Greetings and welcome to another cheery edition of my blog! Are you new here? Hello! Bulimia! Hi!
Let me start off by saying to the more tightly-wound among us (ahem) that I fully realize that eating disorders are both prevalent and serious issues in our society. Many of us have friends or family members who suffer from some type of disordered eating; some of us are the friends and family members who suffer from disordered eating. My post today will take the usual detours through humour, dry sarcasm, irreverence, and cheeky tangents, but please don’t misinterpret my written sass for an overall callousness towards eating disorders. That is not the case at all. I’m just attempting in this particular entry to lay the foundation– however crooked it may be– for future posts about my long and obstacle-ridden journey towards radiant health and wellness.
First of all: I’m starting from the assumption that many (if not most) of my regular readers think that the foods I eat and cook are a little… out there. Different. Unusual. Am I right? Hey? (Let me hear you say “Yeah!” YEAH!!) I thought so. 🙂
Some of you might listen to me sing the praises of kale and quinoa and wonder what on earth I’m talking about (or why!) Others might think that I’ve probably always led a crunchy and holistic lifestyle, that I’ve easily followed an almost-vegan lifestyle since fetus-hood, and that I inevitably get the proper daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, water, exercise, sleep, sex, and whatever else is good for me.
This is not the case at all.
With that said, I wanted to take this opportunity to give you some background into my Personal Food History, just to let you know how far I’ve come already and also maybe to spark a bit of hope in some readers that it’s never too late (or impossible) to incorporate healthy changes into your lifestyle. Baby steps, right? So please bear with me while I reveal the sordid truth about my past relationship with food…
Part One: VERY Picky Eating
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I was growing up, I was an extremely picky eater. Practically every food had an objectionable texture to my discerning palate, so I downright refused to eat plenty of healthy foods, including most cooked vegetables, many raw vegetables, meat, legumes, and whole grains. I loved carbohydrates and dairy, though. Loved loved loved. My diet for many years literally consisted of the following foods and nothing else: white rice, commercial soy sauce, butter, margarine, bread, cereal, milk, processed cereal bars, instant soups (not even the kinds with the dehydrated peas or carrots in them– noodle-based ones only), peanut butter (not the natural kind), jams and jellies, fruit juices, raw celery or carrot sticks, cheese, potatoes, corn, white pasta, canned tomato sauce, baked goods of all sorts, the occasional boiled egg, and candy. Lots of candy.
My parents desperately wanted (and tried– god knows they tried) to feed me a nutritious diet. My poor mother spent countless hours in the kitchen concocting homemade wonders that would nourish my body and, more importantly, hopefully make it past my Ultra Sensitive Texture Detectors. (They rarely did.) Did I eat her homemade baked beans that took her hours upon hours to prepare? Of course not, although I did enjoy her fluffy, white waffles with tablespoons upon tablespoons of brown sugar or maple syrup heaped on top. Would I happily slurp up her vegetable marinara sauce, which was chock full of fresh produce and loving energy? Definitely not– not even if my mom blended it to a smooth pulp beforehand. I would take canned Catelli tomato sauce over my mom’s homemade “crap” any day! If I knew (or even suspected) that something nutritious was hidden inside one of her recipes, that was it: there was no way I would eat it. I’m not sure why this was the case, but that’s how it went with me for many, many years.
Part Two: I Fail Anorexia
Don’t be misled into thinking that I never ate, that I limited my portion sizes in any way, or that I exerted any control whatsoever over my intake of calories. No way, man: I loved to eat, even though I was very, um, selective about my foods. There was no chance I could ever be considered anorexic, because I couldn’t stop myself from eating (or more like bingeing) at every opportunity.
By the time I was 9 or 10 years old and taking public transit en route to and from school, I was guaranteed to buy a chocolate bar surreptitiously from the nearest gas station if I ever managed to save up 75 cents. Absolutely guaranteed. I purchased and sneaked candy whenever possible, and I would stuff my face with cookies, muffins, granola bars, chips, licorice, slurpees, or even spoonfuls of plain peanut butter and worse: powdered hot chocolate or powdered iced tea crystals (!!) whenever I thought somebody’s back was turned. I would effortlessly devour an entire box of “fruit snacks” by myself when I was babysitting and my charges had gone to sleep, and then I would hope that their parents would assume we had all partaken in this particular treat. I would wake up extra early in the mornings before school and make myself a whole package of Kraft Dinner for breakfast. I could even vacuum my way through a Costco-sized box of processed cereal bars in a matter of mere days, and that was only because I was “showing restraint” and “leaving some for other people”. (If left to my own devices, I could easily have eaten a dozen granola bars in one sitting. Easily.)
Amazingly, I was not grossly obese on this all-carb, all-sugar diet of mine. I’ve always been a pretty average size, if a little on the busty/curvy side, but I’m completely astonished that my body didn’t betray my binges with a serious case of Size Eleventeen Hundred XXXL Pants. (Instead, my body decided to tell me that something was very wrong with my “diet” by signaling me with severe GI distress and a pretty nasty case of acne… neither of which I acknowledged with any degree of seriousness or respect for decades.) So I was a picky eater with a penchant for sweets and obscene amounts of baked goods… but did I ever alternate these binges with purges?
Part Three: The Answer is No. I Also Fail Bulimia
Despite my near-constant bingeing on food and my nearly-as-constant feelings of guilt and shame, I could never bring myself to purge. Call me squeamish, but I couldn’t stand the thought of making myself throw up. (Plus, I know from experience that I’m not exactly the most discrete person when it comes to vomiting– I hurl with gusto: loud and proud, baby!)
I would eat grossly unhealthy foods, often in secret, to the point of feeling extremely unwell and/or nauseous. However, I never purged afterward– not even with exercise– unless admonishing my lack of willpower via the scathing written word in my journal counts as purging. Many of my journal entries from the time just asked myself Why? Why must I purchase the entire stock of leftover Halloween candy on November 1st and eat it all by November 2nd– if it even lasted that long? Why must I make myself a hefty pot of packaged pasta, smother it in powdered alfredo sauce and a generous splash of heavy cream, and eat the entire thing by myself in under 10 minutes? Why must I eat 4 or 5 cupcakes in one sitting? Why must I make a recipe for Rice Krispie squares and down the whole shebang before it even gets into the proper pan?
Why, why, why?
The truth is, dear readers: I have not always lived a virtuous life when it comes to my relationship with food. Not even close. Most of what I ate from the ages of 2 to 22 was incredibly processed, starchy, full of refined sugars, or salty. (Or a combination of all of those things.) Many times, I ate compulsively or for emotional reasons– alone– rather than when I was actually hungry or in the company of other people. Food was not nourishing for me— it was simply comforting. (“Comforting” for a while at least… until it would make me feel guilty, shameful, and/or physically sick.)
So. If that was my shameful starting point, how did I possibly end up where I am now– with a fridge full of leafy greens and a pantry stocked up with whole grains, dried seaweeds, and nutritional yeast? Easy:
I fell in love.
I know, I know. It sounds horribly cheesy and cliché, but when I met Marty, things started looking up for my diet. A lot. During our first few weeks together, Marty cooked me all sorts of delicious dishes– soups, stir fries, homemade sushi rolls, and salads. I had never tried most of these dishes before and, in all honesty, I would have normally refused to even give them a chance, but…
I ate them initially because I was trying to impress Marty.
Then, over time, I ate the dishes because I actually enjoyed them. Fake it until you make it. Take it from me: if you pretend to enjoy eating things like collard greens enough times (even if you are simply trying to impress somebody with your culinary openness, over and over again), you eventually will enjoy eating things like collard greens. For real! Practice makes perfect, right?
During our nesting phase, Marty and I spent nearly all of our spare time in each other’s company. I discovered that I had less time to sneak food– since I was always with Marty– so I just started eating foods that were healthy, ‘acceptable’, and that would cast me in a ‘favourable’ light to him. Again: fake it until you make it. We still enjoyed sweet foods like chocolate and cheesecakes together, but now I ate these foods more in moderation, not to mention in public. It was a big deal. My universe was opening up and my life was changing for the better. (Aside: I don’t mean to suggest that I was pretending to be somebody I wasn’t when I first started dating Marty. In actuality, I just found myself being more open and receptive and deliriously in love with this man. Picky eating just fell to the wayside, especially in the face of good food and great company!)
My palette has expanded enormously since I met Marty. I am still a vegetarian with a sweet tooth, but now I find myself naturally turning to vegetables first and then grain products second. I’m eating foods more for fuel than to satisfy some gnawing emotional need, and I genuinely get excited to prepare and enjoy foods that make my body sing.
My transition from OCD Junk Food Junkie to Salad Munching Tree Hugger was long and sometimes arduous, but it wasn’t impossible and it’s made me feel so much better already. (And my Beauty Detox Journey is still just beginning!) Anyway. If you ever read my food posts and feel like I’m from another planet (possibly The Planet of Left Field) or like I’m on an entirely different plane of existence when it comes to eating healthier foods, please remember this: it hasn’t always been this way. I started out in the ghetto of Refined Sugars and Starches and gradually (very gradually) incorporated some changes to steer my eating in a healthier direction. It’s never too late to start, and even small changes can have a big impact for the better. Onward, ho! 🙂