No matter how many times you get your heart broken, have a birthday, get promoted, or survive another day without Ian Somerhalder responding to your declaration of love via Twitter, food will always be there. Food becomes a major part of our lives, from looking forward to the dry chicken and five-tiered cake at weddings to the curative powers of anything containing chocolate, it’s easy to have a complicated relationship with what’s in the fridge simply because eating becomes a major part of so many of our experiences.

There are those who buy books dedicated to food’s preparation, and those who delight in chowing down on whatever those oven-mitted martyrs prepare. There are those who see food only for how many calories it could potentially add to their waistline, those who see food as a flavorful enemy, and those who treat food likes a reliable, silent confidante. For a long time, I was relying on food for consolation, but after too many unreturned texts and catching food having dinner with my best friend, I finally saw food for what it really is: what’s on my plate.

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My complicated relationship with food probably started in second grade. I was eight when my grandma died and I started staying home by myself before and after school because I was an only child, and my mom worked full time. …That isn’t an RSVP to a pity party, by the way, that’s just what happened.

When I’d get home from school, after conquering my reading homework, I’d find myself bored watching Arthur on PBS. To pass the time, I started having snacks even when I wasn’t that hungry. A few cookies one day, some strawberries the next, a small bag of potato chips the day after that. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but I didn’t realize I was setting a precedent.

Back then, I was forcing boredom and food together much in the same way I made my dog stuffed animals marry outside of their breeds. As I got older, any time I was bored, I’d grab a snack or a can of pop–it became a reflex. In junior high and high school, when stress (at least what I thought was stress then) became a part of my life, my entertainment eating turned into eating when sad, happy, nervous, annoyed, content, worried, or premenstrual. Food became the common denominator for experiencing everything I felt. Its primary purpose wasn’t nutrition, sustenance, flavor, celebration, reward, or even an answer to a growling stomach. It became my constant; a way to deal with whatever life threw my way, a convenient emotional booty call just waiting for me in the kitchen cabinets or refrigerator door. This tempting tradition resulted in my metamorphosis from pleasantly plump to technically obese.

I can recall several moments where I had glimpses of honesty about my eating habits. I’d be on my third piece of pizza thinking, “Why am I eating so much of this?” I’d be absentmindedly watching a movie with a bag of Chex Mix, and reach in for another fistful, hopefully filled those delicious dark brown rye chips, and come up only with crumbs. “Oh my gosh, I ate that entire bag one sitting…” I was relieving my stress by treating my stomach like a bottomless pit. I thought filling my stomach would make me feel whole. The thing is, the respite only lasted until I found the bottom of my ice cream bowl.

At the beginning of my senior year of college, with the inevitability of “real life” looming on the calendar, marked by a graduation cap in May, that something changed; I changed. I realized that even though I was generally happy, I wasn’t healthy, and more importantly, I could be happier without my eating habits weighing on my conscience every time I took a gratuitous bite. I needed to get the Hamburglar off my back.

I analyzed my relationship with food, and take it from me, it’s not easy to admit to yourself that you’re relying on a huge helping of chicken alfredo to let yourself feel. Beyond my emotional eating, it didn’t help that I was eating proportions that would make Gaston from Beauty and the Beast blush and treating McChickens like their own food group. I objectively appraised my diet, and I saw that I needed to make changes to be healthier. I didn’t go gluten free or vegetarian. I didn’t embark on the Paleo Diet or Master Cleanse. I changed my perception of what and why I was eating, and in so doing, I gained a deeper appreciation for all food, including the green stuff that’s good for you.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating with a piece of cake, taking a friend out to dinner, or indulging in a cupcake because it was one of those days, but I think it’s important to know why you’re eating what you’re eating. I hate these blurred lines with food, because it so easily becomes a stress ball, a shoulder to cry on, or a way to pass the time, but I’m more aware now.

Now food is just what’s on my plate.

38 thoughts on “Blurred Lines: About Food, Not Robin Thicke

  1. Sounds like my path, which started with my snacking during Arthur or some other show I was too old for but watched out of boredom. The after school reward!

  2. This is such a great post on this topic. I’m working really hard to get to the place where food is just what’s on my plate. It’s a long, slow process (for me, at least). Good for you for making the changes you needed to make and learning how to treat yourself better, and for not relying on dieting gimmicks to get you there. It gives me a lot of hope that I can finally get to that place, too.

    1. It just takes time. I really think it’s something you can’t force on yourself. I tried and failed several times to make changes to my diet before really committing to it and getting to place where I could face my food honestly.

  3. I eat a lot of food because I am bored too. I am a vegetarian but I eat tons of chocolate and sweets that I really shouldn’t be eating! i don’t drink soda either but I make up for it for the amount of coffee I consume in the morning.

    1. See, I have this weird thing where I forget that vegetarian just means “no meat” as opposed to “all vegetables,” so I forget that vegetarians can enjoy sweets just as much as anyone else.

      I’m not a coffee person–at least I have that going for me?

      1. Oh wow. Even though we don’t have a history of it in my family, the way I was eating for such a long time, I’m lucky I didn’t become that Liberty Medical diabeetus guy.

  4. Craft beer is my weakness. Sucks that they pack a major calorie punch. It’s such a balancing act. I’m definitely a foodie, but during the week I have to be very mindful to not overindulge and then I give myself a longer leash on the weekends.
    And yeah, Ian Somerholder…..only the hottest man in the entire world.

    1. I love Ian. I’m not sure if it’s so much Ian, or Damon from Vampire Diaries… Okay, no, it’s definitely Ian.

      The one thing I have going for me is that in the alcohol department, I don’t like beer. My weakness is the fruity drinks with vodka that can have a ton of calories, too…

  5. I have never had issues with food until recently. I don’t think I overindulge, but I must be doing something wrong to be this overweight. I’ll have to take a closer look. Great post!

    1. For me, I was oddly in denial about it, yet also kind of aware. I’d realize when I was eating a huge bowl of ice cream, “Hey, you don’t need to eat so much of this,” but I’d come up with every justification for it that you can imagine. I’ve just had to become more honest with myself.

  6. I can definitely relate. My metabolism took a nose-dive at 24, then again after having the little kid. I have had to completely revamp my eating habits, and although I’m much healthier than I was just a few years ago, I know I’ll never be a 00 again. It’s commendable that you had the ability to be self-reflective enough to make some difficult changes. Best of luck!

    1. Thanks! It’s not always easy, but I’ve gotten to a point where my eating habits are a lot healthier than they used to be. I can only imagine how hard it must be after having a baby.

  7. I agree, the food should know its rightful place – a plate on a kitchen or a dinner table. If food was meant to be used to fight boredom, a microwave oven would have been a standard feature of any entertainment center.

  8. Great post, Katie.
    At one point, I don’t think I was really tasting anything, just sort of cleaning up the plate and moving on to the next. “food is just what’s on my plate.” it took me a long time to get there. But once I did, I started appreciating food all the more. Even cake tastes better now.

    1. I totally agree! I wasn’t tasting anything either, and it even gets to a point where once you’ve cleared your plate, you don’t even remember if what you ate was good. There was no enjoyment with eating, just the act itself.

  9. SOOO true! And so hard. Food is SO much more than just what we eat to keep ourselves alive… but it shouldn’t be. I was in a really good place a couple years ago and then somehow, without even realizing, completely reverted back to my bad habits.

    1. I still fall back on it sometimes, especially at work some days where I have a lot to do and it stresses me out, but I’m trying to go for glasses of water and fruit instead of junk.

      …It’s totally not as effective as a bag of Fritos or something sweet, but it’s healthier.

  10. Love this. It started for me when I was a child and refused to eat which turned into me not being able to leave the table (or have my parent’s approval) until I finished my food. Now I have to really think about if I’m hungry or just finishing to finish the food.

    1. That is such a common thing. I know several people who were taught that you were in trouble if you didn’t “clear your plate,” so now, even as adults, they feel the need to keep eating, even if they get full long before their plate is empty. That’s what Tupperware is for.

  11. Awesome post. My issue is more about my taste buds than emotional eating. I simply enjoy food and forget that I can enjoy a few bites just as much as finishing the entire thing. When I find something good, I devour it. I am currently working on training myself to slow down and enjoy some of something that is teasing my taste buds then put it down and walk away. Also, by doing this I’ll shrink my stomach some so feeling full comes quicker.

    1. Oh, I can relate to that, too, especially when I eat at restaurants. I’m a firm believer in that when you take the food home, it never tastes the good the next (case in point: french fries). So I’d strive to clear my plate, which is probably at least two servings. I’ve gotten better about not feeling the need to eat everything that’s in front of me… but I still think second-day food is inferior.

      1. I am the opposite. Leftovers are my favorite breakfast..not french fries but other things like pasta, chinese takeout, pizza, etc. Problem is, it is considered offensive to not eat everything you are given in Japan. You are expected to clean the plate, bowl and glass, it’s a matter of honoring your host(ess). >.< This makes cutting the carbs difficult to say the least…considering how much rice and/or noodles they serve here.

      2. Oh I can imagine! It’s probably noodle heaven. I really don’t like second day pizza, but pasta, burgers, and meat can be okay. Salad gets a little funky because the dressing is already mixed in, you know?

  12. Our relationship with food is never easy. At least you took the time to sit back and realise how and why and make some changes. Sounds like you have a very good relationship with food now and you have a rockin’ body to boot!

    1. Well, I don’t know about rockin’ body, but it’s definitely a lot healthier than what it was before. It took a long time before I was really ready to admit it to myself.

  13. Great post! I too can relate in a big way. I’ve always used food to numb/dumb out from life, much like an addict who uses alcohol or drugs to escape. It honestly never bothered me though, as I am small. Even in my “fat body”, I’m not big. I’m a closet eater. No one ever sees me eat and therefore, when I am actually healthy, I’ve been accused many times of having an eating disorder. Recently, I fell on a big binge fest of 2 weeks straight eating a large pizza and cake all by myself in one sitting each and everyday, plus bags of chips, ramen, and juice. You know what’s funny, others in my life think I look healthy when I eat like this.

    I digressed.

    Developing a healthy relationship with food is vital to living a healthy life. It can be difficult too, since our society is one where overeating is so normal and even acceptable. I personally think that in school, kids should be taught that the key to health actually lies within healthy, loving relationships, spirituality, fun activities, pursuing and creating our heart-felt desires and ultimately a fulfilling relationship with oneself. Once we have those things covered, a healthy relationship with food naturally develops.

    I try, when I reach for an over-abundance of toxic foods, to stop myself and ask, “What are you really hungry for?”

    Again, great post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I completely agree! In our culture food is so often used to de-stress, to celebrate, or to reward accomplishments. It’s really to be expected that eventually it become a source of solace for some people. Keeping in mind that food is just food and that eating a McChicken isn’t the key to happiness or relief is important. There’s nothing wrong with indulging every once in awhile, but it’s important to keep in mind a plate of food isn’t going to solve anything.

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