I love to eat. I love to eat now even more than when I was eating sugar. Because now I eat without guilt or shame. I am not one of those people who used to “live to eat”, but learned how to “eat to live”. I still live to eat. I did not suddenly stop caring about food. I’m pretty sure that I will never become indifferent to eating. It’s just that now I eat within my strict boundaries. Besides not eating sugar and simple carbohydrates, one of my rules (I have many food rules, by the way) is that I eat 3 meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s it. I don’t eat in between those meals. So in between those meals, I have a life. Usually that’s good. Sometimes it’s hard. But whether it’s good or it’s hard, my life between meals is not about being obsessed with food. And that is a miracle. That affords me the opportunity to absolutely love to eat! When it’s time to eat.
When I was eating compulsively, food and I were in an abusive relationship. I let food be my best friend, my lover, my closest companion. But it made me miserable. It made me hate myself. The food I was eating gave me a body that I hated and was ashamed of. But I “loved” my food. I couldn’t live without it, even though it was beating me up emotionally and physically. So every time I ate, I was simultaneously comforted and tortured. Relieved and anxious. Quieted and tormented. And I ate constantly. Or if I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about eating. So I was in a constant state of confusion. I was having a love/hate relationship with both food and myself. 24 hours a day.
And then there were the rare “diets”. I didn’t go on many of them in my life. But I did go on a few. When you grow up morbidly obese, you end up getting “put” on a few diets. And they always occurred to me as a punishment for being fat, not as an opportunity to be healthy. I never felt like I was being offered help or kindness. And I always hated the food. Partly because I wanted sugar to get me high. I was used to getting high from eating. And partly because eating a diet consisting almost entirely of sugar and simple carbohydrates for most of my life deadened my palate. Fruits and vegetables had no taste. In fact, for much of my life, fruit was not sweet. I didn’t just eat grapefruit with sugar, I ate strawberries with sugar. When people would say something was “too sweet”, I couldn’t understand what that could possibly mean. Sweet was the most important trait of a food. That was like saying something was “too delicious”.
Plus, on these diets, it was often explained to me (by doctors or nutritionists, etc.) that I didn’t have to give up sugar. I just had to eat it in moderation. But I could never eat sugar or simple carbohydrates “in moderation”. That is a skill I do not possess. So once I ate a moderate portion of something, it was followed by…well, basically, a chocolate cake. And the diet was over.
It took a while for my palate to change back to normal when I stopped eating sugar. Eating real food was not entirely satisfying, flavor-wise, in the beginning. I think the reason I stuck with it was that my head started to clear and the obsession with food lifted. But, of course, the longer I went without sugar, the better real food tasted. By now, six plus years later, vegetables have become food-orgasmic.
But you know what? I still refuse to eat lettuce, celery, or raw carrots. (Cooked carrots are another matter. Cooked in butter? Roasted maybe? Ahem, I digress…) Maybe it’s psychological, and they still occur to me as “diet food”. But I don’t like them. And you know what else? I don’t have to eat them. If I want a delicious salad, there are radishes, mushrooms, arugula, artichokes, onions, cucumbers. There are so many foods that make my mouth water. And I’m not on a diet. I’m not being punished. I don’t eat anything because I “should”. Because it’s “healthy” or “good for me”. I eat foods that I love. I eat meals that make me happy. And this time really happy. Not some weird combination of trepidatious happiness and shame. There is no guilt in my pleasure. All because my meals are within my set boundaries. The three times a day that I eat are pure bliss. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t worry about the future. I just enjoy eating. Wow!
My point in all of this is that boundaries have created freedom for me. It’s a cliché paradox, I know. But if you have experienced it, you know how profound it is. Living within a strict set of rules has made it possible for me to not only not have a bad relationship with food, but to have a fan-freaking-tastic relationship with food. I don’t just get a life in between my meals, but I get to glory in eating three times a day.
It’s true that there are things about the way I eat that are inconvenient. I can’t just grab a slice of pizza on the go. I can’t just walk into any old restaurant and order off the menu. But I am not sorry. Because what I get instead is self-respect, a body I love, and to eat with gusto three times a day anyway. Not too shabby for the “poor girl” who had to give up sugar.
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