August Journaling Day 20: Food

I feel like there have been a few topics that were well timed this month and some that were not. I picked the topics and didn’t really assign an order for any reason other than these were the 31 that came to my head and I wrote them down. I did mix up mom, dad, sister….just because those three together seemed logical but also a lot to do in three days. So those are the three I spaced out. Everything else is just where it came out in the order of thought. So….food. Ok here we go.

This topic is well timed because after a 12 hour drive from Clearwater, Florida back to Richmond today, all the while inhaling shitty road trip food, I have some feelings. My first issues with food I remember starting pretty early. I was always a big eater and never a healthy eater. When I was 8 or so, I had to lose 6 pounds to be able to play on my local football team. So I went on slim fast. At age 8. It still annoys me thinking about that just because I wasn’t a fat kid, I was just a big kid, and what a strange way to organize football, by weight instead of age.

One thing I do have some vivid early memories with food was the shame associated with it. Binging on candies or stuff like that. Going through a whole bag or box of chocolates and hiding the evidence. I remember my dad getting really mad at me for eating a box of mint meltaway’s over the course of a couple days. I popped them like tic tacs. My mom never got on me about my eating habits, my dad very much did. He hated that I was overweight. I can’t even imagine what he would have said to me at my heaviest a few years ago, let alone what I look like and weigh now. I think that’s where a lot of my shame around eating comes from, was the fact that I had to hide it. That it was embarrassing and I was embarrassing.

The number of unhealthy meals that I’ve eaten alone in my car is easily in the thousands. Going to fast food places or regular restaurants and getting food to go. Getting into the car and stuffing myself until I was sick. What I think brought up the feelings today and now as I write this was I kind of did that today, and it’s not something I’ve done all that much the last year or so. I had a good breakfast, but i settled for fast food and gas station sweets (licorice) for lunch and dinner. I feel bad about myself and bad about what I ate. I know that one day of eating bad isn’t going to do nearly anything in terms of my weight loss I’ve been on, but maybe it just feels a little too much like the past? I already have my nutritious meals planned for tomorrow and have the food in the fridge ready to cook. And I almost always eat healthy when I announce races, so I logically know today was just a little tiny blip on an otherwise good trend. But I still feel bad.

Part of my diet has been every week or two having a “cheat meal”. The purpose is two fold, to not only allow yourself to have a rich or high calorie meal and satisfy a craving, but also to shake up your metabolism which apparently adapts quickly to the new reduced calorie diet that has become my regular routine. But I honestly don’t like doing the cheat meals because it brings up all the old bad feelings around food, particularly not healthy food. It’s not an enjoyment, it’s just a quick and soulless experience followed with guilt and shame. I won’t even let myself enjoy the two times a month I have something sweet. I just immediately feel bad and beat myself up.

Overall I do feel my relationship to food is a little better than it used to be. A year or so ago a friend of mine told me that she really just views food as fuel and nothing more. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that mental framework, but I do more and more try and take a loving approach to food and tell myself I’m nourishing myself better and I’ll perform better in all avenues of my life with better nutritional foods. It works most of the time lol. But if I have a healthier meal and feel satiated, my mental well being does seem to be better than when I eat bad. I don’t know if that’s the result of the actual nutrition or just me not berating myself and instead talking nicely.

One realization I had in the last year was how much I used food for celebration. Now first of all, I think food is a great thing to use for celebration. Nice dinner to celebrate an accomplishment, a favorite restaurant on an important day. That feels like healthy food celebration. I don’t really drink or do any of those type of celebratory things that a lot of people do. So I realized that when I’d have a good day at work or something good in my life happen, I’d often turn to food for the physical celebration of that news. Any time we have a big day at the track, the adrenaline that’s run through my body during the card is still pumping. It’s strange to go from the pressure and excitement of a big crowd and calling those races, back to the quiet of my apartment alone. It’s nice to decompress but I also find myself in those moments itching to do something to keep the rush going. So often I’ve turned to food and eaten to excess. Being more aware of that nowadays, after big days I try and do a meditation and some push ups when I get home and focus on eating a healthy meal.

I probably need to do some more work on my relationship with food and try and work through the shame aspect. Because it’s a cycle that I still do, even though I do it much less. I feel like so much of my life right now is focused on my mantra of just trying to do a little better each day in as many avenues of life as I can. And I’ve done that with food, but it just seems like it’s always ready to rear it’s ugly head on a day like today. Today felt like a small step backwards, but it is just a single step. I’ll move back forward tomorrow.