My Food Journey

The honeymoon period lasted almost 13 years.

In the beginning, I ate when I was hungry, and I ate what I was hungry for. Memories from my childhood, associated with food, make me smile; because once upon a time,  food was associated with happy times in my life and with people I loved.

I still remember the corn roasts my family would have at the end of summer. I would anxiously wait for my cob of corn to be removed from the grill.  My mom would carefully peel back the charred husks and remove the silk from the steaming cob of corn. She would then fashion the husks into  a handle, so I could dip the ear into a water filled coffee can, topped with a layer of melted butter. I would eat with reckless abandon, too young and carefree to pay any mind to the kernels covering my face or the butter dripping off my elbows.

I also remember being delivered  into the care of my grandparents, while my mom ran weekly errands. Visiting their garden was something I looked forward to, as I was excited to see which vegetables were ready to be picked (and eaten). Carrots were my favorite. I would crouch down on the moist dirt, search for what I thought would be the biggest carrot of all, and  carefully pry it from the ground. We would then scrub the dirt off using the garden hose. Sitting on the porch next to my grandpa, I would crunch that carrot all the way down to the green, leafy stem.

My other grandma lived several hours away. I loved it when she would visit, because I could always count on her to make homemade caramel rolls. The sweet, yeasty smell tantalized me.  I always searched out the biggest roll in the middle of the pan, as I preferred the soft, fluffy whiteness to the well done  rolls around the edges of the pan. I would ceremoniously unroll those sticky little bundles of cinnamon and caramel, dangling the doughy ribbons into my mouth, saving the pecans for last, savoring every single bite.

But then,  I went on my first diet. I no longer ate what I was hungry for or when I was hungry. I ate what had the fewest calories and I ate at scheduled times. Food occupied every waking moment of my day, tormenting me. I agonized over every morsel that went into my mouth. Feelings of anxiety and self depreciation ensued when I didn’t follow the stringent food rules I had set for myself.

I no longer ate what I was hungry for. Foods became classified as good or bad. Good foods were low in calories, bland and labeled as safe. Bad foods were decadent and forbidden; sinful even. When my willpower waned, and a bad food crossed over my lips, panic quickly engulfed me.

Food overwhelmed me. I would pour over magazines and cookbooks for hours at a time, studying food I would not allow myself to eat. Each night I would meticulously plan what I was going to eat the next day. Eating what I was hungry for was not part of the equation.  Food was not meant to be enjoyed.

I no longer ate when I was hungry. I welcomed hunger pangs. A gnawing belly comforted me much like my grandma’s caramel rolls had once done.

Then one day, making decisions about what to eat was eliminated. Food was placed in front of me. My decision became whether I  would eat it or not. Small bites of food would spend an eternity in my mouth as I would chew it beyond recognition. Choosing not to eat resulted in a glass of sticky sweet liquid, taking the place of the unchosen food, calorie for calorie.

Recovery changed me, but in hindsight, not necessarily for the better. So perhaps it wasn’t recovery after all. My food world became focused on fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Hello, South Beach diet. Hello, aspartame. Hello, low fat. Hello, prepackaged highly processed food. Hello, tingly fingers and throbbing head.

And then, another relapse. Back to the calories. 1,200 of them. Calories filled with fruit and vegetables and chicken and fish. But there were only 1,200 to be accounted for. Way too much time was spent consuming those calories. And way too much time was spent thinking about them.

Enter recovery. For real this time. I now eat when I am hungry. And I eat what I am hungry for.

 

A Pantoum

 

Once upon a time…

I ate when I was hungry, and I ate what I was hungry for.

Food was not classified as good or bad;

And eating was never a source of fear or anxiety.

 

I ate when I was hungry and I ate what I was hungry for.

Stringent rules about eating did not exist,

And eating was never a source of fear or anxiety.

Calories were not part of the equation.

 

Stringent rules about eating did not exist.

Every waking hour was not focused on food.

Calories were not part of the equation.

Food was associated with the people I loved.

  

Every waking hour was not focused on food,

Nor was it categorized as good or bad.

Food was associated with the people I loved.

Once upon a time…

 

Karen Hovie

2014

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