So last weekend, I had someone leave me a comment regarding my recent adventures into learning to cook. If you recall I had discussed the fact that in spite of losing up to 240 pounds, I had never really learned much in the way of cooking. In fact if you’ve read my blog for any length of time you will see that until recently I actually avoided talking about food at all. I talked about exercise. I talked about emotions. But I rarely talked about food specifically.
Unless I was discussing my FEELINGS for food. My experiences binge eating food. Running from it. Hiding it. Avoiding it and going back to it.
Or all the many things my food obsession stole from me over the years. Affecting my marriage. My inability to fly on a plane and be with my mother when she was dying. The times I could not go to school events or play with my own children because of what food had done to my life.
When I have talked about food, that has been the context in which I have always framed it.
But recipes? Food logs? NEVER! I’ve even hidden my food log on My Fitness Pal so that only I can see it. If you’re my friend on MFP you may have been one of the many people who has asked me why my food diary is private. Well now you know! I’m extremely weird about food!
Over the last 3 years I have occasionally discussed what I eat but rarely. So for me this is really a very new thing. And I suppose that strikes a few people as strange. The very idea that someone could get this far along in life or weight loss without having ever really learned too very much about cooking. Only surviving off a limited amount of recipes. And that is why I received this comment:
“Seriously, everyone has to LEARN to cook, why haven’t you? Everyone has to learn to eat properly/deal with emotions. You’re not a special snowflake.”
Yikes! My cheek is red from the virtual SLAP! But that’s ok….I’m smiling now because the comment itself made me think. Made me really think about the reasons why I am 42 years old and in this situation. And that is what this post is about.
My relationship with food over the course of my life. My relationship with cooking and preparing food.
And why it’s so complicated.
I have a long held philosophy that food is evil and learning to cook is nothing more than flirting with the enemy. You don’t play nice with your nemesis. You don’t date it. You run from it. So trying to learn to cook has always been my fear. I never watched the food channel or the cooking channel. In fact, I tried to get it removed from my cable line up once because I was afraid to even have it on the list. They told me it came with the basic package I was buying and I couldn’t just get one or two channels removed. I was insistent even calling back later in the day to try another customer service rep. They probably thought I was strange. No doubt plenty of people call trying to rid themselves of the porn channel but the Food Network?
She’s a weird one!
You’d probably think that’s weird too that I never watched those shows.
I mean, how can someone who was over 400 pounds at one time NOT want to watch FOOD TV?? But it’s not cooking I love. It’s EATING.
I’ve always been baffled by people who watched cooking shows. To me, it was ridiculous. Why would you want to watch people cook? It’s not like you get to eat it! So what’s the point?? The POINT is eating. That’s where it’s at!!! That’s the HIGH. Cooking is just a necessary evil that happens leading up to the moment. The real moment of EATING. And that’s how I’ve always felt.
I like to eat. EATING is my thing. And that’s what I want to do.
Alcoholics don’t get too involved with watching a bartender make their drink.
(Unless they’re making sure they weren’t jipped on the liquor)
Do drug addicts ask their drug dealer if they can watch him make their drug?
I mean…WHO CARES??? Just give it to me already. And FAST.
That’s how I’ve always felt about cooking. I have no desire to watch people make food on tv. Food that I can’t eat. That’s not entertainment. It’s torture.
So I’ve been a real oddball in the weight loss community. Rarely posting what I’m eating . Rarely talking about it. But one thing I can’t shy away from is that people want to know. They especially want to know when you’re LOSING. Because they believe that what you’re eating is the way to weight loss. When I’ve always believed it’s what you’re NOT eating that is the key. Because to me food has always been evil. And I’ve rarely varied from that notion.
But try to live off of 4 or 5 different meals with no variation. When you have zero skills in the kitchen and the kids are tired of chicken—problems happen. And if you don’t learn how to cook something else you end up back at McDonald’s. And this leads to weight gain. So here we are. I wish I could tell you having weight loss surgery was enough but it’s not. Especially when 3 years go by and you can eat more than you used to be able to. Especially when your motivation is running out. So what do you?? How do you keep going??
So I decided recently that maybe it’s time I tackle this taboo subject. Maybe it’s time I consider that food isn’t evil. Perhaps they are right. Maybe I do need to learn about cooking. How to make healthy meals. Maybe then I could have some success. But I have always had major issues with cooking.
You see, I fear food. I mean I love it. But I fear it. The way an alcoholic both clings to and yet loathes a vodka bottle.
I have always believed that food was the problem. That food was evil. A nasty evil thing that I had to deal with in this life much to my dismay. I often wished at times that I had some other addiction that I could avoid more easily. But food refuses to allow that. It’s everywhere you go. Even CHURCH. In fact ALWAYS at church. I’d challenge you to walk into a church where food isn’t part of the event!
It’s funny to me that when you go to “Recovery” programs at church, the only people who have to deal with their actual addiction there are food addicts. You show up and have this amazing group celebratory worship experience. You break up into small groups where you share your struggles. But then something happens to food addicts than happens to no one else. You see, the people who go into the alcohol recovery group are never then told to go meet afterwards for a drink. People who are addicted to smoking aren’t then told afterwards to gather for a smoke. But people who leave the food addicts meeting are then told to go meet afterwards for donuts or a meal. We are the only ones who go to meetings for an addiction that is then served to us afterwards.
I often believed that if food didn’t exist I would be fine. That if I could get someone to lock me up in a room and hook me to a feeding tube just to keep me alive—then I’d be free. But research shows that people who have a food addiction need to learn how to cook to beat obesity. Almost every diet I’ve ever been on has food as the focus. We’re always talking about recipes and what we should eat. And that always bothered me. To me, food is the issue. Not the solution. To become any more involved with it could be nothing more than a mistake. It’s the reason I refused to read blogs that posted what they were eating or worse—posted pictures!! When I started a weight loss support group on Facebook I actually made a rule that no one could post recipes or pictures of food. And that we really shouldn’t even talk that much about food. I truly believed that if food is the problem—-it can never be the solution.
It’s only people trying to lose weight who also talk constantly about their addiction. Alcoholics don’t post cocktail recipes. But people trying to lose weight talk about food. AND ALL THE TIME. They post recipes on their blogs. Pictures of their food. And every diet program or book is filled with the same thing. How to beat food WITH food. And it always struck me as strange. Even research suggests that the best way to beat obesity is to learn how to cook! To me that is an irony I have never been able to get past.
If you tell an obese person that the best way to kick the problem is to learn how to cook then that’s like telling an alcoholic that the best way to kick her problem is to become a bartender! To kick your alcohol problem you should learn how to mix drinks, right? You should study it. Buy books on it. Serf pinterest for cocktail recipes! And then post pictures of all the drinks you’ve made. That will definitely help you beat your addiction, right?!
Get to know your addiction intimately. Like telling a drug addict that they should watch Breaking Bad for inspiration and then go into the drug dealing business professionally. Build a lab in their basement and get creative! No one would do that!! And yet all over the world every single day we are telling people who are obese that they need to involve themselves with food. How many diet books and blogs on weight loss are geared towards recipes? Did you ever see a book about quitting drinking that was filled with cocktail recipes?
Food is funny I guess. It will never fit in a category where other things can. Because food is part of our lives. And it’s everywhere. That’s another thing that has bothered me a lot since I started this journey. Every holiday and event—there is food. You are even told that family dinner is the most important part of the day. What is it about EATING that is so dang important??? Why can’t we get away from it??! I have cursed the very fact that food is my problem 100 times over because it’s something I just can’t hide from. And I have to eat to live. But when food is the problem—how can it ever be the solution?
I had weight loss surgery for one main reason. I wanted to force myself to eat less food. I had tried every diet. I had even been to a rehab clinic of sorts once. But nothing helped. I truly believed that the best thing I could do for my life was to cut my stomach out. To get rid of food in any way possible. And by the time I reached 417 pounds and the day of surgery arrived— I no longer even feared the procedure. If I died then I was just about ok with it. Because I was going to die anyway. At the rate I was gaining weight, I was headed for death. So die on the surgery table or die in a year or two. Either way, I was dead.
When my surgeon asked me if I had any concerns the only thing I told them was this—-“I am afraid you won’t take out ENOUGH“.
I did not have gastric bypass or a lap band. I had no interest in having my stomach just stapled. No interest in a belt being put around it. No I wanted the darn thing GONE. And when I found out that this surgery existed, I immediately knew it was for me. 80% of my stomach cut out and thrown away?! Now FINALLY we have a real solution, I thought!!! And my only concern was that he wouldn’t take out enough. Go crazy, I told him. Take out as much as you can. Just leave me enough to stay alive and nothing more.
My stomach is the problem. My stomach and food. And I could have cared less about any side effects. The ones they tell you can happen where a person can barely eat. Where they have to get shot injections of vitamins because they are so deficient. I didn’t care. I was so tired of food ruling my life. And I hated it. It was like a horribly abusive lover that I couldn’t break free from without help. I loved it too much to leave. How could getting more involved with it ever be an answer?
I’ve tried everything and I’ve tried it all. But the only time I had any real success was when I let go of it. When I simplified my life to the point where I had a few meals I rotated and that was enough. But if you have a family to feed, that is a problem. It’s not just me in this world. I’ve only learned how to make things for my kids that are easy and convenient. But not healthy. I can’t make those things for my kids without eating them too—eventually. Trust me I’ve tried. But after 3 years, I’ve succumbed to the temptation. And if pizza is here–I’m eating it too.
So I decided to try and learn how to cook more healthy meals.
But I am approaching it the way one does a hot stove. Or a snake that they found in their garage.
The way one does their home when something outside looks suspicious and you creep in slowly in case an intruder is waiting for you on the other side.
You see, learning about food and taking the time to prepare meals has been an adventure for me. But a scary one. Some swim with the sharks or skydive for thrills. Others go rock climbing or jump out of airplanes for their daredevil adventures. But not me. I spend time with food when I want to walk on the wild side. And learning to cook and reading recipes is nothing short of jumping out of an airplane for me in hopes that the parachute will indeed open when I need it to. Otherwise my worst fear could come true as I get sucked further in and plummet to my high speed demise.
When I checked out at the grocery store with my vegetables, the cashier told me she doesn’t buy tomatoes out of season. I had never even thought about that. It never even crossed my mind that some things are in season at some times and not at others. That’s how little I know about food. And what a weird thing to say. For someone who was 300 pounds overweight at one time, you would think I’d be an expert on the subject. An expert on food. But I’m not. I know so little about food it’s eerie. To think that I could have ingested so much food in my lifetime and yet not know it at all. But what I’m an expert on is eating the food. Not understanding it. Not knowing where it came from. And to be honest—not caring either.
I always thought onions were onions. But that isn’t quite the case. Same with tomatoes. Same with Avocados. In fact it seems that food is not as simple and straightforward as I thought. There are different kinds of onions. Different kinds of tomatoes. But I never really cared before. I was a ‘Wham Bam Thank You M’am’ type of eater. Just give it to me. I don’t care where it came from. I don’t even want to know what’s in it. I don’t want to talk to it. Read about it. Or become friends with it. I’m just here for the moment. The moment of inhaling the food and then walking away. Shoving the wrappers in the trash and hiding the evidence. Beyond that—I didn’t care.
Kind of reminds me of dating. I can’t tell you how many people out there could care less how many kids you have. I mean, I have four children and you’d think that would at least give most men a “pause” when they find that out. But I’ve discovered that many men who say they’re interested in you don’t even blink when they hear it. It doesn’t phase them at all. But they also don’t ask how old they are. Their names? Or even if they’re boys or girls. They also don’t care where I’m from. If I have a degree or what I do for a living. It’s not important to them and you want to know why? Because they’re not really interested in me. I mean–not really. They might feign interest for a time. But all they really want is the MOMENT. They are after a one time thing. And once you really get down to it—that’s all they’re looking for. You might think they’re interested in you at first but soon enough you realize they’re not. That’s why they could care less about the details.
Someone who is after more will ask questions. They want to know you. And they are willing to take the time. That’s the difference between people who want one moment in time versus those who are looking for relationships. TIME.
You have to take time with the details. Ask questions. Understand them. Because the best relationships take effort. They aren’t quick and easy. If you’re looking for easy, you don’t care about the details. If you’re looking for love, you do.
But all my life that’s how I’ve treated food. With little interest and little respect. I didn’t want to date it. To know it. And I never cared about the ingredients of my meals. For someone who claimed to love food—it doesn’t sound like I loved it at all.
I didn’t want a relationship. I just wanted the MOMENT. With twinkies and pizza and whatever else I could get my hands on. I was a serial player with food. And I wasn’t going to take the time to know it. To make it. To prepare it. I had no interest in that. I just wanted to consume it. And when I was done, I would hide the evidence. Like someone who sneaks out before the other person wakes up after a one night stand. Embarrassed and ashamed of their indiscretion.
I’m starting to see now that maybe this is my problem. To think I’ve been a lifelong lover of food and yet know nothing about it. Like a Don Juan who knows no names of his conquests. Like someone who just waits for the bar to close and sees who the easiest person is to take home. The left overs. Not even caring who it is or what they look like. And in some ways, that’s how I’ve been with food. I’ve even picked food out of the garbage. And I know that’s disgusting to admit. But there were times when I threw food away so I wouldn’t eat it. And then went looking for it later. That donut box I had shoved in the trash.
I’ve been cheap and lustful with food. And I’ve done it all my life. Refusing to take the time to know it. Like someone with a sex addiction who fears real relationships. Thinking if they actually dated someone then that would just make it worse. That’s why I’ve always feared getting too involved with food. Reading recipes. Learning to cook more than a rotation of 5 or 6 meals.
I’m beginning to wonder if food really isn’t the problem. If maybe it’s ME. And how I relate to it. Like someone who claims to love women but has never had a real relationship of any kind. Because there is a difference. When you truly care about someone, you get to know them. Their name. Where they’re from. And in time maybe something happens. But not until you’re married maybe. Not until you’ve made a commitment. Only then do you taste what they have to offer. When it’s real.
Learning about food is like this I’ve discovered. It takes time. It takes effort. And if you learn about the food you are making, it is even more involved. Is it in season? Is it ripe? Did you take the time to cut it up? Each individual piece? Did you work for that meal? And is it beautiful?
I have always eaten cucumber, onion and tomato greek salad. It is pretty healthy and I like it. It has been one of my staples since I started this journey. So I decided to make it. I went to the store. Picked out each ingredient. Took the time to wash it and cut it up. I even followed the directions to let it marinate in the oil and vinegar before eating it. That is something I’ve never done before.
I don’t wait for food. I want it NOW. And I will not wait. But I did this time. I prepared it and I waited for it. The next day it tasted delicious. And because I bought cherry tomatoes of all different colors it was beautiful. Yellow, red, and a deep purple. It was so much better having it homemade than bought. The fact that I took time with it seemed unusual to me. I’ve never done that with food. So afraid of it to interact too much. So scared that it would suck me in. It’s because my relationship with food has always had to be highly controlled.
I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I mean really I haven’t. No really….;) REALLY!
Well maybe some of it. Enough to know what it’s about.
This guy can’t have a ‘normal’ relationship with someone because he has to exercise control at all times in this area. He must control her and not ever be vulnerable. That is why he has so many rules and regulations that must be followed. And really my life with food isn’t so very different.
Cooking and preparing food has always been for me the dance. It’s the intimacy of a relationship with food that involves getting to know each individual ingredient. Taking time and effort perusing recipes the way one would dating profiles to see who they want to know more about. And then interacting with the food for hours sometimes before consuming it. And when you are someone whose entire life has been almost destroyed by food—you cannot allow yourself to become vulnerable like that. You must tightly control it in every way. Not become involved with it. Not learn more about it. Not spend time with it. Patiently finding recipes. Shopping. Handling each ingredient until finally the finished product is upon you. To be able to do this takes a certain level of control that I have never had with food. So to attempt to have a ‘healthy’ relationship with food is no different than a person trying to have a healthy relationship with another that is caring yet not obsessive.
What a long and strange post this has become.
But someone asked me why I haven’t really learned to cook before now? What my problem is? Why I have avoided it?
And by asking that question, we fell down the rabbit hole.
So this is my answer in all its weird and dysfunctional shades of strange. But that’s me. And that’s me with food.
So there you go.
And some people thought it was just human relationships that were complicated? :)))