Disordered relationships… with food

My family is nothing if not dysfunctional when it comes to food.

Thanksgiving is always interesting when it comes to the meal itself; my brother and sister-in-law (and their two sons, four and one) are vegan (which scares the crap out of me re: my nephews and brain development,) my sister and her fiance are “flexitarian” because evidently animal protein causes cancer. (Seriously, at this point, I think just being alive causes cancer.) They still *like* animal protein, of course, and just try to reduce it to 5% of their daily intake. My mom is a health-food nut. Every relative is on some diet or another.

For being the crazy one, I think I have the most sane relationship with food, and *I* am the comfort eater.

I’ve been trying to eat intuitively, and listen to my body when it tells me what it wants, and stop when I am full. I fail a lot, but I keep trying. I eat what I want, when I want to, so long as it is available. Right now I am seriously in fruit withdrawal due to how poor I am- fresh fruit is a luxury I can’t really afford, at least not for another week. It’s sort of weird, considering how much I fail at five fruits and veggies in a day. Sometimes I do not have the energy to cook and I live on cereal. I really like cereal full of granola and nuts; Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds is my favorite (but only the name brand; Kroger’s variety is blegh.) I add berries if I have them but they go bad so quickly, and I can’t seem to make frozen fruit work. It ends up a mushy brick of awfulness.

A picture of an electric skillet was making the rounds on Facebook lately, and it sent a shiver down my spine. When I was in second grade, we lived in a rental house with no fridge or stove. Thankfully it was cold, so milk was kept in a snowbank by the back step, and we ate Hamburger Helper for dinner every. single. night. For like, two months. The sight of the skillet almost made me throw up; I can’t look at the Hamburger Helper box without feeling bile rise in my throat. If it is prepared for me, and I don’t know what it is, I can eat it, but the second I find out what it is I have to throw up. The day we got a fridge and stove my mom made chocolate chip cookies and my brother and I watched them bake. Twelve minutes, with a kindergartener and second grader glued to the little window. It may have been a record.

I remember getting food from churches and food pantries; I remember my mother’s shame when she got food stamps. I remember once knocking a can of grape jelly off the shelf and bursting into tears because I thought we would have to pay for it; I can’t eat grape jelly anymore. I’m forever afraid it will be full of glass.

I have always had a weird relationship with food, as I was hyper aware of how little of it we had. I would eat in secret. I ate free breakfast and lunch at school, which are designed calorie-dense because those kids may not eat at home. When I approached my teenage years and my non-existent metabolism made my fatness worse, mom started me on diets. The secret eating spiked dramatically. When I tried Weight Watchers, I honestly tried my best, but I simply could not lose weight. I was accused of cheating even though I faithfully recorded every bite of food, every calorie, every point.

Mom stopped eating after kicking dad out and during the divorce; she’d been heavy- anyone living on whatever you can buy to make it stretch, and whatever you can get from a pantry, is destined to be heavy, because it’s a food desert- you’re just trying to get the raw calories you need. Mom lived on coffee and salad for months. She is 5’11” and weighed 125 on her wedding day to my stepdad. She’s been obsessed with her eating and eating healthy and exercising ever since. She constantly comments on my far more sedentary lifestyle, and how I can’t possibly be getting any exercise, even though moderate exercise can include cleaning, stairs- I live on the third floor, there are lots of stairs in my life- and it’s scary to exercise, both because I do not have a safe space to do it, and because I am not particularly fond of putting myself out there for verbal abuse. I try to eat healthy, and I make reasonable choices, and try to cut down my fast food expenditure- and being broke helps with that- but it is still hard, when I can’t go to the store to buy more fruits or vegetables because then I will not have the money for gas to get to work. Living broke is helping me to plan better for the future, and budget better, and is making me give 110% at work, but that will not last long. It’s a lot of pressure and I don’t know how much I can take.

And after my therapy appointment Saturday, now I’m not sure who to call when I’m feeling that vise closing in on me.

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