Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For the Love of Food

I love food. I love the smell, texture, and taste. It lights up a pleasure center in my brain that can’t be set aflame by any other sensory experience. I’m sure that is no surprise to anyone as we all assume fat people love food.

A lot of people with food control issues love food, but most of us have been in what could be called an abusive relationship with it. It controls us and we abuse it. We don’t appreciate its finer points and take it for granted. We take comfort as much or more from its mere presence and just using it as much as possible than we do in its essential merits. We hate ourselves for using it profligately and we hate food for its iron-clad grip on our lives.

I think part of the reason I failed in the past (and many others may have as well) is that we associate losing weight and living healthily with having to abandon our love. We can do it for a while, but then the need to be fulfilled in the way only food can make us feel comes nagging at us. It’s like a controlling boyfriend who makes us crazy, but we simply can’t live without him.

What I’ve discovered this time around is that I don’t have to let go of my love of food; I simply have to clean up the bad relationship I have with it. I can eat chocolate, cheese, eggs, squash, bananas, and ice cream, but I have to respect and appreciate the process of consuming such things. I have to give each bite the attention it deserves rather than simply use and abuse it out of habit. If I really love it, it will love me back rather than abuse me in return.

Today when I was shopping at the market and I picked up some cheese and crackers that looked interesting, I was thinking about how I was looking forward to eating them. I wasn’t questioning myself for the calories or hating myself because I’m fat and I shouldn’t eat or want these things. I really love food, now more than ever, and I don’t hate myself for doing so.


dlamb said...

I really had to sit with this topic for a bit and process your information. I am thinking how differently I arrived at the same condition, without the love affair with food. By no means do I want to imply that I don't like the taste of some things and that I do not abuse them and myself, in the process of consuming huge quantities of calories.

Actually, now that I say that, I no longer do it. SO, a different perspective: it took one sentence for Lyn to write, for more than half a lifetime of 'stuff" to click. I used food to stuff, stuff, stuff feelings. I guess, in a way, it is no different than people doing other things to shut out and not deal with certain emotions. They cut, they shoplift, they bungee jump, they have sex indiscriminately. This, I suppose, was just a more practical way of shutting things out.

When I read what you wrote about the way you treat food I thought, "wow, I don't do any of that". I don't REALLY taste, I don't look at texture, I don't really smell it, I just shovel it in. I do it almost like any other bodily function, only to extreme when it is for reasons other than hunger. Once I realized exactly why I was doing it (and I don't mean the simple "stuffing my feelings", but something a bit more complex, specific to my situation), in that moment of epiphany, that need dissipated completely and since then, I've been completely fine.
When I overeat for a specific reason (special event, unusually hungry, etc), I simply eat less the next few days and it balances out. I guess, yet again, your blog points out the differences among us and the fact that the result may be the same (complicated history with food), but the path may be as different as the individual.

screaming fatgirl said...

I love food now more than I did before I started to lose weight. I had to develop that love. Before, I think I ate more mindlessly and didn't really attend to the experience. The truth is that food meant more to me psychologically before and means more to me as a sensory experience now. That did not come naturally at all. I had to force myself to attend to the experience, though I did have some help through another experience which I can't talk about publicly as it relates to who I really am.

I'd say that I was pretty much where you were pre-2009. That is, I ate a lot, but I didn't really enjoy it or pay attention to it. If I wanted ice cream, I wanted to eat a whole pint of cheap ice cream and I wasn't happy unless I ate the whole thing. I had to stop and think about that and now, I am good with 1-4 spoonfuls, attending to every bite and enjoying it.

I was also stuffing feelings, as people often say, but it was more than that. It was also about having what I wanted as I believed I wanted it. I wanted to eat X amount of Y food and I wasn't happy unless I had that. It was irrational, but psychology is like that. It was fulfilling a need, but that need was not for food or to sate hunger. It was about psychological needs.

I don't use the phrases related to "stuffing feelings", because I believe they are vague and misleading. I think that what people are doing is more of an anesthetic. They distract themselves from emotional pain by inflicting physical discomfort on themselves and engaging in a comforting behavior. The emotional pain can't be attended to at the fullest level if the body is attending to digesting a huge amount of food. What is more, people feel relief at not getting their needs filled emotionally by sating them psychologically. It's the same basic idea, but I think that fully understanding it helps resolve them better. But, that's just me doing the things I do. ;-)

dlamb said...

It is so timely that you addressed this subject in this manner, because I had a very recent experience that I've only ever had once before. Namely, I ate something that was of exquisite quality and a few bites were totally enough. I had only had that experience with chocolate. I am not so much of a chocolate lover. To give you the level of my sophistication, my favorite is Milky Ways and you know where I grew up...I HAD access to the best chocolate. Anyway, when I was in Brussels I FINALLY understood!!!
Regarding "stuffing feelings", my perspective, based on my own experience, made my binges just that. I cannot go into the specifics here, publically, but it relates to my epiphany, too. Perhaps one day I may be able to share that with you, if I can be certain that it reaches you directly. I know you can keep the comments from being posted and I completely trust that YOU would do, when I ask, as you have done before but with this detail, I don't want to risk a system/technology error where you may be bypassed in some way and have it show up here.