Food, Ubiquitous Food February 15, 2015Posted by J. in Genius.
This might seem obvious, but did you realize that food is EVERYWHERE?
Seriously, it is.
I mean, I knew that. I think everyone knows that on some level. But I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. Particularly since I’ve been having a hell of a hard time getting back on track since the holidays. I relaxed, I enjoyed myself, and I ate what I wanted. Good food was everywhere, but that’s what the holidays are about, right? It must be, because that’s what I heard for a good, solid month. “Oh, it’s only one time a year! Splurge a little! It’s okay!”
And so I put on fifteen pounds, ten of which are refusing to come back off.
And it’s frustrating. But the truth is, I’m sliding. I’ve been sliding since Thanksgiving and while I haven’t quite let go completely, all I’ve managed to do is slow the slide. I had hoped I’d be able to just take a little break and maintain what I’ve achieved so far, but getting back up over 190 is not a happy place for me to be because it’s too fat. I can’t and won’t settle for that. Because the next thing you know, I’m settling for 200. And then it’s 210. And you see where this is going. I know I do. I’ve done it before. I’ve been here, and this road leads to fat pants.
What’s been happening isn’t anything huge, so much as it is a bunch of little things, and all those things center around the fact that food is EVERYWHERE.
Things like dining out. It’s hard for me. Because food is everywhere. The menu is packed with yummy things that I love, and there are a precious few healthy options that I should have. So I sit down with all these options and order the broiled chicken or grilled steak and steamed veggies and watch sweet potato fries and bacon cheeseburgers go by. After two years, it sucks. You want to eat like a normal person. You want to go out to eat and order something you wouldn’t make at home. So that’s what I do. I tell myself it’s not everyday that we go out, I don’t eat like this all the time, I can make better choices tomorrow…
Unfortunately for me, a lot of those times the reason I wouldn’t make them at home is that there’s a full day’s calorie allotment in one portion. Eat half? Surely, you jest. I’m a binge eater, a volume eater, and a compulsive eater. Short of having them bring me half an order and throwing the other half out before it gets to the table, that’s not going to happen, even if I had the inclination to ask for it.
And yet, “Let’s go out to eat” is a phrase I hear a lot. Because food goes with socializing. Food is fun. Food is celebration. It’s communion, and community. It brings people together. It gives you something to do with your hands while you’re making conversation.
I’ve been giving thought to food as things other than fuel when my friend Polly remarked (while out to dinner, of course) how she never really realized that food is EVERYWHERE. I knew what she meant. She said that we live in a world where you practically don’t have to search out food, like ever. It shows up where you are if you just wait for it. She didn’t realize it until her lifestyle changed and she found herself needing to cut her calorie intake back. And even though I’ve been eating mindfully for a long time, the idea that you never have to seek out food is one I’ve not really fully contemplated.
But I got to thinking about it when I recently directed someone to my blog. I write about food a lot, specifically my relationship to it and how it’s had to change in order for me to lose as much weight as I have, and to have kept it off. Well, mostly, anyway. I think it was fortuitous that I read it when I did, because in my first post about losing weight and what I was attempting to do, I hit on the key.
Food is fuel, and if food is anything other than fuel, your eating is disordered. You need to put food in its place.
I’ve been wanting to “eat like a normal person” for a long time. It pains me that I can’t go into a restaurant and order whatever the hell I want off the menu. I love the convenience of being able to toss a Lean Pocket in my lunch bag to take to work. Or going through the checkout at the grocery store and saying, “Hey, I’d love a Chunky!” and buying it, and eating it without worrying how far over my calorie limit it would put me, or what good food I’m going to have to cut out to come in under, or how much longer I’ll have to stay on the elliptical, or what the sugars are doing to my metabolism.
When I say “normal people,” I mean people who are in a healthy weight range for their body and don’t have issues with food. In talking to people who are not like me, I’ve learned that most people who maintain a steady weight don’t think much about food. They eat half a meal and just leave the rest on a plate. They stop eating when they are full. They don’t look at the fries left on their friend’s plate and physically ache to finish them.
I’ve never understood that until I had an alcoholic friend who used to tend bar. I asked her once how she could stand it. She said it wasn’t the drinks that bothered her. It was when someone would order a drink and leave some in the glass. That’s what she wanted. What they were done with. She couldn’t understand how someone could leave booze in the glass. It wasn’t how her mind related to alcohol, and the urge to finish it was what was hard.
I have the exact same feeling about seeing a half eaten slice of pizza, or a piece of birthday cake that someone has decided had “too much frosting” on it and they’ve left most of it on the plate. Too much frosting? WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
The urge to clean someone else’s plate is really not normal. Not when you think about it.
So they put a bowl of peanuts on our table and Polly and looked at them for awhile. “Food is just everywhere,” she said, and before long, we were shelling them and popping them in our faceholes. We both acknowledged that we weren’t hungry. I mean, I’d just finished a big bowl of chili full of meat and beans and even ate the tortilla chips that came with it, even though I didn’t need the extra calories.
I’m not even a fan of in-the-shell peanuts. But they were there. So I ate them.
And that’s the kind of thing I’ve been doing. Well, the candy is there, so a piece won’t hurt. Maybe it won’t at that. Only I can’t have one piece, so one piece is a bad idea. Maybe having peanut butter toast every night and sometimes in the afternoon isn’t the world’s worst food choice, but I know my body well enough to know that it’s not the best choice, either. It’s comfort food, and I eat it because I’m depressed (even though the new meds are helping a lot). Maybe eating half a pizza after spending an hour in the gym isn’t making me fat, but it’s for sure not making me thinner, either.
They’re all little things, but what they are for me are bad habits, and they’ve gone from being set aside, to being added bit by bit (all things in moderation!), to taking over again.
So when I had the occasion to be directed to my own blog and I read my own words about what I was eating and how I felt about it two years ago, I had to stop and reevaluate what’s been going on with me and food.
We’re getting dysfunctional again.
In “Please Pass the Kale“, I wrote about my epiphany with how good food makes me feel good. That I had discovered that yes, my body responds positively to healthy, whole foods, and it responds negatively to processed, empty calories. I talked about keeping my food journal and using it as a tool to help me eat mindfully. It should slow me down and make me consider what I’m choosing. I talked about how I lamented the loss of the foods I love. Even though I choose not to eat them, I miss them when they’re not part of my life. I talked about how hard it was to get to that point and what I went through mentally to get there. But I wrote this almost two years ago:
My body is responding to being crap-free. The better I eat, the better I feel, and that’s the truth. I find out new things all the time. I’ve discovered that artificial sweeteners make me crave sugar, but pure cane sugar doesn’t. I might have either an allergy or a sensitivity to MSG. Processed foods make working out harder, where whole foods improve my performance.
I know these things! This is knowledge I’ve gained already and somehow forgotten. Or conveniently shoved aside in the name of “eating like a normal person”, more likely.
In truth, I’ve been telling myself that I’m doing everything right, when I’m really letting a lot slide. Maybe I feel like it’s not enough to matter, but the scale says otherwise. I really needed to sit down and look at what’s been going on, read through my journal and look at it as if it was someone else’s, and fix what’s gone wrong. And if I’m being honest, there’s a lot that was wrong.
The biggest thing I have to come to terms with the fact that I am programmed to eat the way I eat because I’m not like other people. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, I have to eat in a way that works for my body, and that means getting back to all those basics I spoke of way back at the beginning of this whole thing. The truth is, I have to really come to terms with the fact that no, I will never eat like a normal person, because I relate to food abnormally. I’m not normal in that respect, so I have to compensate and do the things that will keep me at a steady, healthy weight.
It’s information that’s good to know, but at the same time, it’s not great news, either.
I continued to read, and I reread my post about what it was like for me to have hernia surgery and deal with some down time while my body healed and recovered. And the feelings I had then of sliding, and struggling to find a toehold and get back to where I was are so much like what I’m going through right now.
But it’s really hard to get back to where I was, and find the discipline I need to make those changes. I need to do the mental work again, and use my brain to put food back to where it needs to be.
…I had to fight my way back to good habits, and I’ll tell you right now, it takes a long time to establish good habits, but no time at all to get the bad ones back. And as I was trying to claw my way back from gluttony and sloth, I was coming off of the Vicodin, and that’s a process that apparently comes with anxiety, restlessness, and full on bitch mode. And a fair amount of soreness, too, in my own defense.
I almost punched Larry in the face for eating pretzels. I was incapable of making the calm request that he not bring shit food into the house and eat it ALL FUCKING DAY LONG when I’m living like a goddamn monk and resenting every minute of it.
After a couple of days, I calmed down, but I’m still envious of people who can and do eat everything they want. Sometimes I miss eating without counting the cost, and that sometime is right now.
I also realized that sitting still for two weeks made me remember the old me. Walking tired me out and made me sore. I just wanted to sit and eat, and I did. I gave into cravings. I binged. The only difference between the old me and the new one is that while I was acting like the old me, I missed the new me. I didn’t like not wanting to move. It reminded me of the aches and pain that come with being fat keeping me from going out for a walk. I didn’t like eating whatever was easy, because that’s how I got so fat to begin with. I really didn’t like my super-loose pajama pants fitting again, or not being able to get into my jeans. I didn’t like looking thick around the middle again. Or having my shoes feel too snug.
I knew it was temporary from the surgery, but it made me feel the way I used to. It was unsettling at times.
Only this time, it’s not temporary from the surgery. The weight I’ve gained is real weight, and it’s not going to come off without extra work.
I had to turn to a fresh page in my food journal and really come to terms with a few facts I know about how my body and mind relate to food:
1. I cannot have cheat days unless, for some reason, I’m going to be physically unable to avoid shitty foods and/or find healthy foods. These occasions are rare. No more giving myself permission to eat what I want in a restaurant because tomorrow is another day. No more half a pizza because tomorrow is another day.
2. I have to avoid packaged food. Not all of it, but certainly the worst of it. No more throwing a Hot Pocket in my lunch bag because it’s easy and yummy. I’ve put the bread and English muffins in the freezer, because eating toast every day is working against me. I know that simple carbs from packaged foods slow me down.
3. No more working out like a fucking maniac so that I can go home and consume all the calories I just burned in pure, unadulterated shit. I just did 45 minutes on the Arc, burned 600 calories…I’m going to eat 300 of those calories back in Doritos! No. Not anymore. It’s why I’m still fat.
Less fat, to be sure, but still fat.
4. I have to eat more whole foods. Meat. Vegetables. Fruit. Dairy. Whole grains. I can cook. I still don’t love produce, but I can make it palatable.
And I’m not fucking happy about any of this, either. Know this. Right now, I’m hangry as a motherfucker.
I would cut a bitch for some pie. I want food, and I want lots of it. My body is craving shit food, and fighting that is killing me. I’m sluggish and slow in my workouts because I’m still trying to get back to the foods that make my body work great. It’s going to take a little bit. And I’m kinda bitchy right now because of it.
I hate saying “no” all the time. No, I can’t go out to eat. No, I don’t want some candy. No pizza for me, I’ve got my dinner in the fridge. No, I don’t want you pick up English muffins for me this week.
Doris A. Christ, I love toast.
And the food is everywhere. It is ubiquitous. I don’t have to look for it, it just fucking LANDS. And the food makes me angry. Other people eating food makes me angry. It won’t always be this way, but right now, it kind of sucks. It sucks that I’ll never be normal–that my impulses where food is concerned will never be normal, and that I’ll have to spend my life constantly over-riding my own basic programming.
So I take it one day at a time. I concentrate on staying under my calorie limit. I work out for the sake of getting stronger, faster, and healthier and not because doing so will allow me to eat more. I’m still not calling anything off limits. I don’t believe in “bad food” or banishing things because they are unhealthy. But the choice is mine to eat them or not, and at some point down the road, maybe I’ll get to a place where I can figure out exactly how much leeway I have. That time isn’t now. For now, I just say “later,” and stick with the basics.
The truth is, I’m back to where I started in a way. Before I first posted. I’m trying. I’m re-figuring out what I need to do and trying to get in the groove of it. I know it will get back to where it’s easy again, because that’s what it’s done so far.
This time, it’s going to be different. This is where I’ve always failed, and today, this week, right now, I will not let that happen.
This is my choice.