The Girl Can Eat

There was a moment (that lasted years) – when I was fifteen, when I stepped on the scale and found myself over 100 pounds. That was it, I told myself. I wasn’t going to do this. I wasn’t going to be fat. I would fight back. I would nip my escalation (into a whole person..?…I mean, wtf?…) in the bud.

So that summer, my income from Maverick Family Steak House walked straight into the mall with me and plopped itself down on the counter for a HealthRider. I placed it outside our country home, on the sidewalk — and right there, I started my relationship with self-worth, based on my weight.

After bordering on disorder for a few years, as unhappy as one could be, with an ulcer to boot —  I threw in the towel one night in college, poised over a box of pizza, with my roomies. Food gave way to friendship, to laughter, to JOY. I honestly hadn’t even known.

After I opened the flood gates, I saw just how much joy I could acquire through eating. The cafeteria became my friend. Mostly because of the soft-serve, self-serve ice cream machine. I ate slowly, savoring my food. So slowly, in fact, that almost every meal ended with my friends saying they had to cut out, so I would sit there, ending my mealtime, alone. Meditative.

An avid reader, I had discovered Jeffrey Steingarten, while salivating over Prada. The food writer for Vogue had fueled an intense food curiosity through his monthly column. He wrote of things I’d never heard; he let me travel around the world with him, via his plate.

So when I landed in Italy, soon after graduation, that’s when shit really got interesting. The food. The food. The FOOD. I ate gelato twice a day, pasta at every meal, pastries for breakfast and pané for snack. I carb-loaded for three years. I had never been happier. Was I on the [financially] poor side, those years….?…walking dogs and baby-sitting? Yes. But much like now, my joy didn’t come from the big picture. It came from the tiny moments in a day. And those tiny moments were Big With Flavor. Maybe I was walking a lot (of course I was) – but my weight didn’t really suffer. I was free and easy…at least…in regards to a relationship with food.

Five months ago, a little five-pound baby exited my body. And with him, just those five pounds. The remainder of the pregnancy weight has hung on for dear life, despite my stroller-and-dog walks, despite my basement dance workout videos, despite that I love vegetables with fiery passion — just as much as I love junk food.

So I have gained a tiny life-long friend, but I have lost something big. I have lost the relationship I had with food, food as my dear friend, the one I have treasured for so long now. The one I thought I’d earned. It’s glaring at me, across the kitchen table, now. It’s mocking me. It’s threatening to find me, head in my hands, knee-deep in self-hate. Again.

I am heartbroken; I do not exaggerate. I feel real loss here. I’m back in my home, fifteen years old, standing on the scale, feeling fear. I’m staring into the future, scared it will feel like the past; terrified that it won’t.

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