Food: Friend or Foe?

I love the holidays. I love spending time with family, decorating the house, and most importantly all the special Christmas treats.

But this time of year brings out the worst of my food anxieties. Half of my brain wants to devour every sweet and delicious treat I lay my eyes on, while the other half is shaming myself for craving and/or devouring said food that is clearly bad for me. And I know I’m not alone in that struggle.

I’ve had a pretty unhealthy relationship with food most of my life. My mom never told us we couldn’t have junk food. On the contrary, if we ate the whole family-size bag of chips, half-gallon carton of ice cream, and drank that three liter bottle of Ritz soda in one sitting she wouldn’t chastise us, she would just tell us we would get more tomorrow. Sundays were spent eating five $0.39 cheeseburgers (each), bag of puffy cheese doodles (each), and whatever soda we wanted. These were good days for us. On bad days? You can’t even imagine how much we ate.

And it just went on like that most of my life. I ate when I was happy, sad, anxious, angry, got good grades, got bad grades, got into a fight with my best friend, got asked out by my crush, etc. If I didn’t have food on my person then my mind was on food. At home it wasn’t a big deal because I knew that my family was just as consumed by our consumption. Because of this I was always bigger than my peers.

Look, I don’t want to turn this into a ‘I was bullied and cried and hated my life’ post because I’m over whining about stuff I can’t change, but it is relevant to how I currently interact with food.

I was bullied because of my weight for most of my life. If it wasn’t by classmates then it was by teachers. The teachers hurt the worst because I was taught to look at my teachers as people to be respected and admired but unfortunately I was placed in the care of very nasty and hurtful people. And unlike the youth of today, when I was growing up society couldn’t have cared less about a child being bullied by anyone because it was seen as a character building life experience. Looking back today I feel like it’s a half truth but I digress.

Eventually I found my core group of friends and my weight was irrelevant. I had people that wanted to hang out with me because of our shared interests and enjoyment of each others company. I won’t say that I stopped caring about the pounds creeping on during ages 12-18 but it didn’t matter as much when I had friends that never focused on my need for two orders of Taco Bell taquitos instead of their one.

When I started college I became more aware of my dependency on excess food. I also think that’s when my friend(s) started noticing how I ate on a normal basis and they shared their concern. So I started going to the gym, attempted to eat right–let’s be honest I had an unlimited meal plan and it was my first year in college, unlimited pizza for the win!–and focused on school. I may not have gained all of the freshman fifteen but I sure didn’t lose any weight.

I wish I could say I adopted the whole working out and eating healthy thing as a new lifestyle by the time I graduated but it was a no-go. When I moved back to Miami, I got married and started looking for a ‘big girl’ job. The anxiety of the real world and my first year of marriage led me to making secret Wendy’s runs two times a day on top of whatever I had eaten at home/work. By March 2012 I was weighing almost 260 pounds (117kgs to all my non-USA readers) and literally hated myself.

I felt like I had lost control of my life. Every time I binged I would hate myself  even more but find myself unable to stop, as if there were a physical block somewhere along my nervous system preventing the sensors from my stomach to tell my brain, “Hey! Quit it! You’re poisoning yourself!” I would sit there eating until I would want to purge, my conscience yelling all the criticisms and obscenities people had told me throughout my life.

Shamu! Fat f*$%! Disgusting sloth! Sausage fingers! Jelly belly! Hamburglar! 

It’s been a few years since I’ve allowed myself to get into that deep of a depression, but there are days when I feel those negative thoughts creeping their way back from my subconscious. And recently my relationship with food has been at the forefront of everything.

Since getting released from the hospital in October I have had to focus more on food than normal. The doctors put me on a restrictive diet–for good reason–and have really been emphasizing on my need for weight loss. I was doing really well up until my mother-in-law got here for her visit. I’m sure those of you reading that have mother-in-laws can only imagine the stress and anxiety that ensues when they come for a visit.

I was totally on edge those full two weeks. So much so that I ate a whole kilo (2.2 lbs) of Nutella, a jar and a half of cookie butter, two bags of Reeses, bag of flaming hot Cheetos, and whatever sort of dessert I made for the night. Needless to say I’m almost positive I gained twenty pounds during her visit. I’m embarrassed admitting that but I figure honesty is the best policy for this sort of thing, right?

I will say that the past few months I’ve had a great support system, great friends that has been encouraging me to learn more about what I put in and on my body, cheering me on through every workout and meal planning session. I’m grateful for those in my life that have been, and always will be, there to support me when I’m at my lowest point.

I’m realizing that my relationship with food and its connection to my emotions is something I can’t work on by myself especially since I’ve been trying to do that for the past 26 years and nothing has changed.I’m afraid that my issues with food will somehow find their way projecting themselves onto Paloma. I want her to love food AND love herself. I want her to see food as something life sustaining but also something that can be enjoyed rather than depending on it to process her emotions. I’ve been debating going to therapy for awhile now to work on the deeper issues and find healthy coping mechanisms when I get anxious. I need to work on me so I can be stronger for her.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then you get a gold star, a high five, and if you’re over the age of 18 a shot of tequila for dealing with all my long winded emotional baggage.

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USAmerican immigrant living in Uruguay raising my daughters the best I know how. I plan on using this site to share our experiences and how I raise my daughters in a culture so very different from what I'm used to.

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