I developed a disordered relationship with food practically from birth.
Food and eating have long since been very complicated for me.
Food was never just food. Sustenance. A source of energy.
The act of eating was never just a means to satisfy physical hunger, fuel the machine, fill the tank.
It was security. A best friend. My lover. My mother. My father.
Relief. Comfort. Excitement. Joy. A distraction.
A way to protect my self. A weapon. A protest sign. A lockable door. A “Fuck you, world.”
It gave me a sense of well-being. It gave me something that felt essential to my very ability to exist on this planet.
But above all else, and most importantly, it have me an illusion of control.
And this, above all, was crucial to me.
As a child, my world was out-of-control. Everyone in it seemed out-of-control. Every thing happening seemed out of my control.
Inside of me, good gravy, things certainly felt out of control. Feelings, thoughts. Wants. Needs. All felt huge and to a small person who felt they had no voice and no power, they were simply more than I could comprehend or cope with.
The one area I felt I had any say in was with food. What I ate and how much.
Especially how much. Any hint of the slightest suggestion that I might begin to think about considering becoming open to the idea of portion control still brings up a deep revolution within me. A protest begins without my having to even rally the troops. Big signs flashes in my head: “Fuck you!” “Over my dead body!” “Not while there is still breath in my body!”
You’ve got to be kidding. I’m supposed to let someone else tell me how much I am allowed to eat? What?!
Seriously, I get so defiantly enraged at the concept I literally feel nauseaus.
To a non-disordered person, it may be very hard to comprehend. It may seem or sound absurd.
But trust me when I say that my being able to eat or not eat what, when, and how much of something I wanted was (and sometimes still is) of incredible importance to me.
Almost feels life and death to me to be able to choose and act as I want in this one area of my life. It looks very much like addiction and obsessive-compulsive behavior because it is very much both of those things.
As you can imagine, such a relationship is doomed from the start. It is not healthy. It is instincts gone awry. It is a coping mechanism that brings an initial and momentary satisfaction followed by an ever-deeper, never-to-be-satisfied longing.
Such a relationship with food and eating skews all other relationships. It is a poor substitute for a real solution to the problem. And the problem, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the food or eating. They are merely the symptom.
So the solution, for me, has not and never will be portion control. I do not weigh and measure my food. (That still sends waves of dread through my body.) I do not label foods good or bad, or blame dieting or fad diets for my problem. Fad diets and the “diet” industry are only potential triggers or tools for my own kinked relationship to food and eating.
The problem was not and never will be my willpower.
The problem is how the funky-ass relationship to food and eating developed the first place. What was missing that led to the kink in my connection to regular eating?
There were circumstances. Maybe something ancestral, genetic, sure. But truly, there were circumstances and my response to them. My best solution for coping happened to be really distorted and led to many years of suffering.
Around all of that, I have done a great deal of work. But in terms of healing, it has come down to this: addressing the part of me that developed such a relationship in the first place.
What did that part really need? How can I help that part trust other ways of meeting those needs? (The second question is almost more important and takes a great deal of patience to answer and to implement.)
I began asking these questions, and learned to really listen for and then to the answers.
The needs and wants came first.
The answer I heard most is that part of me wanting something for herself, just for her, that no one and nothing can interfere with. In unlimited amounts.
This seemed key to the whole thing, this need.
This longing for something just for me, that no one else can have, that only I can have, that no one can take away, mess with or hurt.
Woah. Logically, it is clear when I really lay it out like that that food and eating never had a chance at solving that problem. They do not contain the ability to solve it.
But that part of me was working from a different logic that makes total sense to the information it had at the time. Given the limited resources and the level of maturity of that part of me at that time, I can see how the dots were connected to the one thing that was available and that seemed to work.
Problem is, that part is hungry for something that food and eating can never satiate.
But that is where the real work lies. But as in all things, hard work does pay off. Yes, it does suck to have to do anything at all about a problem that I wish had never started in the first place. But that is just reality and once I accepted that, things began to get better.
That is my job now. To give myself that indefinable…something…and to give it in unlimited amounts.
Sometimes it is my own attention. Support. Kindness. Comfort. Bolstering. Appreciation. Soothing. Excitement. Stimulation. Fulfillment. Fullness. Rest. Recovery. Quiet. Peace. Stillness. A sense of being ok. Safe. Whole just as I am.
These I can give myself whenever, however I want in whatever quantities that part demands, cries for, deserves. I get to pour unlimited amounts of these things into myself, and no one and nothing can interfere or mess with that.
But what about the act of eating? What about that part of it all? That part of me wants to consume, wants to be filled, wants to take in and become one with something.
No, I cannot actually physically have the experience of filling myself with something, taking a substance into my body and becoming one with it.
That is the physical aspect of the whole, and there is another series of solutions to address that part. That I can satisfy in other ways. That is a different blog for another day, perhaps.
But the rest of it, I got in spades to give. Unlimited amounts.
It took some experimentation to help that part of me trust that letting go of the old mechanism for the chance that something new would ultimately be better and actually, really work, for real. That is where patience and gentleness and compassion pay off.
But it is all worth it. The meeting of those needs of my self by myself — that, my friends, I am in control of.
At long last, I have the power that I have so craved.
For JC and anyone else who hates the idea of fucking “portions.”