Monday, December 16, 2013

My Relationship With Food

At this time of year over-eating is a pretty common occurrence. In fact, it's celebrated and enjoyed. Think of the typical Thanksgiving spread and the marathon cookie baking sessions. It's as good a time as any to think about your relationship with food.

I don't have an eating disorder, but I also don't have the healthiest relationship with food. I am convinced it stems from childhood, when I was not allowed to make decisions about when and what I ate. Under my father's rule, if it was on your plate or in your glass it must be consumed. Dinners consisted of a meat, a green vegetable, a starch, and a tall glass of milk. These dinners were prepared and plated by my step-mother and you ate every morsel whether you liked it or not and regardless of whether you still had room in your stomach.

Eating was not something we did because our bodies indicated hunger. Eating was done at meal times and "appropriate" snack times (i.e., after school). To this day, I still struggle to recognize signs of hunger. I still eat meals at traditional mealtimes. I get grumpy when dinner takes place at a later hour (I am so not cosmopolitan), especially when we go out to dinner. I tend to over-eat when we go out because I want to be sure to get our money's worth. I hate feeling like I've swallowed a bowling ball, but I still have trouble stopping when I should.

Even at Thanksgiving if we took food, we were expected to eat every speck on our plate. I can remember the dread I felt when I realized as I was eating that I'd taken too much (again). As soon as I slowed down I could feel my father's eyes upon me. I didn't want to let him down. I didn't want to be like my cousin who would load her plate sky-high and then only eat maybe a third of its contents. (Never mind that she was probably actually enjoying her meal and her holiday, while I was miserable.) If and when I gave in and left food on my plate, my father would take it from me and finish whatever was left, even though he'd eaten a full plate himself. He couldn't stand the idea of his children being as wasteful and irresponsible as he considered my poor cousin to be.

Now I greatly dislike Thanksgiving and find all family meals to be stressful on some level. I've gotten better about leaving food on my plate. I even get a little rush sometimes when I make the decision to leave food uneaten. I try really hard to take our dinner leftovers for lunch at work so food doesn't go completely to waste, but some things don't keep well. I'm learning to accept that it is OK to order seafood or a salad and only eat what I want and not force myself to eat the whole thing. I'm still getting my money's worth by enjoying the meal and the experience. Nothing would be gained by forcing myself to keep eating.

But no matter how much progress I make, sometimes as I shovel another forkful down my gullet I'll glance over at my husband. One look at the expression on my face and he'll remind me to stop. Just stop. Put the fork down.

(Note: I feel obligated to mention that my parents had nothing but the best intentions. They certainly did not mean to create an environment where I developed unhealthy eating habits.)

1 comment:

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Your father sounds a lot like mine and my relationship with food is QUITE unhealthy and I am still trying to overcome my early training, and not particularly successfully, I might add.