Fixing the Relationship With Food

Published August 5, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

If you follow me on Twitter you’re probably already sick of me talking about my latest purchase.  Or should I say “investment”, because I’ve gone into hock to buy it!

I have bought a Thermomix.  If you haven’t seen or heard of Thermomix before, they’re a kind of multi-purpose kitchen device.  They’re so hard to explain without demonstration, because most people are pretty incredulous that they’ll do what they actually do.  Basicallly they do away with  most other kitchen appliances.  They chop, blend, process, mill, pulverise, stir, kneed, beat, whip, blend, crush, juice, mix and any other cutting/mixing method you can think of.  But that’s not all.  They also have a set of built in scales, are connected to an element so they cook through a kind of induction method as well.  But… they also have a steamer attachment that fits on the top, so you can steam food as well!

My friend Kerri bought one back in December and I’ve seen her go from someone who resented the space her kitchen took up in her house to a passionate and experimentally bold cook.  After watching her find a passion for cooking, I decided that it was time I jump in and invest in one of these wonder machines.

But I’m not here to sell you a Thermomix…

You see, I’ve always loved cooking.  I was taught by my Grandma from as soon as I could stand on one of her kitchen chairs.  But between my long history of a troubled relationship with food, thanks to a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating, and the fact that I have an incredibly busy life, with very little time to devote to cooking, I’d practically given up cooking altogether.  Which has always been something of a shame, because Grandma taught me to be a pretty good cook and I do find it enjoyable.

So what I’m hoping, by introducing the Thermomix into my kitchen, it will work with my time constraints (after all, risotto takes about 20 minutes to make in it!) and help me work through my food issues so that I reignite that love of cooking.

Food can be so fraught for we fatties.  Many of us have long histories of dieting and disordered behaviours around food, and even once we work on fixing that, it’s very hard to escape the blame and shame that is put on us.  Firstly general society likes to accuse us of being gluttons who “ate ourselves unhealthy”, and then when we are seen eating, we are shamed for it.  If we’re eating food that is considered “bad” we’re shamed for being junk food junkies and if we’re eating food that is deemed “healthy” or “good” we get told “You’ll need more than salad to fix you, fatty.” or even “Fat people shouldn’t be allowed to eat.”

Is it any wonder so many people have a fucked up relationship with food and eating?

As part of reclaiming my right to eat, and to enjoy eating and cooking, I’m going to start talking more about food, cooking and eating here on Fat Heffalump.  I’m hoping that those of you reading will find hit helpful too.

So to kick us off, tell me about your relationship with food.  What have been some of your experiences and issues with food as a fat person?  Have you been able to heal your relationship with food since finding Fat Acceptance?

*Please remember the comments policy and refrain from applying negative judgments towards food.  Fat Heffalump adheres to a “food has no moral value” policy.

28 comments on “Fixing the Relationship With Food

  • “Is it any wonder so many people have a fucked up relationship with food and eating?”

    This should be on a t-shirt!

    I’m still fighting my own food issues, even after i became a self-accepting fat woman. I still even have something of an eating disorder because of how stressed out I get, and it’s been painful trying to seek help because I’m afraid of being shamed to the point of just being told to take diet drugs or something stupid.

    But FA has been extremely helpful in my healing journey, and I couldn’t have gotten as far as I did in not hating myself, and seeing food as FOOD, not the freakin Antichrist, without it.

    • Rachel it IS so hard to seek help. Even after years of therapy, I still have trouble talking about my food issues with my therapist. Thankfully I have this outlet here on Fat Heffalump to talk about it, or it might not ever get better.

      You know, for T-shirt slogans, I reckon you can’t go past:

      FOOD: It’s not the freakin’ Antichrist.

  • Glad I found your blog! What a read. How true. All of it!

    And, I’m going to use your “resenting the space my kitchen takes up” line! 🙂 Love that….I’ve always said I really hated to cook, and would much rather quilt, sew, applique or whatever…………placemats for everyone here, with just pictures of food & utensils on them.

    Cooking for my household seems to be such a monstrous waste of my time. (and I’m able to gain weight just walking through my kitchen).

    Will be following you here!

    Sue
    Stitchknit

  • I love food. I love cooking. I love going out to restaurants. Since childhood, food had been fraught, for all the usual reasons – shame, dieting, starvation, unmet desires … it is certainly no wonder we’re all fucked up. But after coming to FA, and trying, really trying, not to load the act of eating with all the baggage it had always come with, I realized: I love food. And it turns out, I’m a good cook! I found some friends who also love food and cooking, and discovered that my knowledge of and skill with and enthusiasm for food and its preparation were things that I could connect with people through and be proud of myself for. People love to come to my house for dinner – I blog and share recipes with “foodie” friends – and making the decision that I’m only going to eat something if it’s delicious and I’ll really enjoy it made all those old “What should I (allow myself to) eat?” decisions more or less disappear. I know it’s a privilege to have the time and money to prepare good food, and I’m thankful that I have that particular privilege – I wish everyone did. I guess my overarching point is that embracing food is probably the happiest decision I’ve made for my own mental and physical health (I eat so many more vegetables now!) since deciding to accept my fatness.

  • Hi there! I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months (found it through Lesley Kinzel), but this is my first time commenting. I have had disordered eating (including years of fully blown eating disorders) since about age 11. Food is incredibly fraught with emotion and self-worth issues in my world. I got fat at about age 18, and with the exception of a couple of years of anorexia/bulimia, have remained fat. (Currently age 30.)

    I don’t restrict or purge anymore, but I still binge eat, or eat to satisfy emotional needs rather than physical hunger. I often feel as though my binge foods are my only reliable source of comfort and self-soothing. Yet, they are still loaded with shame & self-loathing.

    I find it terribly difficult to tolerate other people (besides fellow ED survivors and Fat-Accepting peeps) talking about nutrition either to me or around me. No matter how impersonal the conversation may be, I always hear judgement. “White sugar is bad for you,” transforms in my mind to “You fat disgusting pig, you are weak and pitiful for giving in to your cravings.”

    I’m pretty new to the Fat-Acceptance scene. Reading blogs like yours, Lesley’s, and Ragen Chastain’s has been seriously educational and empowering. I don’t know if I can truly call myself Fat Accepting yet, but I’m inspired by your example.

    • Rosie, I am so honoured that you would put me on par with Lesley and Ragen! They are two of my favourite FA writers, and awesome women!

      I feel the same way about other people talking about food/nutrition around me, mostly because so many of them ARE getting judgmental about food. While they may not be judging me personally, they are judging the food and anyone who eats it, so that covers me by default. I find it so triggering and usually just have to opt out.

      Here’s to finding the path to a healthy relationship with food and eating.

  • Since discovering FA, I have begun working through my issues with my body and relationship with food. It’s a process, and it’s going to take a long time, but I am confident we (me and my body – still two almost separate entities) will make it through to a newer understanding of each other and learn to become one. I have become more aware of what I can choose to out into my body, not for the food’s weight loss properties, but for the true nourishment and enjoyment of it. Learning about whole foods (meaning, taking in everything a food has to offer in it;s whole state – no hilo, butter and avocado instead of marg, olive oil and coconut oil instead of toxic vegetable oil).
    It’s a process but I’ll get there🙂
    Thanks for your posts xx

  • Food is a friend of mine. So is my stove (well, now that I’m cooking with gas, again!). The day I get my CSA box is like Christmas morning to me. I adore opening up the box and seeing what wonders lie within.

    My father began teaching me to bake when I was five, and by the time I was seven, Mom was teaching me other cooking techniques. By the time I was thirteen, I was cooking the family dinner at least twice a week, and the incidences only increased two years later when my mother was elected to the local school board. This delighted me, because I have always had a natural affinity for cooking, and especially baking.

    I grew up in a house where good food was celebrated and encouraged without regard to body size or shape. I was taught to use all my senses in putting together a good meal for people. The discovery of a really good restaurant was a cause for celebration for Mom and me. When we found a likely place, we would immediately find a day to have lunch there. Many of my best memories of her involve sitting across a table from her enjoying the hell out of both her company and a terrific meal.

    Things changed after Mom had her first stroke in the late eighties. After all, clearly she had the stroke because she was fat and ate ‘unhealthy’ things. The doctors said it, the health news said it, friends said it, and even I began to parrot what everyone else was saying. After all, if everyone said it how could it not be true?

    Mom was placed on a strict diet to reduce her blood pressure and cholesterol. I became hysterical about things like salt and cream and bacon, which I had always enjoyed in moderation. Even though I was positively skinny and didn’t share her health issues, I cut foods I loved out of my life. After all, I didn’t want a stroke! But I still loved the foods and wanted to cook them, because they gave me intense pleasure.

    My Jeckyll/Hyde period with food continued for a very long time. Mom died of her third stroke. Later that same year, my beloved grandmother succumbed to stomach cancer. Because of the disease, she more or less starved to death because she couldn’t eat.

    And I fell victim to the gospel of food demons. I was told so often that this food or that one was edible death that I would avoid foods I loved until I couldn’t bear the separation anymore, whereupon I would go on a spree eating huge amounts of fatty foods because I just couldn’t bear to go one more day without heavy cream and chocolate. This, incidentally, was the period in which I became fat.

    A major depressive episode a couple years later following my father’s death and a series of horrible events in my life brought on three years of bingeing.

    Over the last five years or so, I’ve been slowly repairing my relationship with food, and it’s been a beautiful experience. Now I can appreciate good food without guilt, without fear, and without bingeing again.

    It’s good to have my friend back.

    Oh and ironically enough, my blood pressure has never been high, my cholesterol has never been terribly high, and I am shaped exactly like the ancestors on my father’s side who mostly lived into their eighties and nineties.

    • Twistie, you’ve really been to hell and back when it comes to a relationship with food and eating, haven’t you? I’m glad you’re coming back, and that you’re welcoming that old friend back into your life.

      I’m working on doing the same.

  • Food is the enemy.

    My digestion has never been good so food has given me a lot of physical pain ever since childhood. I have always had to worry how any meal is going affect the rest of my day. But that is a physical issue. If that was all there was going on, I could make peace with food. But the rest is socially driven and not so easy to deal with.

    I was put on my first diet at age 8. I came to see food as the both the thing that somehow made me a “bad girl” as well as the implement by which I was punished for being fat. One summer all I was fed for dinner EVERY NIGHT was a plain hamburger patty and some slices of canteloupe. To this day over 40 years later, I still cannot tolerate canteloupe at all and hamburgers need a lot of disguising.

    Years ago, as a young wife I wanted to take a cooking class to learn how to make Chinese dishes for my husband. But because I was afraid people would think, “Oh she’s here because she’s fat and LOVES to eat!” I didn’t take the class. I’ve avoided wine tastings and food faires for the same reason. I don’t think it was paranoia on my part since I’ve had people tell me I’m “obessed with food” because I own cook books. All I was doing was trying to get new ideas for dinner like anyone else who has run short of family menu ideas.

    Even now, after years of working on FA, I still have problems when I come up against the stereotypes of fat people and food. I tend to eat less than I want when I’m in social settings so that no one will think “OH that’s why she’s so BIG!” Even now, after working so hard to deprogram myself, I still tend to see food as the author of all my ills and wish I didn’t have to eat.

    • Eselle I understand your pain around food and eating and the difficulty to deprogramme that. I’ve had the same fights on my hands.

      This is want to work on here – to give us ALL the tools to start to undo that damage. I don’t believe it’s permanent, it’s just REALLY sticky and hard to let go of. We can get there though.

      Just a request though – careful with the phrasing you use here. I know that you feel that food is the enemy for you, but those words can be VERY triggering for people. I try to remember to turn the statement back to myself “I feel like food is my enemy.” rather than “Food is the enemy.”

      • Yes I understand what you are saying. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone because I know emotions can be fragile. Mine sure can be about this topic.

        On another subject, I had never heard of the Thermamix before this discussion. It sounds like it does everything but the dishes! I want one. 🙂

  • Oooh, the Thermamix. My partner and I have been considering buying one. A friend has one and it has me transfixed. My issues with food come because I was a feminist child of the 80s who learned to devalue anything that was traditionally feminine. Cooking was not for me! What a fool I was. There’s nothing more important than food and being able to prepare something that gives people pleasure is the best thing in the world. I wish I’d known that sooner.

    • Oh I am so in love with my Thermie. I’ve only had it a few days and it’s so bloody easy to make things! I was going to have leftover risotto for dinner tonight, but it’s so easy to cook in it I’ve decided to whip up a soup. I’ve already made bread rolls and pineapple sorbet in it today.

  • Interesting one.

    I was literally a ‘salad-dodger’ as a kid…except that from age 4-8, I was thin. I simply didn’t eat school lunches. I had a texture issue with cooked veg – still can’t bring myself to eat any ‘mushy’ veg or fruit, and ‘mushy’ was a pretty good descriptor for all cooked veg in Britain back then. I’ve since realized that I’m fine with ‘al dente’ veg. And re salad, I still hate iceberg lettuce and beetroot, and am not keen on tomatoes – but I love lollo rosso, rocket, bell peppers and a variety of other salad fodder that simply wasn’t around back then. (I wonder how much of the ‘poor diet’ attributed to people on low incomes is just a function of what they can afford/get and not get totally sick of. By the end of WWII, plenty of people in this country were tired of being lectured about ‘healthy home grown veg’ when in the British winter, that meant an awful lot of cabbage.)

    In my teens, when I was ‘chunky’ according to my mother (140lb), it was OK for my dad to eat hearty stuff, but I got nagged to eat less of ‘the wrong things’ (basically, bread, potatoes, cheese and anything filling), and more (sigh) salad. Fortunately, I got too hungry to actually listen. My mother also tried to get me to cook, but she was a perfectionist who couldn’t stand to see stuff being done wrong; if I slipped up, she’d give me a ticking off and then send me out of the kitchen while she did it ‘properly’.

    My ex-husband saw cooking as a woman’s job, and demanded meat and two veg, every night of the week, no matter what. (This was the man who thought it was fine to live on microwave ready meals every night while I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, but extravagant to order a takeaway when I returned from the 12-hour coach trip.) He also told me I was fat, and this was also the time of those OCD-like diaries with the long lists of ‘allowed’ foods and fat grams. All in all, a very joyless time. After the divorce, it was a real relief not to have to be accountable to anyone for whether I cooked or not and what I chose to eat.

    Really, then, I’ve only truly made peace with food, to the extent of enjoying it, learning what I can do with it and just seeing it as a natural, uncomplicated part of life, in the last ten years or so. I’m sort of semi-vegetarian, on and off, but won’t refuse meat. I won’t eat anything I absolutely hate, and have discovered that I’m not nearly as ‘picky’ as I thought I was as a kid. My husband is pretty easy-going about food, and I know he’s never going to comment on anything I eat (aside from maybe ‘Can I try a bit of that?’), and it’s easy to be relaxed about eating around him. (Also realize now how much of how I feel about eating is tied up with who I’m eating with. I’d order any item on the menu in front of anyone now, but that wouldn’t always have been the case.)

    It’s weird, because this is the first time I’ve thought about a lot of this.

    • Emerald I have some similarities with food issues from childhood – while my Grandma is an excellent cook, my mother knows how to turn even the tastiest ingredient completely unpalatable! Plus she’s unbelievably fussy, so everything was “yuck” when I was very small. Even when I left home at 16 there were a lot of things I just wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t until I met my best friend and his food loving ways that I was able to try new things. In fact, in hindsight, the years I lived with him were probably the healthiest I was with my attitude to food until I found FA and have started to undo other damage.

      Oh and I know texture issues with food – mushy, slimy or squishy just turn me right off foods!

      One of the things I’m trying to do is expand my fruit and vegetable repertoire. I’ve started buying mixed fruit and veg boxes and challenging myself to find delicious things to make with whatever is in season. I’m following a lot of Thermomix recipe blogs and bookmarking a lot of new things to try. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I want to expand the vegetable matter and up things like lentils and beans because I LOVE lentils and beans!

  • I’ve been working with my relationship with food for the past 2 years or so, and think that it is pretty good right now. The first thing I did was remove value judgments from food choices. I never talk about food being “good” or “bad” nor do I see myself as “good/bad” based on food choices. No food is verboten for me. I also put any sort of self-flagellation for what I eat off the table (and I never have judged others for what they ate – it really isn’t my business what other people do with their bodies – but I hated myself for years for what I did to mine).

    The next thing I did was make efforts to actually enjoy the food I said I was enjoying. If I didn’t like it or the quality was sub-par, I threw it out. My body is not a garbage can for food which isn’t tasty. Too often, I valued the food over my health or enjoyment. I also started to really attend to the experience of eating – smell, taste, savor the food. Mindless eating was something that had to end for me because it was a psychological issue, not a biological one. Doing this taught me that it was okay to LOVE food. As a fat person, I always thought I had to hide my enjoyment of food. I got away from the shame associated with loving food by teaching myself to love the consumption of it as deeply as possible.

    Finally, I started to adjust how I viewed how much I ate of particular foods. This included “healthy” foods as well as those which I consumed for pure enjoyment. Very often, I stuffed myself and didn’t feel happy unless I ate so much that I felt uncomfortable. This was also a psychological issue rather than a biological one. I worked with this and I feel better about eating and after I eat.

    The thing about dealing with food on non-judgmental terms is that you feel empowered to deal with it maturely and with an eye toward good balance – not living some sanctified existence where some food shall never pass your lips and others shall always be greeted warmly. I set my own terms. I am a “bad fatty” by the definitions of many people who are losing weight or have lost it. I get mocked and was severely attacked by another blogger for eating chocolate and treats. Somehow, despite his dire warnings and insults, I lost 200 lbs. I credit my fixed relationship with food (largely psychological), not “dieting” or punitive thinking, with my weight loss.

    • Screaming Fat Girl it sounds like you’ve got some really solid strategies for healing that relationship with food. I’ve used some of them myself, but you articulate them even better than I have!

      It’s amazing what a difference the single act of divorcing morality from food can make. I think that’s been one of the most powerful actions I’ve taken myself.

  • I am one of the biggest Thermomix fans out there and I am also technically/clinically obese. Thermomix will almost certainly reignite your love of cooking … and eating. I love the machine for the fun it brought to my kitchen. Two years later, I’m still having some new kind of fun with the machine every day, several times a day. The trick is to use the power of this machine to help us eat better, healthier foods. I had to stop myself from making bread cuz it’s so darned easy. Pizza is way too easy too, but we can make it super thin and we can even make it taste great without cheese. Yes, Thermomix really does make it fun to explore new ways of thinking about food. I don’t sell the machine either, but I’m passionate about it because it has made me think outside the box, and that’s a good direction for those of us who need a paradigm shift in order to fix our relationship with food.

    I really look forward to reading more about your experiences with Thermomix, and have just signed up for your Twitter updates. Cheers,

  • I would love a thermomix!

    My one weight loss diet as an adult sent me into a spiral of starving and binging that left me the most mentally and physically low I have ever been. Recovery has been a long struggle but I am there at the moment.

    My relationship with food it better than it has ever been. It is that way because of a combination of intuitive eating and self love. They wrap themselves together and become a big ball of self care. Discovering what I need to eat and in what amounts to keep me satisfied in every way. Self care that sometimes involves using food for comfort, but in a positive way, not in a self destructive way.

    I blog about my intuitive eating and but really try to do it in a morally neutral way. Not assigning any unhelpful labels to the type and amount of food I eat. It’s not good or bad, just food. It took years of rejecting any outside influences regarding food rules and recognising some that I didn’t even realise were there. Taking calories, weight loss, restrictive thoughts and all self judgement regarding what I eat has been the most important part of the whole thing.

  • Hello! I can relate to this post as well. One of my earliest memories is visiting a nutritionist, and I was on diets constantly as a kid. At other times, the family ate chips, chocolate and chiko rolls. I’ve never spoken to my Mum about it, but I think my brother and I were taken along on the rollercoaster of her emotions – needing comfort, eating, feeling guilty, dieting.
    At school, I wouldn’t eat my lunch at lunch time. I would wait until after school because I didn’t want any of the other kids to see me eating. After I moved out of home, if I wanted to eat something ‘not approved’ (by who, I wonder now??), I would buy it at the supermarket and take it home, or order food to be delivered. NEVER let other people see me actually eating it. I would ‘casually’ mention to the check out person that the chocolate was for my sister, if I was feeling particularly vulnerable.
    I’ve spent many miserable times eating out. My friends like to go out to dinners a lot, especially for birthdays. I found these to be very anxiety-triggering times. I didn’t even realise I was doing it until it tumbled out to my counsellor one day. I would compare what my friends ordered to what I ordered. (Female friends only.) My meal had to be the ‘healthiest’ and/or the smallest. I had to leave the most behind on my plate. I would only give myself permission to order dessert if they did, too. It was only then that I could not feel quite so guilty. Sadly, I ruined a few of my own birthday dinners that way, by making myself miserable. Since I realised what I’d been doing, I’ve been able to start working on it. Being more self-aware has helped me.
    Thank you for your blog!

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