I love food. I love to look at it, smell it, touch it. Food isn’t just sustenance for me, it’s an experience. As I sit here at almost my heaviest weight to date, I realize it’s my life. I’ve always lived a fairly active lifestyle, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in my health. I’m blessed that I’m not necessarily overweight and I don’t have major health issues, and I want to keep it that way. But I’m also not 100% satisfied with my body because I know it’s not the best one I can have. I admittedly have not been the best steward of my temple, and I haven’t been intentional about my housekeeping. So, I started lifting and hitting the gym with more gusto about year ago. Everything was going well for about 5 months, then I hit a brick wall. And I am here today to admit that food was the culprit.
Growing up, I was a fairly healthy eater. I was never big on junk food and sweets, and green salad was established as my favorite food early on. I didn’t start eating a lot until I got into a growth spurt in my preteens, but even then food was not the boss of me. However, looking back, I never viewed food as merely a tool for sustenance. Meals were the center of my family experience. Most of our get-togethers were family dinners. We did not have much growing up in terms of material things, but I knew I could look forward to whatever miracle meal my mom made out of nothing.
Now, I’ve always been strong-willed. Once I got to a certain age, if I didn’t like something, I had a couple of options: make something else or don’t eat. My parents didn’t make me eat, and I didn’t have a problem going to bed hungry. This was one of the many ways my parents encouraged thoughtful decision making, but it also impacted my mentality about food. The choice to eat depended upon the experience, not the need.
As I progressed into adulthood, my decisions began to revolve around food. I chose my college based on what dining options they had. Instead of just planning what I’d do for the day, I’d plan what I would eat. Or better yet, I’d plan how I could reasonably eat everything I wanted in a day. It didn’t help that I had an unlimited meal plan with Dining Dollars. It was as if the heavens had opened up for me.
After college, my financial situation changed again. I had to pipe down on my food budget, but I was engaged to a partner in crime at the time who weathered it with me, and it didn’t matter as much. By the time we broke up, our financial situation had improved, and I was back to eating what I wanted when I wanted. I suddenly found myself alone in an unfamiliar city, but food was familiar. Food never hurt my feelings or disappointed me. Food was my BFF; it never let me down.
What I eat has become equally as important and how I eat. For example, I just recently started back eating tuna sandwiches and sloppy joes. I have a cabinet full of ramen noodles I still won’t touch. Why? Because those were foods that reminded me of a less fortunate time in my life. Notice a pattern, yet? Every peak and valley in my lifetime, financially, emotionally, or otherwise has been marked in my memory by what I was eating at the time, and I have a history of using food to fill the empty spaces in my life.
Food, in and of itself, was designed to meet a physical need, not an emotional or mental one. I admit that I have been misusing food nourish my heart, not just my body. Even today, I catch myself plotting my day around meals, or using them as checkpoints. “If I can just make it lunch,” or “at least I have dinner to look forward to.” I expect food to redeem my day, and find myself incredibly disappointed if it does not. I will mentally throw my week away if I’ve not eaten pleasurably. If things are going really badly, I find myself eating just for the sake of tasting stuff, whether I’m hungry or not. I often joke that there is not more satisfying sensation than that of your hand going in and out of a bag of chips. But the satisfaction in food is so temporary. I leave each meal searching for the high in the next meal.
The Buck (or Bite) Stops Here
Now, I’m not here to paint food as the enemy. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy a good meal, and no one wants to eat anything unappetizing, but I refuse to let food master me anymore. I will make a conscious effort to pour more energy into other areas of my life and find fulfillment in more productive places. I’ll make better choices about what I eat and when I eat and treat my body better on a whole.
Food is not in charge – I AM.
What’s your relationship with food like? Is there something else in your life you are determined to take control of this year? Call it out in the comments below!