It’s always weird talking about my relationship with food.
I’ve pretty much always known what kinds of foods were “good” or “healthy,” and I’ve known how to read nutrition labels since I could read. Pretty much my entire life, my mom counted fat and calories, and did it successfully. And then wanted me to be successful in counting my calories, too. There was a time, in high school and college, where I kept a journal of what I ate, diligently, complete with fat, calories, and calories from fat. It was tedious, but helped me lose a few pounds. In college, I dabbled in Atkins, so I counted carbs instead.
In any case, I’ve more-or-less always known what I should and shouldn’t eat. Which made me all the more offended when the physician-recommended nutritionist insisted during a phone consultation that she’d give me a tour of a supermarket.
Back then, when I was morbidly obese, I still knew how to read nutrition labels. I just chose not to. Because, you know, eating only when I was hungry was definitely the way to keep up my girlish figure.
When I started Weight Watchers, I was pretty damn angry. I insisted that I would continue to eat butter because the reduced-fat spreads were just SO processed and full of chemicals. That first week, I was also pretty damn hungry because I chose to put crap like butter on my toast (or whatever).
When I started Crossfit, I started considering other kinds of foods that would work within my points range, but perhaps make me feel better.
And then my outlook on healthy foods just sort of changed. Right now, my fridge is packed with unsweetened almond milk, fruits (strawberries, cantaloupe, apples, clementines), vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms), lean fish, egg whites, and low-fat cheese (this is the cheat I regularly afford myself). And it works for me. It actually works very well, I’m happy to report.
I’ve effectively changed my relationship with food. Before, I kept whatever I wanted in my apartment and ate at all hours of the day and night. It’s not like that anymore.
But it’s not something that happens overnight, and it’s certainly something I continue to work on.
Let me illustrate:
The Skidmore Saga
Sundays are now my study day with my bestie with testes, Jim. We’ve planned it out so every other weekend, I’m in Saratoga or he’s in Albany (he’s technically a registered grad student at Skidmore), and we’ll just spend all day catching up on homework (or, in his case, writing his master’s thesis).
However, as soon as I arrived to campus, he started chattering nonstop about two things: (1) How excited he was that I was at his campus, and (2) how awesome the Skidmore dining hall was, and that we’d have to go there for dinner.
Hmm, okay. Good thing I had about 20 points left in my day when I arrived to campus.
The day waned on, and the more work I got done, the more my tumbly was rumbling. Finally, it was 5 p.m., and the dining hall was open.
We walked over together, and he gave me the run-down. Unlike the dining hall at my alma mater, you did not gather a plate of food and then weigh the plate and pay, but instead you pay to get in and then eat whatever you like.
Essentially, I was placed in the middle of an all-you-can-eat buffet, staffed by award-winning chefs.
Jim had a routine down. First, we would make a casual walk-through to see what they were serving. Then, we’d go through a second time, this time gathering our food. Then we would eat and go back for dessert.
The walk-through showed an impressive array of options that all looked super good. Cheddary fettuccine with filet mignon, tilapia with basil-citrus butter and white rice, all sorts of pizza, custom paninis, omelets, and some sort of Caribbean bar of delights. Oh, and bread. Lots of bread.
During the walk-through, somehow Jim picked up some pizza, and I was holding a freaking cheddar biscuit (I only ate half). I settled on reasonable portions of quinoa with asparagus (quinoa is a complete protein!), some black beans, some pulled pork (sans the gravy), mango salsa, and a few plantains. Most of these things at least contained Power Foods, and I felt pretty okay about the decision, being able to skirt the cheesy sauces and butters under the veil of healthy white fish.
And I thought to myself, Okay, eat this, and if you’re still hungry, you can go back for more. I quickly ate my food, and it was really delicious. At the end of my plate, I felt like I could continue eating. But I had a hard time deciding if I was still hungry or if I just wanted to eat more.
I waited a few minutes, trying to absorb myself into my conversation, but I kept on thinking about more food.
I didn’t have hunger pangs, but I wanted to be eating.
It was almost like the food was just calling to me, and I couldn’t ignore it. I felt myself being pulled toward the food with every fiber of my being. I just wanted it. I wanted the pizza, I wanted more pork, I wanted the damn cheesy mac. I wanted to feel stuffed-full.
It got to a point where it was so distracting that Jim looked at me and told me that I looked really drained. And then I had to explain to him what was going on, and feel totally ashamed. Good thing he’s awesome and doesn’t judge.
The best way I can explain it is like this:
You can’t leave a bag of heroin in front of a recovering heroin addict and expect it to all be there when you come back.
My relationship with food is just like that. I can’t be dropped into a situation where I’m surrounded by unlimited food and not overeat and not make bad decisions. Because there’s something deep inside me that is constantly telling me to go back and eat more. Normally, it’s this voice that wins out. Which is why I don’t generally keep cheat foods in my apartment.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a women’s health seminar where I work, and I was in charge of keeping the three-tiered display full of petit fours. My boss, who is a health freak herself, told me just to have one, to enjoy it, and be done. Do you think that happened? Hells to the no. I am ashamed to say that I tried almost one of every kind. Yeah. I tried to hold out, and it just didn’t happen.
Ultimately, at Skidmore, I didn’t go back for seconds, but I did allow myself to enjoy dessert at the sundae bar. After that, I did feel satisfied, and I was happy to leave.
My point is, even though I’m progressing and generally have my diet dialed in, and even though my relationship with food is changing, the fact remains: I’m addicted to food, and it is a constant battle. Some days are harder than others. Some days are pretty easy. But it’s something I don’t expect to ever fully get over. (Consequently, it’s also the reason I will never trust myself on strict Paleo, because it has no portioning guidelines.)
However, I believe that by admitting this fact about myself, I can get one step closer to overcoming it.