Monday, November 2, 2009

How Food Became My Friend

I told Deja I would explain how I went from this grocery list:
  1. cool ranch Doritos
  2. doughnuts
  3. hot dogs
  4. orange juice
to this grocery list:
  1. soy milk
  2. romaine lettuce
  3. carrots
  4. fat free yogurt
  5. cool ranch Doritos
in two years. The change was actually in the works for several years, but there was no concrete sign of improvement until recently. (And I still have a ways to go...) It's quite the story. In fact, I'm not sure I have the stamina to write it (it is also emotionally taxing), but I think I can handle the highlights.

Basically, my relationship with food has been bad since I was a kid. My mom says I was a pretty good eater when I was little, but I'm not sure I buy it. I mean, I've seen the home video of me when I was two or three, sitting on my Sit 'n' Spin with the big bag of Cheetos in my lap. (Those were my Christmas presents: a Sit 'n' Spin and Cheetos.) Like many teenage girls with low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, I developed an eating disorder (though I was never formally diagnosed). I used to binge on the weekends and starve myself as penance during the week. When Mom made me lunch I would give it away, and when I got lunch money I would pocket it to spend on CDs. I used to say I wasn't hungry and was too busy doing homework to eat dinner. I would go to the kitchen once it was deserted and the dishwasher was loaded with dinner dishes and running. Lest my family discover my secret, I would put a few pieces of cereal and a little milk in a bowl with a spoon. Then I would put it in the sink and fill it with water. There was the evidence of my dinner: a lonely bowl full of milky water and a few soggy Cheerios. Yes, the seemingly good little girls can be masters of deception. (I like to think that is because each individual's potential to do evil is equal to her potential to do good.)

Food was not my friend, and my diet took a toll on my health. I was sick all the time. Eventually, my health was so bad that I could only handle school part-time. I managed to have high cholesterol--over 200--by the age of 20. That didn't bode well. And I worried what my poor health would mean for my future children. I wondered if they were looking down at me and shaking their heads in dismay. I needed to change things.

Progress has been slow--I've been working for 7 years now. I took a nutrition class. I worked on my psychological issues with food, and went to therapy to sort out some of the underlying problems that lead to my emotional eating. The most important lesson I learned was not to restrict what I eat in any way and never to feel ashamed of what I eat, no matter how unhealthy it is. I prefer not to think of food as good or bad. Food is food. For a long time, I removed "junk food" from my vocabulary, though it has recently crept back in but without the old guilt. I learned that if I tell myself, "You shouldn't have that cookie. Don't eat the cookie. The cookie is bad for you," I will hold off on eating the cookie for a while, but eventually I will give in. When I do give in, I won't eat one cookie--I'll eat the whole package. But if I tell myself, "You can have that cookie. You can eat a cookie any time you want," then I'll eat it, I'll enjoy it, and I'll be done with it. I never feel deprived, which allows me to listen to my body and know what I really want and need to eat. I'm not perfect. I still do the girl thing and eat ice cream when I'm sad, but I'm getting better. And chocolate soy milk is just so yummy!

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks?


Ruddick Writing said...

Thanks for telling the story. And what a story. I'm impressed by the progress you've made, especially since I know firsthand it's such difficult progress. And now your new schooling path makes me excited: the world needs smart dieticians that know what it means to make a change.

Your post reminded of this one, from another blog I read:

Ruddick Writing said...

sorry... posted from my school blog. That last comment was Deja.

S'mee said...

every time i read a post from you i am impressed. this post blew me away. much love. many kudos.