Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Not Lolita. I’m talking about food. Love of my life, filler of all voids, bearer of warm joys.
My relationship with food has been a complex one, to say the least. I’ve loved and relished food for as long as I can remember. All aspects of it – preparing, eating and hosting a feast. It’s been my way to celebrate joy, to deal with grief, to fend anxiety.
But it has also been accompanied by a lot of guilt. I have (or had) been overweight since I was a teen. It didn’t bother me for the longest time, because all I cared about was my grades in school. And those I managed to ace.
Eventually life happened and I had to acknowledge my body as much as I did my mind, along with the relation between the two. What I saw was wasn’t pleasant and that’s where I somehow got sucked into a vortex of self-loathing, body image issues and the absolute absence of self confidence.
I felt guilty every time I ate, but food was also the one thing that provided a semblance of comfort. It temporarily filled the voids in my life I didn’t want to acknowledge, hid scars I didn’t want to see, morphed the image of my life I so hated into something that was tolerable like an Instagram filter.
Before I knew I was addicted to that sense of comfort. I was aware of it and yet I wasn’t. I tried losing weight but never did have the grit to give up carbs and my PCOS didn’t do anything to make my life easier. I went through cycles that almost all of us do – lose some weight, gain it all back and more, hate yourself more than ever.
Sometime last year I was unwell and had to undergo a procedure that imposed severe dietary restrictions on me for a few months. I obviously ended up losing some weight, and I decided to use that as motivation and lose the excess weight once and for all.
I’m several kilos lighter now but my relationship with food continues to be complex. I see how I allowed myself to abuse my body with food but how do I get myself to curse something that was my friend in my darkest days? I find my body and my mind reacting to a brownie the same way it did a year ago.
What I did learn in these past months was a way to communicate with my stomach. Nay, I taught myself how to slow down and just listen to my stomach. If food was my friend, my stomach was my guide.
The stomach I spent more than half my life cursing because of how it made me look on the outside was in fact always on my side. It nourished me, took care of me, spoke to me. I just never bothered to listen. I stuffed it with food as fast as I could just so I wouldn’t have to listen.
But now I slow down. I pause so I can hear what it has to say. I stop when it says it’s had enough. We are friends now, at least I hope that we are.
But then its not just my stomach I have to listen to when I pause. In those spaces of supposed silence, I have no option but to hear the noises in my head. Watch the images that flood my mind. Feel the fear.
Fear of uncertainty, of the unknown, or the future, of the past, of the things I know and those that I don’t. Because I can no longer afford to reach for food to make all of that go away. I must now acknowledge the demons.
My stomach was never my enemy. My mind was. What was supposed to be my strength is ironically one that’s somehow entirely unleashed and turned itself into a serpent that has its grip around my neck.
I am getting help though. This time around, I refuse to give in. I am supposed to be in control of my mind, not the other way around. My mental health cannot be anything less than paramount in my list of priorities, even if that means being selfish. If I can train my mind to resist every extra morsel of rice, I sure as hell can get it to build some muscle.
I want my mind to listen to me the way I now listen to my stomach. I want my mind and my body to be one and maybe then, I can learn to love myself as a whole, and not just a sum of parts.
PS -Weight loss is not an achievement, the ability to overcome temptation is. Thin isn’t necessarily pretty, but there is relief in feeling more in control of your body. Weight is NOT the sole parameter of health (or beauty); the number on a scale is not indicative of character.