One of my friends on FaceBook wrote a status update today which essentially said, 'ice cream fixes everything'. Most people probably smiled at that and recognized the power of a small pleasure to lift ones spirit after a bad day. I felt a little melancholy.
Though I have largely conditioned myself not to turn to food for comfort, I still remember how comforting it can be and sometimes grow somewhat nostalgic for the days when food worked its miracles on my emotional state. There were days when I'd be so depressed and dispirited and my husband would go out and buy me a pint of ice cream and I'd eat the whole thing and feel better. It wasn't simply the taste and the fatty goodness of it all, it was also the indulgence. It was doing something that was all about giving me exactly what I wanted when I "needed" it. It was a pleasure that was intensely personal, deeply gratifying, and cost very little in my estimation at the time. After all, I was already fat, so what was getting a little fatter in the service of medicating my mood?
I imagine that this feeling contributes in large part to the relapses that people who quit smoking, drinking or doing drugs have. They may work long and hard to get over their addictions and stay free of their vices for years only to suddenly get hooked again. People wonder why this happens and shake their heads thinking that it's puzzling how someone can "choose" to return to behavior which was so destructive after experiencing what they imagine to be years free of their addictions.
I think I can empathize with those who invite the monkey back onto their backs. Just because the grip food has on me has been weakened such that I can break free almost all of the time doesn't mean I don't remember how pleasing it was at times to be safely in its grasp. I don't long for food, but I do desire what it once gave me.
I realize that this was all an illusion as the food, just like drugs, didn't solve anything. I also knew then and know now that eating to medicate my pain was physically destructive. The thing that wasn't an illusion was that food improved my emotional state. A lot of people lie to themselves in the service of sticking to their food plans or diets and say, "food was the cause of my problem, not the solution." These are the same people who think being thin will transform their lives. Many of my problems were caused by food, but just as many were simply the sort of difficulties every single person in a developed nation deals with all of the time. I had more or different problems related to weight, but there was plenty of pain in my life even without incorporating the weight-related suffering.
I'm not going to go back to medicating my emotional difficulties with food, but I'm also not going to pretend that it didn't work a sort of "magic" on me that nothing else will ever accomplish. The only thing that even comes close to having the same mental transformative properties as food is my husband, and try as he might, he cannot and should not be a palliative for my emotional suffering. He does his best, but he can't be there every moment, nor do I expect him to. I have to just learn to live with the pain and depression when it washes over me. I have to grit my teeth and bear it, because I'm guessing that's what most people who aren't medicating themselves with food, drink, drugs or sex are doing.
Eating well and in moderation makes my body feel better, but it doesn't do anything for my emotional turmoil. Exercising improves my stamina and strength and it even helps me relieve stress and anxiety at times, but it doesn't do what food used to do when it comes to lifting me from depression or allowing me to get away from myself mentally when I'm in distress. There was an almost sublime pleasure in immersing myself in food when I was in pain, and I will likely never forget that. I don't think I should, nor do I think I should try to convince myself that it wasn't a good feeling. It was.
No amount of prattling about 'nothing tasting as good as thin feels' is going to convince me otherwise. Trust me when I say that, for me, nothing tasted as good as food when I was depressed. I miss what food used to do for me, but not enough to overlook what it did to my body. I may want to feel what I used to feel when a pint of ice cream made me happy, but not enough to go back.