"We have certain core experiences that have shaped us, our obsessions. That would be the engine to which you attach your work." -Joyce Maynard
Maybe you haven’t guessed by the name of this blog, my hobbies, or the fact that it’s the one of the only things I talk about, but I’m obsessed with food.
My obsession been present throughout my life -- in both healthy, and not-so-healthy iterations. There was the time my mom found out about the low-fat Oreos I stole and hid under my pillow. The vivid memories of creamy, almost ethereal nocciola gelato on a family trip to Italy. The nauseating, early-morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and skim milk I found myself staring into upon news of my parents’ pending separation. My late grandmother’s seafood salad at Christmas. The open-season candy and junk stash at the Fabian’s house that I would look upon in wonder and help myself to generously, shocked that they would have such forbidden items so readily available in the first place.
The binges. The periods of starvation and tracking calories in my moody teenage journals. Bitter, congratulatory poems (that make me wince for multiple reasons) when I managed to ration a cookie dough protein bar throughout the course of the day. Only a half of a burrito and a bowl of LIFE cereal! Puking 100-calorie Cheez Its after lunch in the nurse’s office in middle school. The times I received encouragement instead of concern because I didn’t look like I had a problem (after all, fat girls don’t have eating disorders, right?).
The weight gain. The weight loss. The mental energy I spent hating myself and fearing food.
Three years ago, I lost nearly fifty pounds. I had just graduated college and was living with my parents, where I had plenty of time, space and encouragement to make weight loss my bright and shining goal. This is my first time talking about this publicly, and I have a lot of shame about it because I had just spent the prior four years learning to love my fat body. Instead of wishing myself away and hiding, I embraced crop tops and short skirts. I ate whatever the hell I wanted, I did and said what I wanted. For the first time, I let myself be the person I wanted to be, despite the fat body I had always hated.
So I felt conflicted about weight loss. I didn’t want everyone -- didn’t want myself -- to know that I had, in some way betrayed my beloved fat body. So I told everyone that it was an accident. Oh, just a product of running a lot and living at home. But I knew what I was doing. And despite my obsession (I’m obsessive, can’t you tell?), I did it healthily. I engaged with my food, I fell in love with the process of running and the pure taste of a tomato in season and the way my teeth buzzed after a seven-mile run.
For the first time in my life, I thought I was free. Free from the worried glances of my mother, from the jeers of my peers, from the worry that my body would not physically be able to do the things my mind wanted it to. Most of all, I thought I was free from food. My relationship with food has always been a tiresome one, one of calculations and inherent value systems. For once, I thought I could, I don’t know...chill the fuck out for a second.
But as it turns out, I haven’t been able to.
When I started Follow Your Fork, I was ecstatic to finally have a medium where I could share my passion for all things culinary with the world. But, despite my excitement, it’s been near impossible to do. I’ve questioned my every move. I’ve written things then erased them. I’ve had ideas but brushed them away because I didn’t think that people would understand. But how can you if you don’t know the full picture?
What I’m finally beginning to realize is that I’ve compartmentalized my past with food and eating with my present creative endeavors.
I’ve tried to build a creative career around food without actually acknowledging where my relationship with it came from in the first place. I thought I could leave this out of my writing and that I could spare you nice people the sappy, deeply personal details. But in doing that, I’ve been avoiding dealing with my own shit. This might seem new for those who are reading this, but I need to tell the truth and set the record straight. For myself. For you.
Caring about food is a full-time job. It is all consuming. And the more I examine my unconscious beliefs, the more I realize that fear motivates a large part of my food decisions on a daily basis.
Honestly, I’m exhausted. I’m tired of worrying about food, about my body. I’m tired of the fear of weight gain, of being angry with myself for caring. I’m tired of forgetting about how to eat because I’ve been inundated with information on what foods are bad and good, what I should eat and shouldn’t eat. I’m tired of the automatic associations I have with certain foods and certain behaviors, and I wonder why I can’t just be a person who likes ice cream and likes to run and likes french fries and arugula all in the same breath without feeling like I’m breaching some sort of contract.
I realize now that I can’t keep the two separate anymore. The me that was 50 pounds heavier, the me that hoarded Oreos, the me that cries when she eats really good risotto because how in the fucking world does food that delicious exist -- all of these people are me. And now, I think I understand that denying people of this context really prevents people from understanding why I do what I do.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my short stay in adult world, it’s two things:
The only way out is through
Tell. The. Truth.
So with those two ideas in mind, here’s to honesty.