Watching what I eat: A relationship with food

EventuallyFormerFatty Eventually Former Fatty Topics Writing Essay

I have become increasingly aware that I am not the only one watching what I eat. No, I don’t mean that others have become so inspired that they are now tracking calories too. I mean that people have become interested in what I eat. On one hand, this gives me a great platform to show off my fancy-schmancy new healthy recipes. On the other hand, there are days when I eat something that is… not so healthy.

Food serves many purposes in our lives. Food is fuel. But it is more than that. Food is a social event. Food is comfort. Food is culture. Food is experimentation. Food is exploration. Food is memory. Food is a lifestyle.

Food is fuel. But it is more than that. Food is a social event. Food is comfort. Food is culture. Food is experimentation. Food is exploration. Food is memory. Food is a lifestyle.

Because of these multiple facets, our relationships with food are inherently as complicated as our relationship with life. So when you change your relationship with food, people tend to notice. It can begin to change your relationships with people as well. Friends start to notice that you don’t partake in food traditions like you once did. Coworkers notice that your lunch bag is not like theirs anymore. Family members may notice that you are breaking from certain traditions of those who came before. Some people notice quietly, and some people notice out loud, and this can be tough to handle when your new relationship with food is at a fragile stage.

When I would eat a frozen meal for lunch every day, nobody asked about my food. No one asked me “what’s in that?” or “aren’t you watching what you eat?.” There was a comfortable anonymity there. But now that people know that something has changed, or that I am making decisions differently than some others do, the questions have come.

Sometimes a cupcake just isn’t consistent with my goals, yet sometimes that same cupcake is exactly what I need to stick to my goals long term.

I don’t mind answering and sharing, but it is difficult to explain that sometimes a cupcake just isn’t consistent with my goals, yet sometimes that same cupcake is exactly what I need to stick to my goals long term. When I have a craving, it is a decision making process with many complicated variables. Can I still make my goal if I eat this? Do I really need this, or will something else satisfy me the same way that would? Is this craving going to haunt me for days? Am I just eating it because it’s there? What purpose is this food serving for me right now? Is this worth the willpower expenditure?

Sometimes, the answers point me toward eating that “unhealthy” thing. Sometimes, the answers point me toward choosing something better for me. Sometimes that proves to be a good decision, and sometimes I wish I had decided the other way around, regardless of which way I chose.

I needed fuel, and I gave myself kindling.

I’m going to confess something. I had a cupcake for breakfast. It wasn’t low calorie. It wasn’t made of bran. It was a whipped cream filled cupcake. And it was the wrong decision. But not in the way you might expect. You expect me to wail a mea culpa to the gods of dieting. You expect me to feel guilty. But I don’t. I could have had the box of cupcakes and fit within my calorie goals. It was the wrong decision because it wasn’t satisfying. I was hungry, I mean really REALLY hungry, within two hours of eating that cupcake. Calorically, it was on par with my morning fruit and nut bars or some oatmeal, or a whole bunch of eggs with cottage cheese, or a breakfast sandwich with lots of protein. But food is fuel, and a cupcake burns a lot more quickly than my normal breakfast fare. It was the wrong decision because it was both too much and not enough. I needed fuel, and I gave myself kindling.

Imagine that the foods you eat are literally things you burn. So your body is now a flaming campfire. Have the image? If I burn a pile of crumpled paper, the flames will consume it quickly and be done. But if I burn a nice dense log, the flame will have something to work on for hours. My cupcake burned up too quickly and my flame went out. But when I choose nutritionally dense foods, I have fire that takes me through the whole day.

These are all things that I can’t explain when put on the spot with a question about my food. When someone asks “Aren’t you on a diet?” when I mention having a non-healthy food, I can’t find the words to say that this particular piece of food is serving an essential purpose in my life outside of being fuel. Likewise, when someone tries to guilt and cajole me into having a piece of food I have decided is not worth it, it is equally hard to explain that it’s not something I need to fuel me and it isn’t serving some other purpose that I find essential at that moment.

…consecutive decisions that are the long road to a goal.

I guess at the end of the day, what I should be telling people is that my new relationship with food can be strange and complicated. I should be telling people that sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t. I should be telling people that counting calories doesn’t make me some form of superhuman, and that sometimes we mortals need food for something other than fuel.

Most of all, I should be telling them that what is in my lunchbag, what is in my cabinets, what is in my refrigerator, what I pick up after a long day, and what I end up consuming are all a matter of balance and consecutive decisions that are the long road to a goal. There’s no sense in stopping at every mile marker, and there’s no sense in taking a pit stop if I don’t need to, but sometimes, I will need to take pit stops in order to get to my destination with any semblance of sanity, even if it technically might slow me down just a little.

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