Food versus Me versus the World

The internet tells you that your relationship with food should be simple. You can’t hate it, because that’s unhealthy. You’re supposed to say you love it, but you’re not allowed to eat everything you love like you love it. And definitely don’t love it too much. And only love the right things, like pizza, and not kale, because that would be weird. But don’t eat more than two slices at a time because then you’re gross and overeating. It’s easy! Just love all the right things in the exact right amounts at the right times.

Let’s not even get into what the right things, or the right amounts, or the right times are. Have you ever Googled how much spinach you’d have to eat for it to kill you? The answer is 7.3 pounds.

We all know, roughly, what we’re supposed to do: moderation. Almost no one can agree on the best way to do it, and even then, it’s not easy.

This isn’t a story about how I developed a healthy relationship with food after some struggling, and now have a perfectly socially acceptable body. This isn’t a story about fat acceptance. This is a story about a woman who’s been a size 2–6 all her life, who’s within a healthy BMI range, who is really fucking tired.

I realized I wasn’t skinny when I was 8. I’ve always been in that so-close-but-not-quite range with my thick thighs and lack of a six-pack. In the right clothes, even naked from the right angles, you might not think that I’d be self-conscious in a bikini, but I always have been. I know this is a size some women would kill for, but that never makes me feel better.

I’ve gone through periods of obsessing over calories and working out a lot, but I’ve never really lasted that long on a diet. I have a powerful sweet tooth, and while I’ve always quested after the perfect body, I always seem to think I’ll get there eventually, so there’s no urgency. I can binge tonight, and start next week.

Have you ever looked at an anorexic woman and wished you had her kind of willpower?

There were always secret binges. Hordes of cookies and chocolate no one had to see. At first, it was just an occasional childhood joy, feeling like I was getting away with something. In university, it became a way of coping.

It wasn’t until I started my “real adult life”, working 9–5 in a big city, that it became more than a backseat problem. I started having access to lots of cheap food delivery, and also started having a little less willpower to resist. Cooking for fifteen minutes came to seem like a monumental task, because everything was starting to feel like a monumental task. When I started my first “grown-up”, salaried job, I felt like the air was made out of wet cement. It was hard to do anything when every movement forward made me feel exhausted.

It felt like no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t have anything I wanted. Except food. Food made me feel like at least there was something I could have, right then, immediately, that would make me happy.

I feel less like that now, but there are still a lot of days when I have no willpower left, when I need some sort of serotonin boost in my brain. It happens a lot when I’m bored. Not just ‘meh I don’t feel like Netflix tonight’ bored, but caged animal, clawing at the door, feeling like you might explode because you are so under-stimulated every single day and everything you do is pointless, kind of bored. It’s hard to find treatment for that in other places. I don’t get a rush of endorphins from exercise (it just makes me more bored). I don’t feel the same instant hit from the creative projects that make me feel fulfilled.

It’s hard to want skinny more than you want relief when your only reason for wanting to be skinny is because society says I’m unlovable and gross if I’m not. I’m healthy at my current weight, despite these fucked up attitudes towards food. The things that make me feel good about myself and make me feel strong have nothing to do with how much weight I can lift or how far I can run. My body, medically speaking, is just fine the way it is.

Over the past few months, thoughts of getting thinner have begun to feel obsessive. They’re not in the backseat anymore, they’re riding shotgun, reminding me every single day that I’m so far from what I want to look like. I’ve been working on a change, but it isn’t easy. It feels awful, and slow, and emotionally painful on the days when I want to self-medicate my bad day/week/month/year with a burger.

I just know that this is a slippery slope I’ve been sliding down, and I want to gain control back. The internet makes it seem like a simple calculation, like it’s easy to take your emotions, your life, off your plate- but this isn’t easy at all.