In The Mood for Food

Over the weekend Jon and I attended a relatively small barbecue at a friend’s house with about 12 other adults and as many children. Right before we ate all the children walked around to the adults and handed out handwritten food and drink menus:

The spieshl stek was indeed very spieshl, and although I’ve been known to pound my fair share of liquor (and everyone else’s share), we took it pretty easy on the acahol.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take it very easy on the honeydew melon or the cantaloupe. I have a problem with melon, one that makes it impossible for me to stop eating it once I’ve begun. And I think melon itself is a nuisance because it’s so damn sneaky: you don’t realize just how much melon you’ve consumed until you suddenly realize that you’re 20 months pregnant with a cantaloupe baby.

The problem started my sophomore year in college while I was adhering to one of those monumentally unhealthy low-fat diets. I’d eat a small bowl of cereal in the morning, followed by cereal at lunch and cereal at dinner. Occasionally I ate baked Lays potato chips, because those were so flavorful and full of vitamins, obviously, but I never ate fruit because I’d heard HORROR stories about the calorie content of a single banana. I was afraid that I’d eat an apple and wake up the next morning with an apple-sized nodule of fat on my thighs.

I know now that I was being completely insane, but at the time I was horrified of gaining weight, and I think many women at that age experience some of the same fears. I’m not ashamed to admit that between the ages of 16 and 22 I had a crippling and dysfunctional relationship with food, and that because of that relationship I will never be able to look at food like a normal person.

Perhaps there is no normal way to look at food, and when I say normal I mean the way my father wanted me to look at food when I approached him in 1992 and said I desperately needed help because I was starving myself on a regular basis. He didn’t know what to say to me, or how to help me, and the last thing he wanted was a member of his own family seeing a therapist, how scandalous! So he sat me down and said, “It’s really easy, Heather. When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re not hungry, you don’t eat.” That’s great advice to a four year old, perhaps, but to a teenager who was starving herself as a means to control something it was like telling a diabetic that they’d get better if their body would just produce more insulin already.

I hadn’t been able to eat when I was hungry for years, not because I had a weight problem but because I felt that everything else in my life was completely chaotic. The anorexia slowly turned into bulimia slowly turned into excessive exercising slowly turned into a somewhat functioning ability to eat like a normal person but being completely obsessed with it. Trying to maintain a 3.9 grade point average in college to keep my scholarship only exacerbated the obsession, and I lived for years in a cage of thought about what I was or was not going to eat next.

During the cereal marathon of my sophomore year one of my roommates read in a women’s magazine that you could eat as much melon as you wanted without gaining weight because it was made up entirely of water. I’d had it with the Wheaties, and one afternoon I bought a honeydew melon and a cantaloupe and ate both in less than 15 minutes. What the article failed to mention, however, was that eating anything more than a SANE amount of melon would cause your entire body to bloat so quickly and to such dangerous proportions that you might pop and explode like a thundering green and orange geyser.

I have a much healthier relationship with food now, due mainly to the fact that I have a much healthier relationship with myself. It’s just, sometimes I can get carried away with the melon. And the chocolate pudding. And the bologna. And, ohmigod, the Doritos. And the Bubblegum Jones Soda. And did I mention the bologna?