Continuing on from the topic of Fat Folk and Food, I’d like to talk some more about the whole minefield of eating when you’re a fat person. We’ve talked about how other people perceive and treat fat folk around the subject of food, but how about how we treat ourselves?
Just as a bit of a background, I’ve been on every diet you can pretty much think of, including some I’ve made up myself at the time, thinking it made sense to me. I also now identify as in recovery from an eating disorder, as the more I learn, the more I realise that the behaviour I exhibited over about 20 years of my life was definitely disordered eating. I was a starvation fan, followed by bouts of purging. Between that and eating weird shit (or weird combinations), food was always a fucked up thing for me.
About four years ago, I somehow stumbled across www.normaleating.com and a light went on in my head when I read about the principals of removing the emotion from food and eating, and learning to just eat because as a living creature, I require food.
Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot more reading about the subject, on to intuitive eating and of course health at any size. I have been working to train myself that I don’t have to have a terrible guilt/hate relationship with food, and that if I just stop and listen to my body, it tells me what I need.
When it needs red meat, it tells me so (I suffer anaemia). When it needs leafy green vegetables or lots of potassium or magnesium for example, it tells me. When I need some chocolate it tells me too. I am learning that if I give it some of what it asks for without agonising over it, or punishing myself, then it only asks for as much as it needs, until it realises it needs something else.
That’s not to say that I totally get it right, that I’m “cured” of all the disordered eating. I still have times when I feel guilty just for eating anything, when I get self conscious about what other people think about me when I am in public and am eating, times when I wake in the night thinking “Oh God, if I just give up *insert food here* maybe it will make a difference.” I still find myself denying myself food when I feel bad about myself.
But I think now I’ve learnt to recognise it for what it is. It’s shitty self esteem, depression and self consciousness that makes me think like this, not the food. Food is not good or bad, it’s just food. It has no moral value. Food is what fuels our body and we must eat.
Since I have been learning to eat normally, I’m noticing a few things. I’ve become a major food snob! I am very lucky in that I have a good income and good quality food available to me. I realise a lot of people don’t have that, in fact there were times in my life where I didn’t have that. But now that I do, and I’ve been learning to eat in a normal, sensible way, I have discovered that the thought of eating a lot of the cheap, quick fix things that I used to crave so desperately when I was eating disorderly really grosses me out.
A prime example is chocolate. Oh in my starvation years, I would dream of chocolate. I would think about it all the time while I was on an exercise binge, I would torture myself with visions of chocolate in my head. I would cut pictures of chocolate out of magazines, I would buy things shaped like chocolate and that smell like chocolate. I was such a bitch to myself with denying myself chocolate, but torturing myself with thoughts and images of it all the time.
Consequently, when I DID allow myself to have chocolate, I would eat ANY old chocolate. I tended to buy really cheap chocolate, generic brands and mass produced stuff.
I have noticed that now I have told myself I can have chocolate any time I want it, I rarely think about it. From time to time I think “Damn I’d like some chocolate.” so I go and get some. And I have noticed that I have become a massive snob about it. I turn my nose up at the cheap stuff. I won’t even touch Cadbury any more, it’s horrible. Lindt is the only chocolate I will buy from the supermarket, but I far prefer the hand made stuff from the markets or one of the boutique stores. It just tastes so much better, and consequently you get twice the chocolate happy buzz from the same amount, because it’s not full of vegetable filler and cheap ingredients.
But it’s the same with everything. I’ve stopped shopping in supermarkets for most of my food. I now shop at my local farmers markets (it’s cheaper anyway) and have farmers co-op fruit and veges delivered to my house (also WAY cheaper than the supermarkets). I buy meat that has a name, because it comes from a local farm, cheese from a cheesemaker, eggs from an egg farmer.
Do you know what? It tastes a million times better than the supermarket stuff and you feel so much more satisfied and nourished after eating something made from decent produce. Not to mention that eating food without pesticides, colouring, additives and without being gassed or irradiated to make it ripen quickly is far better for me than all the crap you get from the supermarket.
Did I mention the taste? Seriously, go buy a banana from your local supermarket, then one from a farmers market, and eat the farmers market one first, and taste the supermarket one. I bet you will throw the latter in the bin. If you don’t like bananas, try it with anything else. I hated apples until I tried one from a farmers markets. HOLY CRAP! It tastes like happiness!
I really think I have had to re-train myself to actually taste again.
I’ve gone from someone who lived on Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine “meals” (or should I say reconstituted slop) to someone who buys bucketloads of fresh fruit and vegetables, high quality meat, cheese and eggs, and prefers to dine out at places that use these ingredients.
That’s not to say I don’t love Maccas chips (McDonald’s fries for those of you outside of Australia) or pizza from time to time, but for every day eating, I much prefer produce that is local, fresh and free of all the chemical junk. It doesn’t have to be wholly organic, just direct from a farm is far less polluted than the supermarket stuff, believe me.
The funny thing is, the minute I slip into the guilt and denial mode again, what do I dream about? Cheap chocolate and junk food! So it’s quite a simple equation for me to remember:
Don’t eat properly = crave rubbishy food. Either starvation or shit food makes me feel shit.
Eat good quality food when I’m hungry = happy tastebuds, sated appetite, healthy body, clear skin and eyes, and yes, even a happier wallet.