It got me thinking. There’s this stereotype that women eat when they’re sad or hurting or stressed or angry. It’s this whole idea of food as comfort. I don’t, though. When I get stressed or angry or scared or anxious or whatever, I do not eat — I don’t even mean I don’t eat more; I mean I have to force myself to eat even one meal a day.
As I was riding my motorcycle today, I realized I was slightly dizzy, light-headed with a funny creeping ’round the edges of my vision. It happens sometimes (not often) if I don’t eat; I think it’s some combination of low blood sugar and the pretty much constant semi-dehydration I (and many women) have. I’ve just been super stressed lately, so I haven’t been eating as much.
And the thing is, I love food. I love preparing it, I love eating it, and I savor each meal. I have very strong opinions about restaurants, and where I will and will not eat. I know food is fuel for our bodies, but it’s more than that — it’s a social lubricant, it’s a decadent pleasure, it’s something to reward yourself with. It’s weird to examine my relationship with food and weight now.
I think my parents did a pretty good job with me in both regards. I mean, my dad can’t cook for beans, but my parents both taught me to eat in moderation, to try the food set before me and not just turn up my nose, to save desserts and cookies and treats for a reward. I ate apples and oranges as snacks and never considered it a loss. My dad introduced me to things like artichoke hearts and foreign cheeses. My mom taught me to prepare meals with a meat, a dairy, a fruit, and a vegetable. I didn’t even realize they were teaching me the basics of healthy eating, and simply internalized their lessons.
But they did more than that for me. Mom and dad never seemed to care what my weight was. They never teased me about being too thin or too heavy. I didn’t read fashion magazines or watch a lot of t.v. (I preferred books), so I never really internalized all the social/ media body-loathing messages. I mean, I wasn’t naive as a teenager, I knew body issues existed. I knew there were some skinny girls who fretted and stressed about their weight, and some heavy girls who tried diet after diet to no avail. In a sort of detached sort of way, I knew I would probably get much heavier after I had kids — mom had, so it looked like my metabolism would probably slow down.
I was aware of all that, but it was all sort of theoretical. I liked who I was, I liked my body. I liked my squishy belly and my curved hips and my small breasts. I liked the way my eyes looked at night, and the way my hair shimmered gold under lamplight. I generally liked me.
I don’t really like me anymore. I mean, I do — I still have nice eyes and hair, and I carry my extra weight well. I wear minimal make-up, have nice skin, and dress both modestly and fashionably. But at the same time, I’m heavier. I no longer can buy my clothes in the teen section, like I could up until I was 21. I have a pudgier belly, and even if the rest of my weight is distributed well, the belly bothers me. I remind myself that even though I’d like to lose 30-40 lbs, it’s only for cosmetic reasons — I’m active, I like to walk and hike, I have low blood sugar, and every doctor’s visit basically has me coming up healthy as roses.
For all that, I mostly just want to hide and not talk to people. Part of me is angry that I even care; part of me wishes I had a much more complicated relationship with food so I could do some sort of unhealthy diet rollercoaster thing to lose weight.
It’s annoying. Intellectually, I know I’m healthy and I look nice. But emotionally, I want to be the same size I was when I was 21.