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Archive for the tag “difficult family”

Resenting other people’s metabolisms is making an ass out of you and me

There is a saying among the people I know who keep boundaries around their eating: Keep your eyes on your own plate.

I have mentioned before that I don’t watch food porn. I never watch the Food Network. If one of those recipe videos comes up on my Facebook newsfeed, I click that little arrow in the corner and choose to “see less from” and “hide all from.” I don’t want to see things I don’t eat. I don’t want to see cookies and cakes, and all manner of sugar bombs.

In the beginning of getting my eating under control, I felt like the Holiday Season was hard for me because I was a compulsive eater, and there was food everywhere. But the older (and more clear-headed) I get, I realize that the Holiday Season is hard for everyone. Fine, maybe not children. (Who am I kidding? Has there ever been a single child who did not have at least one meltdown in the overwhelm of the end of the year festivities? I’m going to go with no.)

Holidays are overly emotional times of year where we obligatorily visit with the people in our lives who know best how to upset, enrage, and mortify us. I am not saying that we don’t love our families. I am saying that family is difficult. For everyone everywhere. And for many, it’s sugar (or sugar’s delinquent brother alcohol), and not music, that soothes the savage beast.

Overeating is the rule and not the exception from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Basically everyone gains weight over the holidays. It is so pervasive it is the topic of much holiday humor and the reason practically everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to lose 5-10 pounds.

But there is something else I want to note, that I don’t think I understood until I got my own eating under control. People who don’t have eating disorders or weight problems might gain some weight over the holiday season, they might even be doing some comfort or binge eating to deal with the stress, but most of them are still managing their food. They give themselves a little leeway, but they are not eating whatever they want whenever they want. Some do this management unconsciously, and some do it in their heads, and some might even keep a log of it. But they are actively thinking about what they are eating, and what effect it is having on their bodies.

I have spoken about this with compulsive eaters who have boundaries around their food, or I have heard them speak of it, or read their writing on it. Many of us used to think that “naturally thin” people were eating the way we were eating and not gaining weight. We decided that we were unfairly cursed. But what was often happening was we were seeing people eat the way we were eating, but we were never seeing what they weren’t eating behind closed doors.

I might pig out with someone at a holiday meal, and not realize that they were not eating the rest of the day. Or they were going home to have, as a friend’s sister would say, “a bowl of chicken soup and half a cup of dry popcorn.” While I would have another meal, plus all of the leftovers that the host sent me home with.

People with a healthy relationship with food do not “eat whatever they want and not get fat.” Or if they do, it’s because whatever they want is a salad. Or a single piece of fruit, not dipped in chocolate. Eating high-sugar, high-calorie foods and not gaining weight is not the way life works.

I suppose there are people with crazy metabolisms, but they are few and far between. If you know someone you think is “naturally thin,” chances are that what they really are is “naturally conscious” of what goes into their bodies.

As an addict, I know that I cannot handle my sugar. I am incapable of stopping at one, or a taste, or a little. And I might mistakenly think that nobody else can stop after one, or a taste, or a little either. And if I hold onto that assumption, and look around, I might mistakenly believe that life must be incredibly unfair because they are not physically large.

But that would be a lot of mistaken assumptions. So I make a point to keep my eyes on my own plate. And there is something else I do, especially over the holidays. I make sure that my food is amazing. I make sure it’s decadent and delicious and abundant. I make sure that if, by accident, my eyes happen to wander onto another plate, that when I look back at my own, I am positively enraptured.

Happy Easter! Now leave me alone.

I don’t do holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are no longer a part of my life. I haven’t celebrated them since I got control of my eating.

Let’s be honest. Holidays, especially the family centered ones, are about food. You get together with as many of your relatives as you can pack into a home, people cook their most decadent dishes, and then you eat yourselves into oblivion.

First, I don’t eat like that anymore. Ever. I can’t afford to start if I won’t be able to stop. And second, I don’t like my family.

They are good people as individuals (with a few notable exceptions), but as a group, my family’s dynamic is one of passive-aggressiveness, and cruel humor. Yes, they are incredibly funny. But nearly always at someone else’s expense. And as the most sensitive member of the family, I was by far the easiest target.  And there are a lot of them. My mother is the second oldest of 11 kids. I have 23 cousins and a brother on that side. To be the girl with a bull’s-eye on her forehead in a room full of 30+ people was a horrible experience. I can remember being reprimanded regularly by my mother for being “too sensitive” when they made me cry. I never learned that lesson though. I’m sensitive. I don’t deal well with people being mean to me. Now I just surround myself with people who are nice to me. People who treat me like they like me. And that’s not my family.

The other thing is that I ate over feelings. Especially the kind of shame and humiliation that my family specializes in. And I come from a family of eaters. So any holiday will always have a ready supply of exactly the foods that can make me numb. And Aunt So-and-so saying something nasty about the way I look, or Uncle Whoever making an obnoxious remark about something stupid I did 15 years ago, is the kind of thing that makes me want to be numb. I can already hear the fat girl inside me: Oh, don’t mind them, Kate. Look! There are chocolate bunnies!

I’m strong. I’m committed to having my food under control. I’ve done it every day for over six years. But I have absolutely no desire to test that commitment by being surrounded by both sugar, and people who make me want to eat it. And for Easter? Well, that doesn’t seem like a particularly good reason to me. I don’t practice any religion anymore anyway.

And I don’t want to go to anybody else’s family either. Not to avoid being alone. Just because it’s a holiday. I don’t want to have to explain what I do with food. I don’t want to have to tell your grandmother why I can’t have any of her special cookies. No, not even just one. Not just a taste. I don’t want to be the ill-mannered guest, whom your family was kind enough to invite because she didn’t have anywhere else to go. I do have someplace to go. I just don’t want to go there. I don’t do holidays. And I don’t mind at all.

People expect that I’m lonely. They tell me I’m lonely. Because they would apparently be lonely without somewhere to go for a holiday. But the fact of the matter is that I like to be alone. Any time. And on holidays especially. Post childhood, the only thing I ever really liked about them was food. Not just food, but eating ridiculous amounts of food. And in the open. Because everyone was over-eating. In the open.  So much of my eating was done in hiding when I was eating compulsively. I was ashamed of it, so I did as little of it in front of people as I could. But holidays were when I could look around at everybody and see them being as gluttonous as I was. It was a relief. But not eating compulsively any time, for any reason, is a much bigger relief. I do not feel deprived. I promise, I had more than my share of chocolate bunnies for the first 28 years of my life. In fact, I had my share, your share, and the shares of 2 or 3 other people.

Maybe if I have a family of my own someday, I will want to celebrate holidays again. Not with the gluttonous eating, of course. But with traditions and gatherings. I can imagine that Christmas or Easter might look different to me if I were looking at it through the lens of a family I made myself, rather than the one I was born into. But in the meantime, I will happily celebrate the holidays by spending time with the person whose company I enjoy the most. Me.

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