September 27, 2012

With Lady Gaga, Katie Couric and Demi Lovato all going public about their bulimia, I hesitate to say anything about my food issues for fear of seeming trivial.  But hey, that’s never stopped me before!

A pop star, a TV anchorwoman and a judge from the TV show “X Factor.” Wow,  big personalities. I applaud them for sharing their struggle with eating disorders. Women suffer so much because of the intense pressure to look hot. Plus, we are often very, very hard on ourselves.

Food-related problems always remind me of an obese woman I met back in the late ’90s. We were in a therapy group that also included a guy who was an alcoholic. (I was in good company, and I mean that.) During a discussion about stress, depression and self-medication via addictions, the woman said that she turned to food rather than booze for one simple reason: a sloppy male drunk might be considered anything from pathetic to macho. But society views a female drunk as simply disgusting.

However, she explained, fat women are socially acceptable. Wow, again.

Given these realities, my relationship with food is pretty conventional in the usual conflicted way. I’m not overweight and I love food. The cooking, the shopping, the theater of dining — it’s all a great pleasure for me. Unfortunately, with our stomachs the size of a single fist, we really don’t need to ingest that much to stay strong.

So for me, the down side of food is that I also eat when I’m stressed. Mad, sad, frustrated — somehow, scarfing down cookies or pizza seems like an easy release. (Of course, a bowl of steamed dandelion greens is never on the list of cravings, haha!) I also indulge during vacations, when the array of once-in-a-lifetime edibles leads to tourist eating. And let’s not forget special celebrations where food and booze is central to the fun.

In other words, food isn’t just about physical nourishment.

While I’m in favor of vacation and party eating as well-deserved treats, it would be healthy to break the cycle of food-as-emotional-weapon. And I have spotted a solution….

I’ve noticed that my relationship with food is never a problem when I’m happily creative. Give me a story to chase. Or, get me in a groove with my writing, painting, drawing or even a home craft project. During these moments, I eat when I’m hungry. Period. More of that in my life, please!

It’s important to get on track now because the holidays are right around the corner. Don’t know about you, but from Halloween on, my calendar is all about get-togethers involving food, booze, schmooze. Usually, by the start of the new year, I’m looking at an uncomfortable, five-pound muffin top bulging from the waistband of my suddenly too-tight jeans.

That’s why this fall, I’m exploring the possibility of getting into emotional holiday shape by eating reasonably. For that, I am so, so grateful for, a website that offers an interesting way to track calories, food, exercise and intake. While there’s a great iPhone LoseIt app, I’m very happy using the website. I have a blog post  about it, which includes my YouTube video on how to use this free site.

The chart below is from my LoseIt account. It begins in June 2011, half a year into a struggling relationship. I didn’t realize then that we were verging on irreconcilable differences but this chart helps me see how food became a haven as I ballooned from my normal weight of 126 to 136.6 lbs.

Now I’m not saying that weight gain during a romance is a bad sign! There’s such a thing as feeling relaxed enough to let go; some people call it happy fat. I thought it was what I had and I did, briefly. Then it turned into gloomy gluttony — until I began exercising, went through the breakup, found a new job…

And then the job became super-stressful! To deal with that, there were marvelous vacations featuring food and booze. I returned to work refreshed and sane. Now I’m feeling read to get on track with regular exercise, plenty of sleep and healthy eating. My hope is that sharing this post will motivate me to stick with the program.

Well, that’s my food story. Would love to hear yours. This is a topics that people sometimes think it’s silly to talk about. But it’s not. :)