This post was bound to happen, but I didn’t think it would come so early. But, it’s February. I’ve been laid up with a herniated disc since the middle of December and just starting to be able to move my body again, and I’ve gained what feels like a million pounds. Suddenly, the food I love has become my enemy. Years of dieting – starvation style as a teenager and young adult – has left me with the metabolism of a desk chair, meaning I require about three calories a day to survive.
I have to tell y’all, in the hopes of generating discussion, that I have a very complicated relationship with food. I love feeding people and watching them eat (though I am rather put off by the SOUND of people eating), and I love the anticipation of food. But I’m messed in the head once it’s entered my body.
Let’s go back, shall we, to where it all began.
I was a biggish girl. Not obese, but fleshy and tall. I was not born with anything resembling a lean body. My mother was and still is an excellent cook and she took great care of us. We might have eaten a TV dinner once every couple of months when my parents went out. It was a huge treat even though it tasted like saw dust formed into chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes. Otherwise, that woman cooked us whole foods, meat and two veg and breakfast smoothies to keep us healthy. And she did all this on a fairly frugal budget. We accidentally ate macrobiotically because one couldn’t afford to buy out of season fruits or veggies. That’s why the giant orange in our Christmas stocking was one of my favourite things.
“I was described as the plump and pleasant one…”
I had two best friends in elementary school. The slender, tall and elegant Susie – a gorgeous girl of Hungarian immigrant parents. And petite and adorable Lorraine, half my height and weight. We wrote stories together and prayed that the virgin Mary would appear to us. The usual childhood hijinks. I recall that whenever a story was written by the other two, I was described as the plump and pleasant one. I was what? Plump? Me? (Shocked into being ungrammatical, it seems).
My grandmother once poked my stomach and told me to be very careful because, just like her and my mother, I would be fighting the “battle of the bulge” my whole life. I was 10 at the time.
I figure skated semi-competitively – club and regional competitions. When I was 15, I was in a carnival. I skated at the time with a gorgeous but decidedly LARGE girl named Kelly. She was a wondrous 6 feet tall and probably 200 pounds, but boy that girl could jump. We skated together in one number and after the carnival, my mother – she who fed me so well all my life – suggested that I go on a diet since she couldn’t tell the difference between me and Kelly on the ice. I was 155 pounds and 5’8″. Yes, that’s right. A healthy, active 155 lbs at 5’8″. I promptly stopped eating.
This isn’t a mother-blaming diatribe. I love my mother and I know that she meant no harm. She just wanted me to be aware. But it did a bit of a number on me, that’s for sure. I spent that whole spring and summer starving myself down to 126 pounds. I received a great deal of attention, which of course was awesome.
There’s so much more that I really don’t want to bore you with – but that was the beginning of a lifetime of yo-yoing weight and dismorphia. Even when I was training for the half ironman, I fretted about food. How can I fuel my body for such endurance without the fear of weight gain? I needed 3000 calories a day, but there’s no way that was happening, especially without pasta. I could fit into a tight size 4 at the time, but I refused to buy new clothes, because I knew the second the race was over, I would balloon (yes, in my twisted mind, balloon) back to my usual size 8. The whole thing became fraught. Anxiety kept barely at bay by the endorphins from excessive exercise would eventually consume me.
So, complicated is how I feel about food. I love food. I love recipes and cook books and cooking. I have a bloody Chef’s Training certificate from George Brown because I love cooking and wanted to do it for a living before I realized that the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak; especially the flesh exposed to wheat 12 hours a day. And whilst I was cooking at a restaurant, feeding people for 12 to 15 hours a day, I completely lost my appetite. Fucked.
This is long. It could be longer, but I suspect that I’m not alone in how I feel about food. I’m not saying anything new or shocking or original, even. But Food Is Complicated for me, and I wish with everything I have that it wasn’t.