Friday, January 06, 2006

The realm of the possible

I used to go to the vending machine all the time. As if it were a perfectly appropriate place to go every single day to buy food. Today, someone mentioned the vending machine, and I had to think hard about whether the building I work in even has one. That, my friends, is progress.

Or, more properly, it’s regression. There was a time I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a vending machine. i am so simple sometimes, it drives me nuts. Because it’s not like I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a vending machine because I would have been embarrassed to be seen there or something like that. I wouldn’t have dreamed of eating vending machine food because it was clearly bad for me. i was tremendously overweight, mind you, but at least I knew vending machine food was not a good choice. But then I’d see other people eating it with abandon—skinny people—and I’d think, well, they’re doing it, it must be alright.

No, literally, that is what I’d think. Seriously, honestly, no irony.

Well, the irony, I guess, is that many many people mistake me for smart. I still can’t get over how absurdly stupid I was. Or maybe not stupid. Maybe I just lacked the ability to make connections. Strange also, because I would say that’s one of my strengths—I am uncannily good at making connections, figuring out people’s motivations, deducing and analysing and the like. But where food and I are concerned? Not so much.

For a few years I’ve been punting around an idea for a book of nonfiction that would be about food and how we relate to it. Personal essays of a sort, which I started writing when my brother was sick, when the stomach cancer that eventually killed him first took away his ability to eat. Like, for the last six months of his life. I started thinking about how elemental food is, how it’s something we supposedly all have in common, except some of us don’t. And if you are what you eat, what are you if you eat nothing? Eventually, the idea broadened to include more than just my personal experience and theories and ideas. I started interviewing people who had interesting relationships with food. And I remember talking to a friend, another writer, about the project, and she said something like, “and have you figured out what your deal is with food?” And I was actually confused. Couldn’t figure out what the hell she meant. My deal with food? I don’t have a deal with food.

Riiiight. I just happen to be a hundred pounds overweight. My deal with food? Uh....

Thing is, I still couldn’t tell you. What exactly is my deal with food? I can tell you that I think that a lot of my eating in the past was typical middle-child stuff—eat it fast before someone takes it away, and make sure you get a taste of everything anyone else might be getting. I can tell you I’ve never, ever, ever eaten an entire pint of ice cream or big bag of chips or family sized anything. I can eat a lot of pizza, but not a whole one. I’d feel sick, for starters, and just like with the vending machine, I know it’s bad for me, so there’s no way I’d do it. I can’t stand pop...maybe once a year I’ll have a few sips of rootbeer, enough to remember that I really don’t like it.

And yet here I am in this particular body. With a history of gently disordered eating. Certainly I have eaten to the point of discomfort. That was the norm for me rather than an exception. I have eaten when I was not hungry. I have eaten when I have just eaten. I have done these things with a kind of wilfull blindness. Sometimes now, if I eat too quickly and mindlessly, when I come out the other side, I realise that I’ve had a kind of roaring in my head while eating. A storm of white noise. These days, despite that white noise, I mostly don’t overeat. Mainly, I think, because it hurts physically to do it. And also because I’ve recognised that it, like the vending machine, like the pizza, it’s bad for me. Unhealthy.

Maybe I’ll never know what my deal with food is, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that I keep in mind what’s good for me and what’s bad for me. What’s healthy and what’s not. What causes the white noise, and what lets me stay mindful.

Take exercise for instance. Oh, sweat, how I missed you. Kravitz and I went and joined the gym after work today, and then got right down to business on the treadmill and elliptical and sweet jesus how good it felt to do what’s healthy. Just those 40 little minutes, so easily passed, have made a world of difference if not actually to my body (though I’d argue they have), then certainly to my state of mind. I’ve reminded myself it’s possible. Possible to forget where the vending machine is. Possible to not even care to know. Possible to reach for sneakers after work instead of Snickers.

Possible to keep chipping away at whatever my deal with food is. And possible to keep chipping away at this avoirdupois. Possible to succeed.


Anonymous j @ rta said...

I'd read that book in a heartbeat.

11:55 PM  

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