My relationship with food has always been on a Rocky Road. With chocolate on top.
I know, I know. I'm a cheese ball.
|Elvis Face at Disneyland- Do you like my themed ensemble?|
But seriously. I have always been a chub. It just so happens that it runs in my family. Or you might say that no one in my family runs. Either way, since as long as I can remember I have been on the stout side of the Little Teapot song. In elementary school my parents even had to get involved when a few "popular girls" (BTW how is that even a thing in elementary school? Not cool.) were teasing me. I still remember shamefacedly receiving one of their apology letters, written with backward 's' and all.
"Dear Mandy, 'S'orry I called you a whale. I think you're really nice. -Cindy"
You can insert a lisp when you read that if you want. Even though a "popular girl" would probably never lisp. Her elocution teacher would never allow it. I do it, though, just because it's more fun that way.
|Being called "whale" hurts almost as much as looking at this picture does.|
I played 's'oftball with Cindy years later and we actually became friends.
We never mentioned the teasing. Or the letter. Or water-dwelling mammals of any kind.
My parents started looking sideways at me in my swimsuit at a swim meet one night soon after the lisping incident and told me that I needed to start watching what I ate.
But I WAS watching what I ate. I watched it all. I watched after school ice cream sundaes (made like a boss with melted peanut butter and Hershey's syrup on top) and chips and snack cakes sliding past my lips all of the time. It was the best tasting food, the food that our cupboards were stocked with. And I loved it all. The whole "You are what you eat" thing really wasn't registering with me.
Soon after that, mom started taking me to a nutritionist before school once a week. There I would have to talk about vegetables and portion sizes and keep a food journal that I was supposed to go over with my nutritionist at our meetings. I was probably ten. It was embarrassing, intimidating and confusing to me at that age. I thought I looked like everyone else in my family. Ate like them. Why was I there? I don't remember how long I went, but I don't think I learned much about being healthy or turning skinny and pretty - and I was much more interested in the latter. I had no idea what I was doing wrong because I had honestly never considered before that food could be bad.
Life went on. I was always involved in sports (I was the consummate tomboy. I told anyone who would listen that baseball teams should admit girls because softball was just too wimpy for me. My first love was Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez. I wanted to be buried under home plate at Dodger's Stadium... Well, I stick by that last one...). I was pretty happy and active. I was the sweet, funny chubby friend that every cool skinny girl needed in their entourage (They will never admit to it, but I am 95% sure that every friend I had in junior high and high school read that in a Teen Vogue somewhere, and treated it like scripture. And rightly so. I mean, it's Teen Vogue. Am I right?).
|My gorgeous sister! ...and me, age 18.|
I vividly remember the day, my senior year of high school, that my soccer coach called the team together to have a talk about nutrition. This was literally the only time I can remember connecting food to fuel. I was so interested and quite frankly astounded by his demand that we eat balanced meals. Did I need to buy a scale? What did this have to do with soccer? Whatever this meant, I was sure I wasn't doing it right. And I was the type that said "How high?" the moment Coach said "Jump". So I canned food runs to McDonald's and began eating what soon became known as "The Regular" in my local bagel shop- wheat bagel, turkey, mustard, veggies. The owner of the bagelry loved me. This was my idea of balance.
When I left for college I had no idea how to cook, feed myself, or stay healthy. I was eating garbage at all hours of the day and night, and, while I was not alone among my college besties in gaining the Freshman 15, I was probably the only one who was not eating out of character. The only real change was that I had stopped playing competitive sports 5x a week, and so the pounds packed on. During our sophomore year, my roommates and I made a concerted effort to eat smart and healthy, and it was with this amazing group of women that I learned the following: 1) That I love food. Not just to eat, but I love cooking it, I love shopping for it, I love watching other people prepare it, I loved feeding it to others and eating it with others. 2) That I could lose weight and still eat. and 3) That I wanted to have a different relationship with food than I had ever before considered. It was during this crucial year of my life that I decided that I would be a food-lover in the right way. Somehow.
|Blowing it up, age 20.|
I got married that year, and my love of cooking has grown exponentially each year since then. I am now known among my friends as a pretty great cook, and that's just how I like it. My life revolves around food, especially trying to find the healthiest and best-tasting way to feed my family.
But I am still a chubby girl. You've seen the pictures. And it has nothing to do with intervening years, babies, or lack of trying to stop being chubby. It has to do with my emotional connection to food and the way I am able to completely zone out when there is a plate of great food (or plain chocolate, peanut butter, bacon and/or any combination of the three) nearby. I wake up minutes or seconds later, licking my lips in satisfaction. Then I look down at my empty plate/bowl and wonder where it's all gone.
|Chubby in France, the place where a food lover's dreams come true, 23.|
...okay, I don't actually have food amnesia, but clearly I am lacking in hours spent practicing self control around food. Even as a grown woman, if I couldn't have all of the food I wanted or if I had emotions that were too difficult to deal with, I would resort to sneaking around with food, having rendezvous with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Ben&Jerry late at night in dark corners of my house.
Coming to terms with this lack of self control has been a very slow and painful process. I am still working on overcoming the intense craving I have to devour all delicious food whenever it is present instead of savoring it. About a month into practicing my new mantra, although far from perfectly, I read an article on FOMO in Women's Health magazine. FOMO is an adorable acronym for something that is pretty pathetic in all incarnations - the Fear Of Missing Out. As I read through the article, I started to see myself, my patterns from both childhood and adult life, in print on the pages of the magazine. I have always struggled with trying too hard to fit in and please other people and not miss anything important. And, as it turns out, I especially have a major FOMO when it comes to food. I am afraid of saying no to something delicious because good food makes me happy and I just don't want to miss out.
And, yes. Even as I type that I can hear how ridiculous it sounds.
From necessity my mantra in the past five months has become, "It won't kill you to miss out." This means telling myself at least one thousand times that I can have a Pronto Pup - the world's best corn dog - at the State Fair this Fall. That I don't need one today, even though they parked their truck of deliciousness just a few feet away from the face painting booth that I am helping my friend, Laura, with for the next 8 hours. It means saying no to cake on other people's birthdays and not feeling weird about it. It means taking a good, hard look at whether I really "deserve" some chocolate in the long afternoons that accompany being the mother of two small children. I am trying to put my relationship with food into a more accurate perspective. I have taken my passion for it and my knowledge of it and tried to assign it the proper place in my life. And so far I feel like recognizing my skewed perspective has only helped to increase the love for food and health and nutrition that I started cultivating as a nineteen-year-old. Food still makes me happy, but that other, darker side of my relationship with food, the side filled with regret and frustration and fear, is diminishing each time I just say no to *fill in the blank with something yummy*.
So far I'm sticking with "It won't kill you to miss out" - let's call it IWKYTMO - pretty successfully.
And I'm taking IWKYTMO one day at a time. Which I fully realize makes me sound like a recovering alcoholic. But, you know what? As someone who has, on more than one occasion, eaten chocolate alone in a dark closet, I am okay with that.