I can’t believe I’m saying this: I watched Oprah tonight, and it connected with me.
I can be sarcastic or silly about my usual opinions towards Oprah Winfrey’s TV talk show, but instead I need to write out my thoughts before I push them aside in favor of something more numbing, more comfortable. The show’s topic–our relationships with food and what it means on a deeper level–is a springboard into the deep end of a pool so uncomfortable for me that I threw away my bathing suit and drained the water. I don’t even want to go near this topic on a serious level because of how it makes me feel.
But I’m going to anyway.I consider this post just for me and my reflection, but I wanted it public in case someone else knows what this is like.
Tonight’s episode of Oprah featured author Geneen Roth and her newest book Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. I know, I know–it says “God” and because of that I’m supposed to wail and snark about how silly that is. Well I say forget it! “God” as it is called in the title, is speaking about the deep awe in a “bigger life” and connection we feel that goes beyond the cares of our daily grind. And as a secular person, even I can get behind that. I know how it feels to be content in the moment, amazed, and fulfilled. That’s what Roth is calling “god”.
Women Food and God is about addressing the deeper reasons why women (and men) reach for food when they’re not hungry, and what those actions reveal about our core beliefs about ourselves. This is the topic I threw away a swimsuit to avoid.
My Relationship with Food
Right before I started on this post, I crumpled up some used fast food wrappers I’d left on my desk after dinner and stuffed a finished two litre bottle of Pepsi (the sugary kind which I don’t like, but I drank “for the team” to get it out of the house) in the recycling bin. This is a perfect illustration of my worst eating habits.
I enjoy tasty comfort foods. I more often than not choose processed foods over fresh made meals. Convenience is a tremendously high priority for me; My desired activities after work are spending time with my long distance boyfriend over Skype and relaxing at my computer or going out with a friend. Everything uncomfortable, responsible, stressful, or boring is avoided as much as possible. This includes taking the time to plan, shop for, prepare, and cook healthy meals. This also includes sleep, and so after getting ~5 hours a night, I wake up as late as I can get away with, run out the door, and never plan for how to take care of those distracting hunger pangs that hit me as soon as I get to the office. I swear they put crack cocaine in those sausage McGriddles at McDonalds. I won’t even tell you how often I’ve indulged in that unhealthy delight.
Food is what I use to fill myself: to fill the time with something to do; to fill the silence of boredom and loneliness with something satisfying and enjoyable; to fill up a figurative dam I use to hold back discomforts like anxiety, fear, self-criticism, and disappointment. People use a lot of things to fill those needs: work, alcohol, sex, shopping, exercise, religion, and a host of others. I eat for fun, too. I love going out with friends and having the atmosphere of a bustling restaurant and the delicious food magically appear before us. Conversations and connections happen around meals. Social activities revolve around eating together–even if it’s a snack in front of a movie or a coffee at Starbucks. Food is a bridge to something enjoyable for all of us, I think. That’s why I know I have the ability to abuse this good thing and turn it into an issue instead of a nourishing necessity.
How It Started
My parents never really taught me about balanced eating habits. My dad was healthy and slim and he ran every day, but he never spoke about those things with us in the way that inspired me to follow suit. I avoided discomfort, remember, and that most definitely includes exercise which brings asthma attacks, sweat, pain, and embarrassment.
My mother, on the other hand, has dealt with her own unhealthy relationship to food for years. I’ve watched her yo-yo a number of times, limit her diet in different ways, and seek god about how to fix it. Even with all of that, though, I never really learned how to nurture my body with food and cook it in a nutritious way for myself.
All of this made me the “fat girl” in school by default. The cycle just perpetuated itself: I would overeat, gain weight, feel bad about myself, eat, gain weight, hate myself…. You get the picture. I never felt cute, pretty, or lovable growing up. Typical adolescent issues, of course. But it always had to do with my weight. I was always surprised when a boy liked me, and I would do anything to keep him liking me. Anything.
I could go on about these other big topics in my life, but the relationship that illustrates it all is with food.
I desperately want:
- love and acceptance from everyone. Unrealistic, but it’s on the list.
- a slim, fit body. I have been convinced this is what inspires love and acceptance.
- joy and contentment, duh.
- other loving, caring relationships in my life: I miss having deep friends; I want to be with my boyfriend long term; I want my family to adore me.
- success in my dreams and goals. Hell, i just want to nail down what those are!
- no fear, no worries, and no regrets.
How I can treat myself to get there:
- I can start by realizing that I can’t run from difficult or uncomfortable feelings and situations. It won’t solve them, and I cause myself more pain when I eat to numb them or distract myself.
- I must love and accept myself first. Being kind to myself instead of berating and insulting myself when I make mistakes, bad choices, or something goes wrong. What good would it do to insult someone who’s suffering? Exactly.
- Give joy to get joy. I volunteered recently and it was so much fun! I want to keep giving and contributing, because that is when my heart feels the lightest.
- Cultivate meaningful relationships based on love and encouragement. This means ditching poisonous people, being honest, and being proactive about making friendships.
- Work on practical, nurturing ways to eat food. I can learn how to cook better. I can learn how to plan meals ahead. I can save money by not eating out which can go towards other important things.
- Dunno yet! I’m working on figuring all this out. Maybe… just maybe I’ll be able to improve the inner me in order to work on the outer me.
I’m physically and mentally tired. My ideas are scattered out to sea somewhere. Frankly, I want to move on from this topic and I’m afraid I can’t articulate it how I wish. I’m going to publish this odd assortment of reflections and hope for the best!