Food not so glorious food
*Originally posted 1/25/17
Don't we just love our Food*.
We are just so into it.
Countless TV shows, magazines, podcasts, Food tours and festivals. Recipe books by the tonne and Pinterest boards to drool over for days. Terms like Food Porn abound and chefs are the new celebrity in this modern culture of the Foodie.
"Foodie" - a person who has an avid interest in the latest Food fads.
I always believed I was into Food, I thought I loved it. A Foodie before that word had become part of the vernacular. In fact, as a kid I had dreams of becoming a chef. Baking was my favourite though I quickly switched to savoury cooking when I became a vegetarian at age 11.
I spent lots of time in the kitchen with Mum as a kid. I looked through magazines and cookbooks with her and have a very strong memory of the first time we brought and eggplant home. We stared at it for long minutes, then finally chopped it up, salted it and did our best. This was pre-internet times (yes, that was a thing) so we had to figure it out as we went along. It took a few shots before we nailed it but we eventually settled on roasting it. It's a very good Food memory. I don't have many good ones though I'm sure many more will emerge as I come to grips with Food, so this is one of the strongest. Mum was supportive of my journey into vegetarianism, and 30 years later I am happy to report that I am still a vegetarian and can make much more interesting meals with eggplants and other assorted vegetables.
What I didn't understand at the time was that I was simultaneously developing a form of addiction to Food. I was thinking about Food constantly and already sneaking extra delicious morsels from the fridge or pantry. If Mum baked for afternoon tea (and she almost always did, bless her) I would sneak into our dim walk-in pantry (a rare thing back then), shut the door and then sneak in seconds or thirds. Hiding in the semi-darkness, telling myself that no one would notice if I took yet another tiny slice from the cake. And, seemingly, no one did.
So began the cycle of sneaking Food, overeating and deep shame of and disgust with myself. I remember doing this from age 10, but only after countless therapy sessions. Those memories were buried deep and have been excruciating to excavate.
One of the most interesting things I have discovered about myself post-intensive-therapy is that I have actually always either passionately loved or utterly detested Food, mostly the latter.
The relationship I have had with it has been strong and went far beyond simple cravings. I was obsessed with where my next nibble would come from and what it would be. I sought comfort in every bite and learned that bingeing was a very efficient way of keeping the demons in my head at bay. For a little while.
This behaviour ebbed and flowed throughout my life until a few years ago, at age 40 when I finally started to sit up and pay attention.
And when I did it hit me hard. Foolishly thinking it a good place to start (according to Facebook no doubt) I attempted to practice mindful eating but I began having panic attacks and developed such a strong sensation of swelling and fullness in my mouth at the thought of eating that I became nauseous. As if my tongue were a revolting foreign object in my mouth which must be expelled. Yet that didn't stop me from eating, I just had to go faster and harder and get it over with. Ironic to think that I would still manage to eat when the very thought of it physically sickened me. I have since discovered that therapy is actually the correct place to start, a good reminder to stop asking Dr Google for solutions. Yet this first attempt was at least a step towards the better path.
Anyone with bulimia will tell you about their own version of this conflict. It is a very strange way to live and it inhabits the brain 100% of your waking hours.
If you are ever eating a meal with someone in recovery from ED** I encourage you to consider the invisible struggle they are facing. It is very distressing and distracting. Oh, the hours of my life I have wasted thinking about Food. It makes me wildly angry and sad to think of how counter-productive that has been for my own personal success. I grieve constantly over this to this day.
I have been a Mother now for 12 years, in fact, my small teeny tiny baby girl had her braces put on today. Time is evaporating. As a Mother this Food love/hate situation has been extremely challenging. For the first ten years of Motherhood I was in the closet, completely unaware of my own behaviours and I suppose believing my daughter wasn't impacted by it. The jury is out on that front.
Cooking for my family was already a challenge because I am a vegetarian and they are not but never too big a deal. In more recent years, however, the evening meal has become a constant source of anxiety for me. Since "coming out" as a bulimic-in-recovery, my perfectionist self-critic has reared all of it's very ugly and enormous heads. I began forcing myself to attempt new recipes, to get creative, all the while expecting my family to dislike them. Heaven forbid they wouldn't, the repercussions were particularly over the top. I became a shouter. Tantrums and sulking and stormy moods ensued. I was setting myself up to fail and it was working. At the same time I was constantly forgetting to make a decent vegetarian component within each meal for myself and as a result I was even more cranky and constipated (too much information?) and frustrated.
Vicious cycle much?
I convinced myself that I was useless, hopeless and a big fat waste of time in the kitchen.
This has been my truth over the past couple of years. I somehow exchanged destructive eating habits with anxiety-ridden kitchen experiences. Saboteur. That should be my middle name.
I have been doing some deep thinking, much aided by the anxiety meds I've been on for about a year (we can discuss that further later, but let's hear it for the meds!) which have given my brain some peace and space in which to think and analyse in a more sensible fashion. For the most part I am no longer a shouter though you'll have to check in with my family for a more honest assessment on that front. Things have been improving since Christmas Day 2016.
As Australians living in Canada the way we spend Christmas varies. Sometimes we are in the Land Down Under soaking up the sunshine with cousins aplenty but this Christmas past we were home in Toronto. We made no plans, had too many Christmas Eve drinkies with friends (speaking for myself) and scheduled a Star Wars viewing for Boxing Day. I can honestly say that on the Christmas Days we spend at home I actually love cooking. Truly. I really indulge in the time I can spend doing just that one thing. I plan a simple menu including something exciting for myself to eat, turn up the Christmas music, reach for some bubbly and just cook. It's the only time I feel relaxed in the kitchen. I have an almost new kitchen in our recently renovated house. I love our kitchen, it's the first one we've built from the ground up and find it very relaxing just being in there chatting to our cats or watching the birds in our yard. It is a space for conversation, dancing, making plans and even cooking. Every night when I switch off the lights I look around and smile to myself. The space gives me so much pleasure.
Not a bad spot for work on kickstarting that new relationship with Food.
So far in 2017, without even realising it, I have managed to make myself a decent dinner almost every single night. I can't overstate what a big deal this is for me. Feeding myself something that is healthy and nutritious is the highest form of self-love I can imagine at this point. I hope to discover a new favourite every month and will share the recipes here once I get organised. My lunches are not always as successful and that 3pm urge to binge often rears it's ugly head but consistency in one meal can only lead to the same for the others.
Finally I have found some confidence. It's very much a work in progress but I feel that for the first time in 30 years, Food and I might actually become friends.
Note: *I have capitalised the F in Food to highlight that is is more of a pronoun in my life than a regular noun.
**ED -Eating Disorder