From as far back as I can remember I have LOVED ice cream. I love that soft, pillowy texture of gelato as it comes straight out of the machine. I love the smell of the chocolate pieces that go into each batch of mint chocolate chip, or the frozen chunks of cookie dough adorning a vanilla background. I love the smell of a fresh made waffle cone. I LOVE ICE CREAM.
Also, from as far back as I can remember, I can hear my dad telling me that men didn’t want fat women or he would sing this song “Fatty fatty 2 by 4 couldn’t fit through the kitchen door.” I can remember my mom saying, “You’re having ANOTHER serving?” And while these comments weren’t meant to spark anxiety around food, they did. I realized pretty quickly that my self worth as a girl depended pretty solidly on my looks. I can remember being acutely aware, at a pretty young age, of how men would look at me. Even now I can recall how it made me feel…. dirty. I could feel them looking through my clothes at my tits and my ass, because the male role models in my life emphasized those attributes. Pretty soon I was so self conscious that I was wearing baggy sweaters and homely clothes in an attempt to stay away from that attention because it made me feel so gross and unsafe. I still do this…. and while I feel comfortable in fitted clothes I always feel like I am putting on a show.
Somewhere in my middle childhood I started to hide food. I would sneak cookies or ice cream or bread and butter. Sometimes I would sneak left overs because I was just plain hungry. I would eat pasta cold so I didn’t have to heat it up and my parents wouldn’t know. I knew everyone’s pattern and sounds in the kitchen and would sit and wait until it was peacefully empty before tiptoeing my way to the fridge. I developed a very unhealthy relationship about food. Predictably, I gained weight. Then I started running, every day, mile after mile. I got to the point where people were trying to force feed me sandwiches and saying I looked unhealthy. I felt great and knew part of them saying those things was because they lacked the motivation for weight loss in themselves. I definitely did the yo yo weight loss game.
You see, it doesn’t matter if you are fat or thin, bony or curvy, people will criticize you. The media will shove it in your face what it “means to be a woman,” tall, thin, legs for days. The resulting backlash of the body positive movement is the plus sized models who are on the other end of the spectrum. What about the girls in between? The 8-10s, the sizes that most stores sell out of the quickest.
Somewhere in the beginning of my childhood food became a comfort. We may get screamed at but we might also get ice cream later. We would get a treat for finishing a meal, for keeping quiet, for doing as we were told. Oreos, swiss cake rolls, Chips Ahoy. Food became a way to fill a void. It became something that could light up those pleasure centers when not much else in my life was. Our family is very food centered. No activity can take place without food. They see it as bonding, and yes, while the preparation and eating of food traditionally was a bonding ritual, somehow sitting down in front of the TV with some soup in your lap just isn’t the same. I still do this food hiding. It’s too a much smaller degree, but if people bring food to work I won’t eat it. People will tell me I have amazing resolve, but the truth is, I trained myself to not need food around other people. Catch me at the candy drawer later though and it’s a completely different story.
When I first moved out I went crazy. I ate pizza and pasta and ice cream night after night. I ate all of the things that were criticized so heavily in my formative years. I remember standing over my sink, spoon in a gallon of ice cream just completely clothed in shame and regret.
Sometimes in my late teens, early 20s I started to develop GI signs. I would notice I went to the bathroom A LOT more than my friends did. I would live on imodium, sometimes taking 6-8 a day to help control my intestines. I had no idea what I “could” or “couldn’t” eat. What would react with my body and what would be fine. I would eat a food one day and then next experience such severe bloating and pain from the same food that wearing clothes felt like this extreme form of torture. Somewhere along the way I became really self conscious about how my body was acting, when in reality it’s been telling me for a while that my current protocol wasn’t working. I went from taking pills to manage signs and eating anything I wanted to avoiding meds and simply not eating.
Simply put, I have a ton of anxiety around food. It’s gotten to a breaking point. I will find myself not just judging what I want to eat from a societal standard but I also end up planning my life around food. If I have a big event to go to I take probiotics, digestive enzymes, iodium. If I am going out with friends, or heaven forbid on a date, I don’t just have what I want to have because I don’t know how my body will react. Will I have to use a restroom on our after dinner walk and how embarrassing would that be to have to find one? I am on complete overdrive about my body. There is one person (who knows who I am) who has heard many of my concerns and stories and to him it was like, okay, so what? I can say to him my stomach feels like shit, I’ll be right back and he doesn’t falter. He doesn’t care. It’s glorious and most of the time around him I don’t have the issues I have around other people. There is this circle of anxiety about my symptoms that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And when people want to cook for me… fuck I go into panic mode. I don’t know why, but that it more likely to cause an issue for me than eating out in a restaurant.
I know that the anxiety around food isn’t helping my situation. I know that I carry a ton of shame and guilt still about eating and body image. I’ll just say it, I don’t have a good body image. If I never saw my body in another photograph in my life, I wouldn’t be upset. It’s weird too because naked I am actually kind of like myself. Maybe that’s the key… disowning my clothes…
Anyways, anxiety about food leads to more anxiety. Shame and guilt and regret about food leads to this emotional stagnation as it is something I haven’t worked through yet. Every time I eat something and choose to ignore my body signals, the negative self talk comes in. Some people love eating because they love the taste of food. This used to be me, and when I get a meal that actually is seasoned well and TASTES good, it is pure heaven. The rest of the time I eat to serve my body, which often shows up as bland meals. If I didn’t feel hunger, I would give up food altogether. I don’t think meals need to be bland and as my body heals I will experiment more and more with tastes and textures, and I’m really excited for that.
I know my stomach issues are not just related to feelings around food either. I think that as we have these energy blockages of things unprocessed, they create backups in the body. If the energy isn’t moving it still has to express itself and for me, this is how it shows up. I am confident that as I move through my own growth process, these symptoms will start to naturally dissipate and I will be able to get off of all the supplements and adaptogens and maybe, eventually, the toilet.
Some of the things that help me stay on track and result in less anxiety around food are planning ahead, food prep, progress over perfection, “making the move about the move,” and working out.
Planning ahead and food prep are separate in my book though there is obvious overlap. One of my big food lifestyle killers is rushing. If there is one thing in my day that will take a backseat with regard to self care, it’s eating. So when I make a decision to eat better and I don’t plan my day and end up rushing, I end up just not eating. I plan ahead things like setting out my clothes in the morning or packing some snacks ahead of time.
Food prep is obvious. If you don’t have the healthy food available you can’t eat it.
Progress over perfection means I am calming down on days when I find myself stopping for a taco when I have worked 14 hours straight. Sometimes some food is better than no food and when I start to get to the point over sensory overload I know it’s likely because I need to eat. I don’t beat myself up anymore when that happens. I do try to make the best choices from what is available at the time though, and that helps.
Making the move about the move is a phrase coined by Mike Kemski. It means instead of looking at all of my issues and where I am at and where I want to be and getting overwhelmed and quitting, I make each decision or effort about that thing. It is like breaking down a HUGE goal into a thousand manageable pieces and then just choosing to have laser focus with that one piece you are currently interacting with. For me in this case that might mean I don’t feel like making a meal, I have to go to the store and find a recipe and get the food, and wash and cook veggies … So I break it down. I drive to the store and focus on making that the best drive. I then try to focus on having fun at the grocery store. I pick out the most beautiful looking produce. Each move is mindful and small and it makes tasks more manageable. You can do this with anything. I do this A LOT with work right now. Instead of hating the fact that I am work and in a toxic environment, I make each hour about what is happening in that space of time. I make it about giving the best patient and client experience, or I make it the best round of client phone calls I have ever made. The key though is to focus 1. on the task at hand, not the end “big” vision and 2. cultivating the feeling you desire. I did this this morning on the way to the gym. I did not want to get up and go. I kept telling myself how tired I was… Then I decided to have the most fun, energizing drive to the gym and I told myself I wasn’t actually that tired, it was just where my focus was and once that focus shifted, I actually felt a weight being lifted from my eyes and shoulders. Powerful stuff.
Getting to the gym has been crazy helpful. One on hand I think it is helping with my overall digestion. I think that it to do with movement of energy and blood flow. On the other hand I have gained a lot more pride in my body and have really started to take care of it in all aspects so it makes it easier to eat in a way that supports it. Our bodies are kind of critical, without them we wouldn’t be able to interact with the world. Trash them and decrease our longevity. I know it sounds stupid and simple because it is, but for me anyways, until I started honoring my body as the fine vessel that it is, I would go around treating it like shit, not considering it was a tool for all of these experiences in life. This is also where I put my plug in for water. I don’t really drink anything else. Water is totally cleansing and life giving and it also absorbs energy, so drinking enough of that not only makes sure your cells are happy but also promotes better emotional processing. Don’t believe me, check out these water experiments by Dr. Masuaru Emoto https://youtu.be/tAvzsjcBtx8.
There you have it, my long, sordid history surrounding food. My story is in no way unique. I have talked to so many friends that feel the same sort of negativity around body image and it is a constant struggle. My hope is that by opening up some of these conversations we can create a space for healing and moving past some of these antiquated ideals. ❤ ❤