Knowing my talent lies with savoury dishes, lately I’ve been experimenting with more sweet recipes hoping it will improve my hand in baking. I suppose the reason why I don’t do it more often is because baking usually uses a lot of butter, eggs, sugar etc., and I’m conscious of gaining back the weight I lost when I was a vegetarian. I worked really hard to lose all that weight and to regain even 5 pounds is a frightening thought.
I fricking love food! But there was a time when it was not a source of passion for me, as it is now. From my teenage years to all the way into my early adulthood, food caused me a lot of misery and self hate. Until 5 years ago I was an overeater, trying to fill what I thought was an emptiness with food; lots and lots of food. Every meal became a mission to soothe the aches inside, but no matter how much I ate the hurt was not remedied.
I gained weight really quickly, balooning to almost 200lbs, and although I knew I was eating a lot and not exercising, my health wasn’t a priority in my life. I mean that’s crazy right! How can one ignore one’s own health? Very easily, as it turned out. It wasn’t a priority because the overeating, the depression, the lonelines, none of that seemed real. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, the image reflected back was just a shell, as if the person I knew myself to be was trapped inside unrecognizable flesh walls. Denying there was a problem was much easier than taking ownership of it.
The rapid weight gain also became noticeable to my family, who showed concern but didn’t know how to help. As a teenager, my father, who was not an easy man to live with, would give me a hard time about my weight, even when eating just a regular meal. Feeling hurt, I would yell at my dad to lay off, to which he usually retorted “I’m just trying to help.”
We’ve all heard our fair share of those “helpful” comments and I can say, unequivocally, they don’t really help. These comments, though seemingly harmless and maybe even well-intentioned, are anything but helpful. I suppose the people who say them think that their comments will inject a hot dose of inspiration in our lives. Having spoken to a lot of other overeaters over the years, it’s been my experience that these types of comments actually work to feed the guilt many overeaters experience, especially after eating something unhealthy. For me, it was a weird form of control-uncontrollable thing. I felt like I was in charge of whatever I put inside my body – because at the time it made me feel better – but then it would get out of hand as I kept eating and eating until I felt physically ill.
It didn’t help that I had family members whose unhelpful comments just made me feel less in control, thus turning to food to regain control only to lose it again in a vicious cycle. It would take years until I learned proper eating habits, find people who didn’t make me feel guilty for indulging once in a while, and started to love my body from the curves to the stretchmarks. But it wasn’t easy. For me it started with confrontation – first with myself then with those “helpful” people.
How did it become okay to make someone feel like they were defective, like they were worth less than everyone else, for not looking or behaving or eating like a crafted idol, fashioned out of fantasy?
It’s probably a ridiculously simple advice, but you can’t help someone eat better by chastising them, or belittling them into guilt and self-loathing. Really, when has that ever worked?! Lend an ear because the overeating may be masking deeper-rooted issues.
For people like me who have struggled with their eating habits (and let’s face it we always will), eventually we hit a point of what I call compounding sickness – sick of the constant binge eating, sick of the “helpful” jokes, sick of feeling unattractive, sick of feeling like we are lacking something fundamental. This is the point where we are the most vulnerable but believe me when I say it is also where we have the most options available for change. Acknowledge that as individuals, our problems with food may be personal and unique but once we begin to vocalize it, share it with someone who doesn’t judge you for it, and even laugh about it, that’s when we get the courage to take the first step towards a lifelong change. It will be a struggle – I’m not saying that it won’t be – but the road to better self acceptance is not paved with rainbows and sunshine.
But seriously, no one deserves to be denied the taste of something sweet and decadent in their lives. Food is something that should be enjoyed. It is the source of so many happy occasions and is often the most memorable part of any experience. It should not be used as a weapon to hate on others or hate ourselves.