Food owned me for 44 years.
It still does at times.
It’s at the oddest, most random moments that a titanic wave of emotions about food gets triggered.
I have been actively working on my relationship with food for the last two years.
I want to have peace with food and eating.
Right before the Holidays I had a meltdown. It turned out to be a productive emotional meltdown that’s moving me closer to that ‘peaceful’ relationship with food that I’m pursuing.
For me it was a big meltdown because – I don’t really have meltdowns – and this one involved tears and about three days of me feeling emotionally exhausted as I sorted out what had happened.
I learned something really good and positive about myself in the whole process; my coping mechanism this time around was conversation, with just a little bit of hiding/crying thrown in to keep things interesting.
My coping mechanisms was NOT FOOD AND EATING.
So what happened to cause the meltdown?
I have always said I was NOT a secret eater. I am not, at least not in the classic sense of making sure no one sees me physically eating and then hiding any evidence. (Hiding candy wrappers, burying trash, dumping packaging at the grocery store…)
I’m not a classical secret eater because I would eat anything, unapologetically, in front of people.
But where things get interesting is that I was a version of a secret eater. I was a ‘just don’t let any SINGLE person have a clear picture’ kind of eater…
I’ve been very careful, my whole adult life, to make sure no single person knew my calorie count for the entire day.
Very, years-long, careful.
I’m a ninja at this crap.
My thinking? ‘If someone knows the totality of what I’m eating then they will KNOW with absolute certaintity why I am fat.’ Which might have possibly made sense when I weighed 392 pounds.
Now at 168 pounds, 4.8 years in on this epic adventure to change my lifestyle?
This is still my thinking.
You need to throw into this mess that I’m still carb-phobic at times given my background with Type 2 Diabetes. I am NO LONGER T2, but I still think about every bite of food in the form of counting calories, carbs, fat.
I still very much have a hard-wired list of foods that are labeled good/bad that I chronically weigh every food choice against.
I now have a roommate. My friend, and business partner, Spencer is my roomie as we work to get our business off the ground and running.
In the time we have been sharing space, I’ve been unconsciously careful to make sure that he didn’t know the full picture of what I was eating each day. I didn’t realize I was doing this at the time, but looking back; it’s exactly what I was doing.
And I was really good at it.
Then he ‘caught’ me.
Spencer does most of the grocery shopping, we prepare foods to share and we have the same eating habits.
Spencer was showing me some new foods to try for breakfast. At my request.
At the time, I remember I was being a bit squirmy; I needed help finding some food options and variety in my eating choices. I really was working to lose some of my fears and rules around food. Spencer was willing to help. But the desire to find some food solutions was battling big time with me not wanting Spencer to know what I was actually eating for meals.
I’m not sure how to explain that I specifically requested help with ‘breaking’ my self-imposed food rules/fears, and then at the same time I didn’t want it…
Welcome to my messed-up mind?
So, totally (at least I think he was) unaware of most of this emotional baggage that I’m dragging around the kitchen, Spencer showed me how to build a good, plant-based, protein packed, breakfast bowl.
I was on my own for lunch. But had packed food from the fridge.
Dinner rolled around.
The meltdown occurred…
He knew what I ate for breakfast. He could easily figure out what I took from home for lunch. Here we were talking about what to eat for dinner. In the grand scheme of trying to hide my total calories consumption for the day; I KNEW Spencer, maybe better than most, could quickly calculate what I had just eaten for the entire day.
Please note… I eat healthy. I’m focused on making sure my running and activity are fueled appropriately. BUT my mind is not healed entirely… (You have probably figured this out by now.)
As I stood in the kitchen with Spencer, all I could feel was that my secretly screwed up relationship with food was no longer safe and secret. That is a SCARY feeling. Spencer now KNEW what my calories/quality/foods were for the day.
I quietly lost it.
The tears I had been fighting back all day were going to spill over. I don’t cry in front of anyone.
So I did what most healthy adult females would do. I ran upstairs to my room, closed the door and hid. I cried for a bit. I waited for a while hoping he hadn’t noticed anything was amiss and we could just go about business as usual.
Not so much.
He was waiting to talk to me.
‘So we’ve obviously uncovered some painful shit… You want to talk about it?’
I sat down at the table, with my dinner and choked on it. I cried. Felt like I couldn’t even begin to put into words how horribly, terribly vulnerable I felt NOT only because he KNEW what I had eaten for the day; but he wasn’t going to let me just walk away and not talk about it.
So we talked. Haltingly. He patiently waited me out as I tried to find the words to explain what was happening. I’m grateful that Spencer gave me the gift of generous patience as I was beginning to process 45 years of food issues out loud. He helped to safely and gently open the flood gates.
I wrote all of this down in a journal. I immediately sought out the solace, advice and comfort of my friends the Gums. We sat in their home and had an honest, tough, problem-solving kind of conversation the night after the breakdown. (They’ve changed their lifestyles and have the type of relationship with food that I’m trying to build.) I am also working with a great therapist. ALL of this is what I have put into place to figure out how to create and sustain a healthy relationship with food.
I know that this is a key issue I have to continue to work on.
I’m finally done hiding food or my eating habits from anyone.
The best way out is always through. – Robert Frost