food once gave you – not in something external, but in you. I hope you learn to find your power and strength in yourself, and not in booze, or drugs, or sex or dare-devilish acts! It’s a big step leaving food to its purpose. But for me, it was just as big and scary to realize I had the power to leave it behind, and even more power to know I can get myself through on my own.
Keep keeping it real.