This past weekend was my birthday and my husband and I took a road trip with an overnight stay to celebrate. In the previous posts (and some others far back in the buffer), I've mentioned that food was the part of any experience I most looked forward to in the past. The idea of going to a new place and sampling a restaurant or finding a novel item at a bakery was something I really looked forward to. Even as I went down in weight and controlled portions and overall nutritional content, I still looked forward to these experiences.
When birthdays approach, many people see them as a time to indulge in a fashion which they would not normally do. I also was this way. I'd think about what sort of special dessert I would permit myself or the meals that would help me enjoy the day more. If my birthday happened to fall on a day that I was in one of my many failed weight loss attempts, I would utterly resent the idea that I had to be denied a cake or other indulgent food, or I would see it as my one big chance to do what I really wanted to do (eat food which was high in calories and very enjoyable).
This year, because something in my head had changed, the food aspect of the celebration didn't even enter the picture. Of course, when the idea of eating came up because we were hungry, I talked about what we'd eat with my husband. However, the truth was that it didn't matter for the most part what we ate. Each time, he'd ask me what I wanted and I'd say I didn't care and he could choose. I think, at first, that he felt I was setting aside my desires and deferring to his, but the truth was that I really didn't have much of a preference.
The food simply wasn't that important a part of our celebration. I cared about the time with him, the activities we did, and talking with him. I wanted to enjoy the food, of course, and I wanted to eat when I was hungry, but it was merely a small piece of the experience which carried less weight than other aspects. Trust me when I say that this surprised me as much as it may anyone else. I remember that emotional hunger to indulge as well as anyone else. It just wasn't there. There was no fighting or struggle, no emotional tug of war with what I "should" do and what I wanted to do.
I wondered if this is what it feels like in people's heads who don't have serious issues with weight and food. Do they live each day without longing and torment and simply in accord with their hunger and tastes of the moment? Do they approach their days thinking about other things and only consider food when hungry? Is this where the successful journey to having a healthy relationship with food ends?
I don't want to convey the impression that I don't care about food at all, nor that I ate in a spartan or nutritionally pious fashion. I had an egg and toast for breakfast (made at home), shared a chicken/bean wrap with my husband for lunch, ate some grapes and half of a Luna bar as snacks, and had 2 slices of pizza and a little garlic bread for dinner. The following day, I had 3 mini muffins and coffee for breakfast and Indian food for lunch at a restaurant, and chicken, rice and a salad for dinner with a modified "Eton Mess" for dessert (two crumbled meringue cookies with sugar free jam and low fat whipped cream). I was not sacrificing food enjoyment, but I wasn't thinking about food or the food aspect much at all. I took things as they came and ate when I was hungry. It only occurred to me as an afterthought that I skipped the cake/special dessert entirely. It just didn't matter enough to pop into my head.
Looking back over all of the changes I've made, especially de-centralizing food and trying to focus on other interests to cultivate pleasure in other areas, I recall all too vividly how hard it was to do these things. It was like being torn away from joy. It was like a child clinging to her mother for comfort and screaming in pain because someone was pulling her away. There were times when I felt I'd go mad trying to disengage myself from food in the manner I was connected to it. I hated it so much and I felt that the rest of my life would be this mental battle between my desires. I can't convey enough what an enormous relief it is to find myself here after all of that hard work.
It's like I've been dragging myself up a long mountain for years without being able to see the summit. Slogging my way up, I'm certain I will never reach the top and the rest of my life is just going to be this hard journey every single day. Suddenly, I'm simply there.