“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.”
-Peter De Vries
“Well, I hate myself. I already have a pint of ice cream, a pizza, and mini eclairs. I don’t need these cookies. I’ll have to put something back. Pizza. I’ll put that back. I have pizza at home. But no, that’s why I came here. I want this kind of pizza, not the kind I have at home.
“I’ll just put back these eclairs. I can do without them. Yes, I feel good about this. Actually, no, these eclairs remind me of the time when I was in college and went to Publix and bought eclairs and ate them all in my car to soothe the pain of being a gigantic loser. Those were good memories and I think I want to re-capture them.
“And I really want this ice cream. And the cookies. I haven’t had the cookies in a long time.
“I’ll make chili dogs when I get home. I don’t need this pizza. But if I bought the pizza, I could have that the day after. That way I could satisfy my cravings for chili dogs and pizza. Yeah, I have to keep the pizza. But I have one at home. But this one has a cheese stuffed crust. I’m definitely keeping the pizza. Nah, the one at home is just as good.
“Okay, pizza is gone. Too many sweets here. Okay, ice cream gone. Just eclairs and cookies. That’s not too bad.
“Okay, the ice cream is back. I know I can do without it but it will literally be on my mind, making me crazy, until I eat it so it’s better to go ahead and get it so I won’t drive myself nuts. But that means I’ll have to, have to, put back the cookies. I’ve got to compromise. I don’t want to spend too much money. Or calories. But my diet is already shot. What’s another weekend binge?
“Damn it. Okay, keeping the eclairs for sure. It’s just…I’m so annoyed right now and these frozen foods, these processed pizzas, is what soothes me. I know I’m hurting myself. This is not normal, healthy behavior. But I’m sad and so I just don’t care.
“Screw it, I’m gonna get the pizza too.”
This is an average conversation I have with myself when I go to the grocery store, except I use a lot more foul language and stand around being indecisive for a longer period of time. People passing by probably think I’m lost. And in a way, I am.
I’ve struggled with my weight over half of my life. You’d think it would be easier to deal with by now but it’s not. I think about food and my weight every single day. I think about everything I put in my mouth. I chastise myself for the bad things because I know it will lead to weight gain and I complain to myself about the good things because I know it won’t bring satisfaction. I have to assess my wardrobe every day and wonder what I can or can’t wear because I’ve gotten too big or small. It’s a struggle between calories and comfort. I get lost in the swirl of butter cream and bat shit crazy and there are days when I wish I could just get it under control. There are days when I wish I didn’t care so much. Or at all.
There’s the logical part of my mind that knows I can lose weight. I’ve done it several times before. But there’s the insecure hurting child deep inside that craves the satisfaction that only sugar can provide. And when it comes to logic and pain, pain will always win out. It’s the underlying weakness that’s the strongest force within me, popping up and making its way to the surface during my struggles, filling my cells with the urgent need for food, any carb to curb the current crisis.
It’s embarrassing to lose weight and have people notice…and then gain it back…and have people notice. It’s like, “Have you seen Brannon? He’s getting fat again. He was doing so well. It’s a shame he’s letting himself go.” But they just don’t get it. I didn’t suddenly find myself overweight and then took control of my body and lost it and that’s the end of the story. It’s a constant, brutal struggle to stay sane, slim, and satiated.
It’s made even harder because you can see my struggle. I wear it around my waist. I feel exposed, like my pain and shortcomings are out there in the open for everyone to see. It gets tiring and I think it’s especially hard because I can’t avoid food. It’s in ads in magazines and on television. It’s in my kitchen. It’s always in my head. It’s cultural. It’s social. Celebrate with food. Gather the family around a buffet.
But for me, it’s not cultural. It’s not social. It’s emotional. It’s sacred. It’s spiritual. When I meet someone for dinner, I’m more excited about the meal than the company. And I want to gather my food and go into a private room and eat it alone. I want to go through my ritual of chewing and swallowing and savoring, of experiencing different combinations of condiments and mixing all the sides and seasonings.
Every time I eat, it’s a religious experience. Pasta is like a prayer. It calms and centers me. It takes away the hurt and the pain. How could I not want to recapture that transcendence again and again? Especially when my head is in chaos most of the time. It’s a legal high, a harmless elevation. But it’s only harmless when experienced occasionally. Otherwise the side effects add up and suddenly I can’t button my pants anymore.
I don’t want to blame my crappy job or lack of friends for my unhealthy relationship with food but those things really do drive me to eat. I’d like to say if things were better, I would eat better. I don’t know if that’s true. It’s not even a good excuse. We all have our problems but not all of us deal with them in such unhealthy ways. Sure, a lot of us do but a lot of us don’t. I just wish I could be one of the healthy ones.
But it hasn’t all been a series of failures. Through writing about my struggles with food and emotional eating, I think I’ve come about as close as I can to identifying why I eat the way I do. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as I’ve come. Despite determining many of the causes of my caustic relationship with food, I have yet to find a way to fix it. All the multiple episodes of weight loss have occurred despite my bad habits and habitual cravings. I never cured them, only temporarily deflected them. But there comes a time when I feel too good, too accomplished, and the ugliness, that weakness, bubbles up again and I’m put back into the clutches of agony and the resulting addiction.
Eventually my body is going to give up. How many times can you bounce back from extreme weight loss to extreme weight gain? I also fear eventually my heart will give up. How many times can you bounce back from extreme accomplishment to extreme failure?
It’s mind over matter, food vs face, health and heft. It’s nothing new. But it doesn’t get easier with your head in the way. And no one understands unless they’ve been there before, as many times as you have been. Can I beat it?
I want to sit down to dinner with someone and not have food be the main course. I want to be satisfied with one slice of pizza. I want to skip dessert without feeling like I have deprived myself. I want to go to the grocery store without getting into a mental argument with myself. I want to be able to skip the candy and enjoy a glass of water. I want to use food to celebrate, not medicate. I want to feel normal.
I don’t want to starve anymore.