To my disappointment, but not to my surprise, I stepped on the scale at my doctor’s office last week and discovered I’ve gained nearly 15 lbs this year. In the first few weeks after my dad’s death eating was an afterthought, and for the first time since my son was born, I had to wear a belt to hold my pants up instead as a useless accessory. After the haze wore off and the reality of my loss came crashing down, I turned back to my old friend food for comfort, and food knowingly obliged. Too sad to be bothered with cooking, I head to Budacki’s Drive-In for a veggie dog or pop in a pizza and stare at the TV while I soothe myself with its salty, cheesy goodness. I know it’s not good, but I have no motivation to stop.
My relationship with food took a turn for the unusual in high school. I can’t say for sure what triggered it, but I often found myself hoarding junk food and binging on it. While I was eating I was dizzy with joy, then immediately afterward I hated myself. In health class we learned all about anorexia and bulimia, but I didn’t have those, so I figured I was OK. A pig, maybe, but OK. What I’ve come to realize as I’ve gotten older and really looked into my struggle with food and guilt is that I’ve spent all this time unwittingly battling an eating disorder – compulsive overeating.
Blame our culture’s disdain for cellulite, blame the fact that most Americans are overweight anyway – but for whatever reason, there just isn’t as much awareness around food addition, nor is there as much support. I don’t mean to offend anyone with my hypothesis, but I can only assume that it’s not nearly as tragic for most people to picture someone eating an entire box of Oreos and then hating herself for it as it is to see an image of an 80 lb adult woman struggling with anorexia or bulimia – so it’s not widely regarded as a serious problem. Like me, many compulsive overeaters go completely unnoticed because the addiction itself may or may not take it’s toll on one’s physical appearance. In non-PC terms, I’m not fat nor am I thin, so most people don’t know I have a problem with food.
Anyway, I took the first step of facing my problem some years ago. When I turned 30 I was determined to take control of my life – I worked out, I ate sensibly… then things got crazy at work and I found myself opting to watch Deadliest Warrior with a bowl of Cheetos in my lap instead of running. I had a million excuses, but the truth is, I’m always thinking about eating. Food is like a hug from my mom – it’s all I want when things are good, it’s all I want when things are bad. When I would diet, I would think about how great it would be when I was skinny and I could eat crap again. When I work out, the motivation is so that I can eat more calories. I divide my day according to when I get to eat, and I spend the non-eating hours thinking about what I will eat as soon as it’s a socially acceptable time to eat again. While I eat my morning oatmeal I’m thinking about how good my lunch will be. I watch the clock until 11am when I know it’s time to eat my apple. As soon as lunch is over just after noon I tell myself “2 o’clock – tea and a granola bar.” Then comes dinner, then comes ice cream before bed.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking, “Apple? Granola? So you’re addicted to healthy food. I weep for you.” That’s what I eat at work, and in front of people. What people don’t see are the crazed candy bar binges, the times when I stand by the stove cooking dinner and shoveling jellybeans into my mouth. Up until a few weeks ago I almost always had an emergency donut in my desk drawer. The days when I work from home and eat two lunches, prefaced and chased with whatever candy I can scavenge from my 5-year-old. But what’s worse than the food itself, which varies from pretty healthy to downright disgusting, is the way I feel about it. Guilty and helpless. Food should never victimize you. Which is why I’m writing this post…
Last week I was asked to participate in a 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge sponsored by Whole Foods. My first instinct was to delete the email. I don’t believe in diets (they’ve never been a long term solution for me) and I hate the idea of obsessing about my weight. It’s never been about a number on a scale or the size of my clothes for me, but rather, a lack of control over myself when it comes to things I know are bad for me. But when I took a look at the plan, which includes eating a Plant-Strong diet for 28 days, weekly check-ins and various classes on healthy cooking and eating, I figured it as worth a shot. I also decided that posting occasionally about the program will keep me motivated.
As a vegetarian, and a former vegan, I’m a step ahead for the first two weeks of the program. Week one involves cutting dairy, week two is going meatless. Cool. Done. Week three? Cooking without oil and avoiding added oils in the food I buy. Oh blerg. By week four I’m not eating processed sugar, no peanuts for whatever reason… Let’s just take this one step at a time, shall we? After all, I am the girl who brought Pizza Cupcakes into this world.
So on Tuesday my friend Stacie and I are headed to the kick off dinner at Whole Foods followed by a screening of Forks Over Knives. On Thursday I head back to the store to re-learn how to grocery shop, and next week there’s a check-in and a class on using greens. I probably won’t post super often about this because I’ll be busy with SugarSlam and posting new recipes for hideous, delicious junk food – but I’ll throw something up here once in a while for anyone who is curious.
Most of my observations and complaining will be done on Twitter, so follow me there if you want to see how I’m doing. And be sure to leave comments if you’re taking the challenge too. I definitely want to hear how it’s going for you.
In closing: Less talk, more tacos.
*The artwork in this post is by the strange and wonderful Betty Turbo.