If my relationship with food had a status, mine would read “It’s complicated.” I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. In high school, I stopped eating. I lost weight and felt like it was working fine for me. Then, I nearly passed out when I was out with friends and when I got home, they told my mom. She checked my sugar and it was dangerously low. I became hypoglycemic when all I was trying to do was lose weight. I hated my body then because I wasn’t a size 2. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was healthy and beautiful the way I was. Now my goal is just to get back to that hated weight.
After that, my relationship with food worsened.
I hated food and yet loved eating. I binged when I was upset — it was a comfort mechanism. Add to that the fact that I am from the South, so food is at the center of everything. I didn’t realize I had a problem until years later. And then, even after realizing it, it took even longer to do something about it.
When you grow up in the South, food is inadvertently a big part of life. It’s ingrained into us, so much so that you don’t even realize it. Hanging out with friends? What are you planning to eat? Someone had surgery, a baby, or any number of things happen to them? We should make them something to eat. Don’t forget the church potluck on Sunday. Family dinner with granny on the weekends.
No wonder I didn’t realize there was a problem; food solved everything in my mind.
Food brought good memories for me. The smell of a cake fresh out of the oven reminded me of my grandmother who insisted on making my favorite — a simple yellow cake with rich chocolate icing — when we were there for a visit. I can still envision days at her house every time I smell the scent of it. A simple peanut butter sandwich brings back the memory of my oldest brother babysitting and fixing sandwiches for us. He made crunchy peanut butter sandwiches and I cried because I only liked smooth peanut butter. He made me another one and sat and ate the rejected sandwich with me at the table. I have no clue why that is the memory attached to peanut butter, but it is. These memories go on and on; certain scents bring back a flood of memories of happy times, family meals, and treasured memories.
I had a love-hate relationship with food in the way that I hated that I loved food.
I have gone on every diet in the book and failed every time. Don’t get me wrong; I would lose weight, but I would end up gaining it all back plus some because the diet didn’t address the real problem: my relationship with food. I tried restricting diets, low carb diets, Mediterranean diets, calorie counting diets. My weight became a yo-yo and my health wasn’t good at all. I felt discouraged, depressed and hopeless. Why couldn’t I succeed? Was I doomed to live in a body that didn’t feel like mine forever?
So what changed?
I finally realized the only way I was going to lose weight and keep it off was to finally address my relationship with food. The relationship I denied I needed help with for so long. The relationship that I hated so deeply. So I did. I let myself explore my feelings. I admitted that my relationship with food wasn’t healthy. I could lie and say this was easy, but it wasn’t. It was hard; it took a lot of really looking deep into myself and seeing my flaws, flaws which I had tried to hide for so long. Exposing those flaws was mortifying, but I knew it also meant I could finally do the work to address them.
Now I am well into my new way of eating (seven weeks) and still addressing my relationship with food. I am working to balance my love of cooking and baking and my new healthy lifestyle. I still love baking for people to show my love and appreciation for them, but I am in a place where I no longer have to eat my feelings, although some days are harder than others. This isn’t something that goes away overnight; it’s something I have to actively work on daily, but it’s worth it. As of the time I am writing this post, I am down over 21 pounds and over 7 inches.