Sunday, April 12, 2009

Musing on my relationship with food

(NB: This is pretty much a stream of consciousness ramble. I'm thinking aloud sorta in words. It is probably too long and boring for most to read but for me it's my way of figuring out something baffling. You're welcome to read it and hopefully you will have an insight that can help yourself or someone else - including me - along the way).

I am an eater.

Nothing new about that per se. Most living creatures eat - even single celled organisms almost invisible to the naked eye eat - sort of.

Eating is at the crux of the sustainability of Life. Nourishment from an external compound creates a looped system of Birth - Life - Death complexity that can boggle the mind if you let it.

Food, in order to make that Life part between Birth and Death has to have just enough of the right chemical compounds to bring the right kind of sustaining nutrients required by the various cells in the body to continue to function even while they are in decline and decay. The aim of food is to delay the decay process of Life towards death for as long as possible so that the propagation of those cells can be as successful as possible in new generations. Life is incredibly selfish that way!

That's the simplistic side to the food story. The base understanding that food is necessary for my very survival and fitness to live for as long as possible, is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Thing is - food - and I - have a complex relationship superimposed onto the mere survival one that is so in your face, its spinning obviousness is akin to a Catherine Wheel! It's somewhat dangerous and even a little bit incendiary. Food is both my saviour and my nemesis; my god and my daemon.

Love and Hate for this substance that gives me life or could just as easily kill me before my body has had a chance to live out its natural and slow decay process to a peaceful death, gives me both chills and thrills: and sometimes the order of those are mix and match to the order of the others. What gives me a thrill is likely as not to be incredibly dangerous if consumed in too great a quantity over a sustained period. What gives me chills is likely as not to be the very thing my body craves to nurture it to continued life. And vice versa.

Three years ago, I weighed in excess of 105 kilograms. For those not yet familiar with Metric measurement that equates to approximately 230 pounds (16.5 stone for the UK people out there).

Right now, I am not game to stand on the scales to see for sure what I currently weigh. About 6 months ago it was somewhere in the vicinity of 75kgs (165lbs or 11.5 stone). I suspect I may have gained in under two months, approximately 10kg (22lbs or 1.5 stone approx.).

The question I ask now is "Why?"

I am eating again! That's why.

But wasn't I always eating? Even when having lost so much weight?

Yes! I had been eating. I had been eating in a disciplined, controlled, self-denying kind of way. To lose in excess of 30kgs over the course of two and a half years, I went into a kind of mindset that essentially said "Do not eat THIS or THAT no matter how much you want to!". I eliminated a lot of the carbodhydrates from my diet. Actually I eliminated or at the very least, severely reduced the following:

Potatoes (except sweet potatoes)

I lived on rice grain products such as rice milk, and rice floured breads, meat and most vegetables. I cheated a bit on the dairy as I'm a big fan of cheese and cheese became my main "treat".

Including those restrictions, I began walking - a lot. I was going through some massive internal changes as well. My marriage was slowly disintegrating; I was seeking love in other places; I was spiritually changing some of my perspectives; I was also craving new challenges and new experiences. Essentially, the weight loss was an expression of a vast 'iceberg' effect of internal change being evidenced by a smaller external surface change - aka weight loss.

Three years on and my life is in a new place. I'm single again and I am living under very different conditions to the past life I had. I have different wants now and a very different set of priorities. I don't walk nearly as much as I did. I work in an office now which is a lot more sedentary than I've been this past three years. And - the main culprit? I eat what I want when I want even if it's not necessary or good to do so.

I'm eating not out of the need to survive but because there is no emotional set of circumstances strong enough within me to govern my sense of having to control my world.

Is my world under control now? I do feel more "content" within myself. Yes! I am a bit lonely on the romance front but that is to be expected and quite frankly - I'm getting rather used to my nice unfettered independence. The only thing I am out of control with is food.

Again I have to ask "Why?".

I do wonder if it's boredom sometimes. I wonder if it's to do with instant gratification. It may also be do to with sensual pleasure. I have always enjoyed the sensory pleasure of food. Eating is very much an "In the Moment" kind of thing. Its very present, as in "right now", is eating. It's right here, right now: a canopy of sensual experience across the spectrum of the senses. Touch, taste, sight, smell, sound. Food answers the sensual need to FEEL the physical world as real.

I live in such an intellectualised state of being most of the time - that I wonder if perhaps, I am over-eating because there is within me, a subconscious need to strike more balance between my physical reality and the intellectual/fantasy thought life I tend to adore too well. My body is literally pleading with me to balance the realm of thoughts and ideas I frequent with sensual, physical sensory experiences. My body is trying to tell me I need to breathe and ground myself into more Earth rather than continually focus on the Air of Ideas.

It's a novel thought really and one I hadn't considered until writing it just now. My body is conditioned to use food as a device for connecting to earth; for finding sensory experiences springing from the subconscious and conscious thinking I do so much.

Then there is Emotion! Watery, fluid, morphing, moving emotion. I have always said I'm an "Emotional Eater". I do eat when stressed, tired, bored, anxious, happy, content, placid, busy. The few times I don't eat are when the stress reaches a critical mass and I am physically incapable of eating too much, which was exactly the case not long after I left my marriage of 18 years in May last year. For nearly three months, I found it difficult to eat a lot at all and spent most of my time attempting to find work, crying and walking to meditate and pray about my lot in life.

Right now, I suspect my base emotional reason for over-eating all the foods that "do me no good", is the fact that I am frustrated and bored.

I have a great job! I love my job really and am enjoying the learning curve involved very much. My job is however, very Air oriented. It's almost pure intellectual thought and idea and both the absorption of idea and the dissemination of idea - hopefully as creatively and as inspiring as possible. What my job is not is very Earth. The office - meaning the people in that office - seem to subconsciously try to correct this through the use of food as a means to provide balance to our very cerebral kind of work. Interesting!

I don't need a lot of massive control in my life right now either. My house needs attention in the housework department of course but it's okay - I don't feel unduly pressing need to organise straight lines and the stuff as much as I had done in my previous home. The energy is "different" here - but that's probably a musing for another day.

Where my base frustrations are springing from and triggering my instinctive impulses to overeat certain "not-good-for-me" foodstuffs is most likely in the realm of sex and romance. It seems that I might be the kind of woman who literally needs a certain level of physical sensuality and gratification of the kind usually presented in the bedroom between lovers. That's about as delicately as I can put it without sounding too crass or TMI about it *blush*. Not just ANY kind of physical sensuality mind you - I did get very fat within a perfectly "normal" marriage after all!

No! What I mean is that I currently desire something I am simply not getting. Intimacy of the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual kind. I am not "in love" and nor do I love anyone with enough limerence to create the endorphins my brain says are satisfying enough that I can do without the need to eat!

Part of this is the pure fantasy of romantic Hollywood style "perfected" love of course. My Knight in Shining Armour coming to whisk me away from my mundane life to one of sensual pleasure, delight and utter adoration of ME! etc etc etc T'would be nice I suppose if I wasn't also looking for someone with a good brain as well! ;)

I'm eating because I'm frustrated emotionally and romantically. Food is my drug, soothing and smoothing the edges to this frustration. It's my crutch and comforting friend when no other actually exists in my physical reality. I'm not choosing foods I CAN eat without needing to worry about gaining weight. I want to eat those foods for which the conditioned pleasure of eating them outweighs the emotional and physical sense of loss and discomfort.

I eat a lot of bread! Bread and high carbohydrate foods tend to become a looping system of addiction for me. I eat bread, I crave more bread. A little like giving up smoking, giving up bread is fraught with cravings so strong as to be almost impossible to do - at least for me. Cheese in all its varieties is another of my chosen comforters. Giving up cheese equates to a feeling of such utter depredation as to border on criminal punishment. Sugar is my final nail. Sugar is the fuel that adds the exhaustive flame to the bread and cheese debacle that is my current diet. My body is actually exhausted by the combination of these three main fuels. The more exhausted I feel, the more frustrated I am, the more likely it is I return to them seeking relief from the very thing they're creating within me.

So? How should I solve this dilemma so that I can sustain a gradual weight loss to a healthy weight zone again?

One would think that I need to eliminate the culprits from my diet! I did that. See the above "DO NOT EAT" list? I did that for not quite 12 months - that sparse and highly disciplined diet. It's not going to work for me over the long term. That kind of focus and self-denial thing isn't sustainable or wise. I can't yo-yo my weight up and down 10kgs on a constant treadmill of weight-gain then guilt then self-denial then collapsed motivation then weight-gain over the years. That would be even more unhealthy!

What I do need to do is address two things in my life.

a) I need to get more balance between sensual in-the-now physical reality and my propensity to live inside my head without resorting immediately to the foods I love to address that balance. The possible alternative may be to spend some time walking again out in nature everyday and touching the earth - literally touching it. Bark, leaves, dirt, flowers, grass. Smelling, sensing, breathing in, hearing and seeing the earth. Taking note of it and feeling it IN my body.

b) I need to examine my basic desires for romance and intimacy and how they form within me. Why do I assume subconsciously, that I am not a whole person if I do not have a partner/lover? Why do I not see the potential within me to be a whole, complete and independent woman even without a man beside me? Possible alternative is to begin telling myself deliberately that I AM worthy of love and that I AM very okay right now as I am within my own skin. I also need to come to a deep acceptance of my current circumstances and trust that whatever happens in my future, I will be very okay anyway. I may feel lonely from time to time and I may certainly need a lot more physical affection than I'd previously thought (perhaps; it may be just coz I don't have it right now that I want it and when I DO get it - I'll perversely think I don't need it anymore! *sigh* Women!) - be that as it may, my romantic frustrations can be acknowledged and identified and that latent energy put towards self-actualising goals that don't need to involve bread and sugar!

Food is such a dichotomy of both desire and subsequent repulsion for what it can do to my body, it could be something I'd talk about for quite some time. One more thing - I am currently addicted to my computer screen for the "company" of others. Strange that idea huh? That I should choose the computer, to seek intimacy and human connection. This is probably also, another blog post for another day, but I do know sort of why I use the computer in such a way. I get both the freedom of controlling my own world without having to put up with the In-your-face realities of person to person contact and I can control how I present myself (I feel more confident and constructive in text than I do in voice) and I also get quite different feedback from the intimacy of chat than I do face to face with people. Part of it is illusion and Story, the other part is being able to control the conversation to tell that Story. This environment taps into a part of my psyche that fundamentally fits with how I think and feel and perceive the world...ergo, I sit here too much seeking that feedback loop and not moving my body through space enough to burn up the bread I just ate for my tea.



bangalore_engineer said...

Very nice capture of your thoughts. I do sometimes feel the same. Your breads and cheese ramble kind-of hit the nail for me.

Not sure if you captured it as well, but sometimes I not only feel love, sensualism, relief, but sometimes, even hate, while experiencing food. Some foods (for instance eggs), induce such a repulsion in me, that, when I eat something which smelt as though, it had eggs put in it, I would think of it for hours, my body repulsive, and fighting against my mind, for having had it.

Anyways, it was a good read. What is interesting is that, I recently started a new blog; in which I want to do some brain dumps like what you just did.

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