Reading When Love is Food last week got me thinking about my relationship with food. There's no doubt in my mind that as a latchkey child I ate because I was lonely. I recall resting in our Naugahyde recliner with the television on eating Ritz crackers while watching the news about President Reagan being shot. My mom was working. I was home, eating.
Geneen Roth explores how adults are overweight because they used food to cope with issues that troubled them; issues they had no agency to control. As powerless children, the only way we could control any aspect of our lives was through eating. Or not eating as the case is with anorexics. Many over eaters are perfectionists, believe it or not. She says that compulsive eating is not about being hungry, it's about covering a childhood pain and until you know what the pain is about, the "you can't release yourself from it (123)."
Roth recommends one way of controlling the urge to eat when we're not hungry: Only order from a menu if something "hums." Unless it's exactly what you want, don't eat it.
Another interesting connection Roth makes is this: "While wanting to excel at a career we find satisfying, we will remain in jobs that bore us and do not use our talents. (129)" She also talks about remaining in unsatisfying relationships as well.
There are lots of jewels in her book. I like this thought as well "We are not to blame for what happened to us as children, but we are responsible for what we do with our pain as adults. At some point in our lives, we've got to stop being somebody's neglected baby." (145)
Admittedly, being lonely as a child is minor compared to physical, mental, and sexual abuse. Roth suggests that once you realize why you overeat, that you then take a year and eat anything and everything that you want. Diets are just another way of controlling our pain. Diets are a method of dealing with the pain rather than confronting our pain and getting angry at it. We spend so much time obsessing about food, thinking about our diets, about how many fat grams are in the cookie, and all sorts of other activities, that we can't see through it all to the heart of the matter.
Honestly, I love food. I love how it tastes, how it smells, how it feels. I wonder if alcoholicsfeel the same about liquor? I use food to self-medicate. When I have a headache, I prefer Ben & Jerry's because none of the OTC pills I take work, nor do the pitiful prescription pills, either.
So I've tried eating everything I want, and the scary part is that I've gained between 5-10 pounds. That's unsettling. Part of it too was that I was in Nashville over the weekend. I tend to eat more when great food is available. I eat after the point of being full because I hate wasting such good food. I paid for it, right? And I won't get to eat it again for another year or two, right? It's not like I have access to Loveless Cafe everyday.
Plus, I've sort of been exercising like mad, and that gives me the excuse to eat anything I want because I know I'll burn it off in no time. Oooops. I wasn't exercising as much as I planned, as I thought I would, because I got all cocky and injured my left knee and right thigh muscle.
I think the "eat all you want" exercise is good for about a week. I couldn't do it for a year. Yesterday I lunched on salad. Monday night I ate grilled tilapia. So getting on the scale this morning was the worst thing I could do after a weekend of indulgence. Because after I saw what I weighed, I ate deep-fried potato and cheese rounds rather than the mixed fruit bowl I had awaiting me at work. So, to punish myself even more, I add insult to injury. So productive. So effective. So old news and boring.
It's also a wake-up call. Salads for me. I know, this is all contrary to advice Roth gives. And so the point of this post is that I'm weak. I'm imperfect. I'll always love food. I can't take good advice and go with it, I have to try to do it the conventional way. That's all.