Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Need to fix relationship with Food

It is getting increasingly more difficult to hide behind layers of clothing.  The weather is finally starting to feel spring-y.  That means T-shirts and jeans…  Which would be fine if I fit into my t-shirts and jeans. 

Binge eating and emotional eating.  I relate to both.  I have a very unhealthy approach to nourishment.  For me, it’s survival, not fueling my body.  I have been trying to change the way I look at food recently.  I am aware I have a problem.  I have no idea how to fix it.

I grew up poor.  My earliest memories are from living in a trailer on the reservation with my mother, father and sister.  Then on to a townhouse apartment with my mother and sister after the divorce.  Things seemed okay then.  I don’t remember ever being hungry, or wanting other children’s food, or trying to gather food while we still lived in Canada.

When I was 5 or 6, my mother moved my sister and I back to her hometown in the Bronx, NYC.  We all shared a bed in one bedroom of a three bedroom 10th floor co-op.  The apartment was filled to the brim with the belongings of the other 9 people who lived there.  There was a path from the doorway to the kitchen that was clear of debris.  Everywhere else was covered with clothing about a foot deep. 

I’m not telling you this for sympathy. I want to paint a picture of the radical change my life took moving to the US from Canada.  My mother didn’t have any income.  She couldn’t find work because her MS was degenerating at an alarming pace.  She was able to walk with a cane when we left Canada.  Soon, she wasn’t able to move from the bed, not to mention the conditions were not ideal for a disabled person. 

One of my earliest American memories was getting yelled at when I found a stale pack of croutons under the kitchen table and tried to share them with my little sister.  It’s so messed up to think about those “relatives” of mine who didn’t care that we were so hungry.  My mom found her late father’s penny collection.  We would sit at the bank and roll pennies for hours and buy snacks at the gas station. 

This all led to a very unhealthy view of food and nourishment.  Mom finally got us out of there and into our own apartment when I was in 6th grade.  We lived on Davidson Ave until I moved away at 17.  One thing about NYC, no one cooks.  It’s so easy to grab something on the go than buy groceries and prepare a meal at home.  Besides, Mom wasn’t a cook.  If I ever ate at home, it was when Mom made a roast and Yorkshire pudding or she bought a bag of chips, the huge family size bags.  I would eat an entire bag and nothing else for the rest of the day.

Now eating like that wasn’t a big deal back in NYC.  I walked miles and miles every single day.  My best friend lived in Riverdale which is notorious for their steep hills.  My train stop was 176th off the 4 train.  It was elevated so there were several flights of stairs.  Then I had to drag my ass up these stairs to get home.

Google Search - Davidson Ave Stairs

I went to Brooklyn Tech HS which brought me though Manhattan.  I spent many many MANY days and nights in “the Vill”.    My friends and I walked everywhere.  It was nothing to walk from the “Dollar” theater (I think it was actually about $3 back then) on about 53rd street down to the Winter Gardens at the World Trade Center to role play Vampire : The Masquerade a few times a week.  I never actually exercised but I didn’t have to.

I felt good.  I looked good.  I felt strong.  Nowadays…  not so much.  I moved out to the Midwest on impulse when I was 17.  I have to drive everywhere.  I have a desk job.  I have 4 kids.  I never work out.  I look like hell, feel like hell.  I don’t know how to eat.  Sounds stupid, right?  I have no idea how to feed myself.

As a child, I would eat as much as possible at school because I didn’t know when I would eat again.  I ate anything that I got my hands on (except for an incident when one of my aunts made me sit at the table until late at night trying to make me eat cold Brussel sprouts).  I ate when my friends gave me food.  I ate when their family fed me (many a time there was a Russian or Puerto Rican mother who exclaimed I was too thin and made me eat).  I ate free samples.  I just ate whenever I could.

Now, I find myself hoarding food.  I buy food and don’t eat it because I’m afraid it won’t be there later when I would be hungry.  There were times after moving out on my own, I went hungry.  If my kids needed something, I would go without.  I have conditioned myself to think food will be taken away or there will not be enough food when I need it. 

I eat when I’m happy.  I eat when I’m sad.  I especially eat when I’m nervous or anxious.  I eat all the time.  I can’t stop.  It is a huge problem.  I need to fix my relationship with food.  I am now facing diabetes, heart problems, joint problems…  Not to mention what it’s done to my self esteem and self image.  We won’t even go there for now.

Is there a way out?  How do I change a lifetime of unhealthy thoughts, feelings and actions regarding nourishment?