Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Tiny Square of Cake

My husband was snacking last night on a small piece of chocolate cake given to him as part of a box of little cakes by a work acquaintance. He said that he didn't really care much for the chocolate one and I told him to just throw it away. The box has 6 tiny cakes and I sampled a small bite of a lemon one, but no more than that. I hadn't really felt much interest in any of the cakes beyond that taste, but this morning I was cleaning up and found the remains of the chocolate cake that he didn't like sitting where he'd left it as he hadn't bothered to toss it out. I looked at the cake and thought that I might want to taste it to see if I liked it.

I looked at the tiny bit of cake and I thought about taking a bite, but then I thought "to what end?" What if I like the cake and want to eat the rest of it? Do I want to spend some of my day's calories on this? Do I really want to eat it at all? I wasn't even hungry or craving chocolate.

The truth is that my interest level in the cake went up only because it was unwanted. Had my husband eaten it or actually thrown it out, I wouldn't even have considered sampling it. I think that there is something at work in regards to my value as a person when I deal with food. I get the scraps that are leftover when no one else wants them. If my husband wants something, he gets it first. I get it if it's one step removed from the trash. Those are the things that are appropriate for me to eat because I'm not "good enough" to be first in line.

I often feel that this sort of mental adjustment or change in attitude toward food is part of where the real answers lie in dealing with eating disorders. It's not about willpower or sweeping changes in lifestyle so much as repositioning your thinking again and again so that by mental millimeters, you come to value yourself enough not to ease your pain with edible garbage. The mistake I think many people make while attempting this adjustment is they try to substitute other rewards instead of food (like makeovers, new clothes, travel, etc.). You don't need to change the reward. You need to change the thinking which makes you feel a particular reward is going to accomplish something that it can't do. Whatever that emptiness is can't be filled by anything.


justjuliebean said...

While I love the idea of just eating a bite or two of cake, not a whole slice, I completely agree that the thinking has to change, ahead, above and beyond any behavior changes that are going to happen.

dlamb said...

It is so interesting how our vulnerable spots are different, yet they land us in the same place. When I read the introduction, I thought you'd go in a completely different direction.
It has taken me years not to eat that piece of cake you spoke about, but for a completely different reason. I always got, not only everything I wanted but the best of whatever was available. UNfortunately, when that became detrimental to my health and happiness, my peace of mind and my future, my requests that family members not expose me to certain items of food, occasionally were not respected. What is more, favorite items were specifically purchased for me and left as a charming, lovely surprise.
This kind of behavior made me feel helpless and enraged. No matter how many times I've told myself that I need to be in control of my own behavior and not allow others to show me their love in such a destructive manner, I could not talk myself down. I often ate what was left for me AND everything else, as if I was punishing somebody. In fact, I WAS punishing somebody, for not having the control that she should have shown, for not being able to say "thank you but I am not going to eat that", for being an adult and still feeling like I wasn't.
Luckily, for more than 20 years, my husband has been near me, empathic, comforting, understanding. He never, ever sabotaged me, mentioned my weight EITHER way and loved me the right way, namely, by wanting for me what I wanted for myself.
Once I understood why I was bingeing, control was finally mine. So, we've had different issues that led to eating things that were left behind. It IS good to be able to find out why we do counterproductive things and stop the behavior once and for all.

screaming fatgirl said...

At some point, I talk about the whole "sabotage" topic, and you hit the nail on the head when you talk about people showing their love for you. In a bizarre way, it's our own "fault" that they give us food to show they care. We don't give them other ways to do it and have established patterns that make them believe food will make us happy. What is more, if you are fat or have been fat, they can logically conclude that food gives you some sort of comfort or satisfaction.

Like your husband, mine has always been supportive and understanding. He gave me food when I wanted it, and didn't when I didn't. He just wanted to do what helped me best at any given time.

And you are also right that we all have different issues. This is why offering people ideas and questions to ask themselves is better than offering them "your" answers. :-)

dlamb said...

Seeing reply for the first time :) and I think you may be smiling at the fact that I just wrote a great, big, long comment re. exactly what you said here. Not sure if I am amused or feel silly about the longwinded manner in which I addressed what you've so elegantly presented in a few lines. Well, this IS why I started offering links to your blog instead of trying and failing to present your beautifully written perspective on topics that come up on other blogs.
I was delighted to see that one of your readers saw the link on Lyn's blog and took the time to come and read. I am so excited to know that it was not in vain and that others may benefit from being here, as I do.
Yes, yes, yes, one of the appealing things about your writing is that you do not present what works for you as the be all end all of weight loss solutions. We truly ARE all different and although I DO find it informative and interesting to know what others do about this difficult struggle, I do not appreciate the "my is the best and only way" approach that some exercise. Some do not even stop there but belittle all other interventions, including some that are quite close but not identical to theirs.