CW: talks about a history of disordered eating, calorie restriction, and food tracking.
On Sunday nights, my husband and I tend to get a little “peckish”. This means, we both feel like snacking a little on a treat. Mindless snacking. Wine gums for him. Sour kids for me. Or the other night, a few digestive cookies each, with almond milk. This was after leftover Vietnamese food for dinner and healthy lunches of salad and sushi.
Part of me feels like a kid getting away with something when we snack. Another part of me feels guilty. Yet another part of me is trying to train my brain not to feel guilty about these treats. It has not been settled yet, which part of me wins this battle.
Even if I accept that diet culture is bad for me, bad for people, in general, it’s not easy to retrain a lifetime of diet culture habits.
I hear people talking about intuitive eating. While this sounds nice, I don’t think my brain, with a history of disordered eating, can be trusted to intuit what is best for me to eat all the time. Is my intuition right that I am hungry? Or is it craving comfort from nerves, anxiety, sadness? Is it seeking celebratory eating after a success of some sort?
Yet, I decided some time ago, that restrictive dieting does not work for me. As soon as I need to start writing everything I eat down, either on a piece of paper, or in my head, I become a perfectionist for a short while. And then a hedonist after a spell of perfectionism.
I spend a good deal of my time explaining to people why they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves if they indulge a little, here and there. Why they shouldn’t label foods good and bad. Why it is not about health, if they are chastising themselves for an indulgence with food. It’s just food, for goodness sake!
Yet, there is still a running script in my head about what I should eat and shouldn’t eat. 35+ years of training, doesn’t go away easily. Also, it’s not easy to balance not thinking about it too much, and not thinking about it at all. I still care that I am getting good nutrients in my body. I still care that I am giving my workouts a chance to have an optimal effect on my body.
I often wonder what I might have been better at growing up, if I hadn’t devoted so much of my mental energy to what I should and shouldn’t eat. I wonder what it might have been like for my mother if she didn’t feel like she always had to diet. I wonder what it would have been like if I didn’t have the type of personality to internalize the external messages that thin was ideal and if you are not naturally thin, you better make it part of your life’s work to be “as thin as possible” for your body type. Perhaps, my brain was hungry and/or tired from thinking about food and my undesirable form, when it couldn’t concentrate well enough to focus on school, when it mattered the most?
I have long felt that if I exercise regularly (which I do) and I eat mostly nutritious foods, then whatever resulting body type manifests itself, is fine. I try to practice gratitude for a body that is able in many ways that some bodies are not.
And yet, as I get closer and closer to 50 (still over a couple years), and notice small changes, the softening of edges that were never overly sharp, I wonder how I can make my whole being really BELIEVE that whatever that form is, is good. Desirable, even.
In the meantime, I will continue doing what I do. Move my body. Enjoy my food, for comfort, necessity and celebration. Who the fuck cares the reason. Just enjoy. And try to direct my mental energy to more important endeavours – relationships, intellectual growth, helping others, gratitude, the list goes on.
Part of the joy in life is enjoying the simple pleasures. It is simply pleasurable to be sitting in my comfy bed on a Sunday night, next to my loving husband, and mindlessly relieving digestive cookies from their package and dunking them, and savouring them, while streaming a show on the TV. It’s a great way to free your mind from everyday stresses. I will always endorse choosing joy.