Friday, August 10, 2018


A while back, in an online forum, someone wrote about having once been obsessed with their weight, in a bad way. They went on to give in evidence -- well, everything that I'm doing. Tracking everything. Carefully measuring weight and girth daily. Planning food intake carefully and following the plan exactly. This, she said, was her unhealthy obsession. She didn't want to do that again. She just wanted to lose weight.

So I mulled that over for a while. I suppose one person's unhealthy obsession is another person's due diligence. I feel less obsessed -- less hagridden -- by food than I have ever felt. It's true that I plan and track. But when I'm not shopping, cooking, eating, recording -- I'm not thinking about it. I used to fret about food a lot, and I spent a surprising amount of time "deciding what to eat." Mealtimes nevertheless came upon me suddenly, causing chaos and dismay. What should I eat? What did Martha want to eat? What should we do, at that tangled intersection of spending and indulgence and health risk and consumerism and HOW CAN WE SOLVE IT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OH MY GOD I'M STARVING?

I used to eat so much more, and yet I was starving so often. The hunger was brutal. People with unbroken appetites have no idea how hungry we get.

I only get that hungry now if I've missed a meal by a couple hours. The uncertainty itself was a big contributor. If I didn't know what I was going to eat -- and knowing there was a part of myself that would try to stop me from eating what I wanted to -- there was a mounting anxiety as the hunger sharpened, and it all came to a crisis, and something had to be done immediately. There was no way to satisfy all the contending, contradictory demands, and the way of sheer indulgence glowed brighter and brighter and easier and easier before me. There was no way to do it right; but by God I could do it wrong in style! And not much later, I'd be eating epic quantities of takeout pork fried twice, followed by ice cream, followed by wheat thins. Eating my way through the evening. Maybe eating right would start tomorrow.

I have a hard time seeing my present way of eating as more obsessive than that. Yes, I plan it all. Yes, I write it all down (which takes about twenty seconds, with standard abbreviations. A typical food day's diary entry looks like this: "8/6/18 hb, al+b, chili, salad, hd, orange.")

And it's just food. It's not self-worth, or appreciation of art; it's not a moral triumph or a collapse into self-indulgence. It's just food. I like it. I eat it up. When I'm done I forget about till my next meal -- also planned, also ready to go. If this is obsession, so be it. I'll take it over my former experience, gladly.


am said...

"So I mulled that over for a while. I suppose one person's unhealthy obsession is another person's due diligence."

I agree. What I do that has freed me from a lifetime of struggling with food is similar to what you do. It has freed me in ways I could never even imagine before. My weight has remained stable for 30 years. I enjoy every meal. There is no longer an unhealthy never-ending drama around food and weight.

Sabine said...

I really admire your dedication and due diligence. It's self respect you are writing about.

When I left home to go to uni, I was obsessed with food for a while. Not to the extent of an eating disorder - there was too much other stuff happening - but mainly because I suddenly could eat anything. My parents were strict about so many things and proper food was one of them. Proper meaning three square meals, homecooked, no foreign vegs or heaven forbid weird condiments such as ketchup. The worst part was that we always had to finish what was on our plate. No left overs. No waste. There is of course an underlying story here, namely my mother's experience during and after WWII.

So when finally, I was able to indulge myself with fastfood and strangely coloured desserts for a few years, I blissfully ate my way through the various food isles (until the health food wave arrived and I married a vegetable gardener who can bake and make cheese).

What I learned during those years - mostly due to my restricted budget - is that there is always another day and that food is basically unimportant because there is more than enough of it, reversing my mother's urgency to eat fast and to eat it up and if possible, even more.

Dale said...

Am, you've been so helpful to me in this process!

Dale said...

Sabine -- ai, yes, food acquires so much meaning! My own family background made my eating an arena for the fight between rationalism and romanticism, among many other things. It's wonderful to have food dwindle down to being just food :-)