I’ll never forget when my 11th grade English teacher said, “There’s two types of people in this world. Those that eat to live and those that live to eat.” She always joked that her husband was the first and that she was the latter; she did collect chickens after all. I’m a food lover myself; and I’d argue that most women have some kind of intimate relationship with their food, too.
I used to be a compulsive eater. I started Weight Watchers when I was 15 and I only recently gave it up. I was convinced that I would have to diet for the rest of my life if I wanted to stay thin. I was always timing my next meal and sometimes I’d even go to bed wondering what I’d have for breakfast. It was absolutely miserable. I was using food as a form of control because my diet taught me that I couldn’t trust myself. That I had no willpower without a plan. Or that I was worthless if I wasn’t thin and beautiful.
But then I read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Woolf. That book changed my life. Not immediately of course (it took awhile for my die-hard habits to break), but eventually I stopped writing down everything that went into my mouth and I stopped weighing myself three times a day. I won’t deny that “living to eat” is still something that I struggle with, but I have greatly improved. I still weigh myself every day and sometimes I do eat mindlessly. However, I am making a daily effort to no longer use food as a form of control, punishment, or as a “drug” as Geneen Roth writes in her book, Women, Food, and God. I love my body in its entirety and I try to treat it as though it were a temple.
I know what a private battle it can be. In fact, many people with eating disorders don’t actually look like they have one. And why would anyone want to declare that they struggle with food when people make it out to be such a scandal? Friends talk, parents make phone calls; the Bill Clinton ordeal practically pales in comparison. So how can we help each other overcome this problem? I think the first step is to just talk about it and not to sensationalize it. For me, it was extremely healing to talk about it with those that are close to me; I finally don’t have anything to hide. It’s not a secret anymore.
I wrote this post today because I know that feeling of mental torture that many women, and even many men, experience in one form or another. Maybe you’ve felt it not from food, but from drugs, alcohol, sex, work, or the mad pursuit of success. No matter what we are struggling with, let us search for balance. It wasn’t easy for me to write this post today. But I hope that I have been able to offer some comfort or encouragement to those of you who can relate to what I write. I believe that we can be so much happier when we are free from the scale, the dreaded bikini, or that tub of Ben and Jerry’s you might obsess over at 9:00 every night. If we are willing to admit there’s a problem and and if we are wanting to change, I believe that we can be free from whatever may be controlling us.
We can be happy now in this body, this life, right here.