Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Trouble With Food

The trouble with food, I've often explained to people around me, is that as an addition it's awfully hard to kick. I can't go cold turkey because I need to eat. And while yes I could give up all the sugar, fat, fried goodies, it ultimately doesn't matter as I can binge on Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie. There are no restrictions on my addiction, like most junkies, if I can't get the best fix, I'll amble on over to the next best.

I eat for a variety of reasons. I'm depressed, bored, happy, hungry. Insert emotion and there is a food. Food is always a part of the celebratory aspect of any holiday. I bake cookies. I create casseroles loaded with cheese and eggs. We eat our way through Christmas morning, Thanksgiving Day, and Easter. I don't know how to create a holiday that doesn't include copious amounts of goodies. My Pinterest board is a testament to this fact. I also really do love food. I love new flavors and trying different cuisines. I love to create in the kitchen taking the raw ingredients and making something nearly magical with them. Cooking is a way that I show that I care, that I love the person for whom I prepare the food. But food is also a drug for me, and it is in the intersection of these two experiences of food that I lose my way.

Over the last few years, I feel like I've been caught in a whirlwind of changes. My expectations and plans for my life have been swept up and transported somewhere else. I don't do well when the careful to do list on which I've worked so diligently is snatched out from under me. So I've sat here in Athens for just about three years, and ate my way through the many emotions I've felt.

This was a trend that began in Charlotte. When I was rejected from every graduate school I applied too (even the safety ones) the consumption began. I ate until I was uncomfortably full at first, and then I began to eat past that point. I'd lay awake at night sick with food I had barely tasted. If I didn't overeat during the day, I'd creep out into the kitchen in the early  morning hours to quietly indulge while standing in the dark at the kitchen encounter. One the rare occasion when H found me, the shame rode me. I blushed in the darkness but I didn't stop eating. By the time we moved to Athens, I was already spiraling deeper into my food addiction. Deeper than I had been for along time.

And once in Athens, set loose from scheduled work, due dates, and lesson plans, I felt helpless and useless. I floated on an ocean of too much time, and I ate my way through the fear, the anxiety, the depression.

Now I'm starting to see a way out, and I'm trying to swim but I'm loaded down with the addition that just doesn't go away when it's out lived its usefulness.

Two weeks ago, I made cinnamon rolls. I felt safe in making them as the beasties are crazy about cinnamon rolls. I was wrong. It wasn't safe. No one liked them but me. They sat there in their creamy frosting glory. I ate one after dinner feeling safe and slightly virtuous even though it annoyed me to feel this way. Food isn't dangerous. It isn't moral. It's not good or evil. I repeated these things to myself as I ate half a roll. I felt full but it wasn't unpleasant. I went for a walk with the little beasties and H. When we returned, I ate the other half. Throughout the night, I couldn't keep away. I should have thrown them out. I should have frozen them. I didn't do those things. Instead I ate them.  I ate several. And by midnight I was nearly writhing in pain. I ate them when I could feel the gluten rising up in my chest. I ate them when it was clear that my tricky gall bladder was going to kick my ass. And then I ended up in the ER. I sat there shamed thinking about how I had eaten myself into this place. There was no rehab to check me into, only the quiet disdain of the Dr. who lectured me on my bad eating habits. Like I didn't know hatt one shouldn't eat ten cinnamon buns in one evening. Not that I told him this thing. He made that assumption looking at my fat body.

I've learned my lesson, I thought as H drove me home at six am. I have to get control of my eating. And for a couple of weeks I did okay. But then last night, I ate cupcake after cupcake. I inhaled chips. I asked Piper to bring me a cupcake as soon as H went to bed because I was ashamed that I was eating this when I wasn't hungry. As soon as I bit in to the soft crumbly chocolate, I knew it was going to hurt, and I ate the damn thing anyway. I woke up at four with the now familiarly stabbing pain that comes from a gall stone. I walked, took a shower, sat on the couch, and waited for four hours until the pain went away and I could sleep.

As I watched the sun rise over the hospital next door, I experienced a total helplessness. If I was addicted to drugs or alcohol, I could go to rehab. I might even encounter sympathy instead of the lecturing shame. Why I often wonder do we assume that people who are addicted to food only need to show some will power? I have will power aplenty as anyone who knows me can attest but in the face of food, I am very very weak.