I have a love-hate relationship with food.
I don’t think most of my friends know there is a “hate” side to my relationship with food. I’m an avid food blogger. I’m always trying new dishes, new foods, new ingredients. I’ll frequently spend an entire Sunday just cooking and baking, and then a host 5-course dinner party.
I grew up in a community that put an incredible amount of stress on being thin. Everyone I knew was on a diet; some were pretty ordinary like limiting fat intake and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Some were pretty ridiculous like eating nothing other than rice cakes for an entire 8-hour day of school. And then there were the dangerous eating habits—the severe limitations on food intake, and the throwing up in the bathroom after lunch. [And by the way, this all started in middle school].
When I was in the tenth grade one of my classmates spent a summer in a clinic being treated for an eating disorder. I think she was lucky—at least her parents were willing to admit to her problem. For so many other girls I knew, disordered eating patterns were just par for the course. Because really, if you weren’t a size 2 nobody would want to marry you (or at least that’s the message we got).
I’m not going to lie; I thought about following in the footsteps of those around me. I was overweight throughout most of high school, perhaps unconsciously trying to counteract what I was seeing around me with all the restrictions people put on their own appetites. Objectively I knew (and know) that skipping meals or throwing up is bad, and I never did it, but it didn’t stop me from thinking that maybe that had it right. Luckily college was a breath of fresh air, and I think the reduced stress contributed to my dropping a significant number of pounds I had been unable to shed for years before.
Hence, my love-hate relationship with food. Truth be told, the love wins out most of the time (luckily). I receive immense pleasure from writing and photographing for my food blog; I love when my friends call me their “recipe guru;” and I find that after a stressful day at work, whipping up a batch of sumptuous chocolate chip banana nut muffins is relaxing, even cathartic.
Still, I sometimes get an inkling in the back of my mind after I have a meal I know is high in calories and fat. Don’t get me wrong, I eat in a very healthy manner, and I cook for myself a lot so I know exactly what goes into things. But I eat out at restaurants, and I have meals at friend’s houses, and as much as I hate it, I think about every bite I put in my mouth.
Do I wish I didn’t obsess about food so much? Maybe. But I wonder if my obsession ultimately led me to discover how passionate I am about food, cooking, and blogging about it. Sure, I’d prefer I hadn’t grown up in such a toxic environment, but I’m a firm believer that our experiences shape who we are. And I’m happy with who I am today.
This post was written for the Why I Eat What I Eat issue of Alef: The NEXT Conversation. Take a little trip over there to check out the rest of the articles on the same topic.