Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lunch is For Losers

I was chatting with some people online yesterday. I mentioned I was going to leave the chatroom to get some lunch. Someone responded "Sojourn, lunch is for losers." It was, in her estimation, more rewarding to deprive yourself of food all day and have just one meal at dinner. "Eating during the day," this person continued, "is weak."

I could not disagree more. I responded by saying, "Food is my friend."

She then went on to suggest the "No shadow diet" and, since this was a new concept to me, explained (incorrectly) that vegans "eat only foods that cast no shadow." This was, in her perception, "A highly recommended diet." Since everything on earth casts a shadow, I did not follow her reasoning.

I recognize this as the language of someone with an eating disorder. Misconceptions. Rigid rules about when and what to eat. Diminishing the act of preparing and eating food. Depriving oneself and using food as reward or punishment. Making food into a black-white dichotomy of good and evil, strength and weakness.

I persisted in my responses: I like food. I like to eat. Food is my friend. And, soon, other people were chiming in that, they too like to eat. The person finally, unconvincingly said, yeah, she liked food, too. She was only joking. I did not believe her.

This interaction made me feel sad for the people--men and women, boys and girls--who suffer with eating disorders. I do not know too many people who have never gained or lost weight in the course of life's ups and downs. But, it seems to me a serious and dangerous threat to one's well-being when food and the concept of nourishing one's self gets distorted to this degree.

I understand issues with weight and with food are very complex--well beyond my expertise and experience. I, personally, felt a wide range of emotions around food at different times in my life.

I grew up thinking I was fat, though pictures of me in childhood reveal I was not. I gained weight in college. Lost it. Lost a bunch of weight during my marriage and subsequent divorce. Stayed a fairly healthy weight for a while. Had my breakdown, felt depressed and tired for a long time and gained three sizes. And, now, having focused a great deal of energy on my emotional well-being, am slowly working my way (through exercise and an increasing interest in cooking and eating healthier foods) back to a better weight for my height and age.

I never hated food or experienced anorexia or bulimia. I do not know that I thought much about food at all. I saw food as pragmatic and not as the wondrous substance it is. I understand, now, that food is just part of a whole way of being. What I put into my body sustains me, gives me a quick energy boost or makes me feel a strange combination of being hyper or anxious and lethargic at the same time.

Soda makes me feel sick. Red meat leaves a heaviness in the pit of my stomach. Chicken or turkey settles me down. Fresh vegetables--especially brussel sprouts, lately--make my heart sing. Protein from eggs or nuts sets me up well for the day. I feel solid and satisfied. I enjoy the texture and tang of various cheeses. Bread and chocolate are still my comfort foods. I love cooking with and for friends and family. I make pretty decent homemade soups and pizza.

It was only when I became more in tuned with my emotional, physical and spiritual well-being I began to understand that food--and the acts of preparing and eating it--is such an important aspect of the day. Like taking a walk to clear my head, cooking a meal and then sitting down to enjoy it is not just something I am "supposed" to do. It is a way for me to honor my life and life's energy.

"Lunch is for losers?" On the contrary, I find eating when I am hungry is an act of great strength and respect for my body's needs. I find it infinitely fascinating and rewarding to listen to and understand my body's cravings for and responses to food. As with anything else in life, I can always learn more about nutrition, cooking and growing foods (my hope is to have a house some day and start a garden). I find a deep happiness and comfort when I give my body the nutrients it needs.

I have not stopped thinking about the chat since it happened.

I did not and could not respond to the person in the chatroom as I have here. Chatrooms are fast-moving and public in the way a blog is not. Chats are real-time and more like stream-of-consciousness expressions. People blurt out all kinds of things. Chats are not necessarily "conversations."

Writing this blog post is my way of offering a different perspective about food. I do not know if the person will find her way to this blog or be receptive to my ideas. I do hope and wish this person (and others who struggle to develop a healthy, viable relationship to food), one day finds the internal and external resources to challenge some beliefs she has developed around food. Perhaps these resources would help her explore the possibility that eating--and feeding one's self in emotional, spiritual and physical ways--is more complex and wondrous and life affirming than she might currently believe.

In any event, the brief interaction I had with this person touched me in a profound way. My heart goes out to her. I wish her well on her journey.

No comments: