This is what panic feels like: a frenetic fluttery feeling at the base of my throat, all my nerves wound too tight — like I have to get out of my skin before I explode from being trapped in it, and the realization that I’m holding my breath.

Kind of like Martin Sheen in the hotel room at the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

This panic is from my increasing conviction that I have to de-criminalize foods, take away the moral connotations of ice cream and Cheetos, and let them back in my house. And make sure that I have quantities enough that I won’t feel like they’re about to be taken away because they’re forbidden.

Whenever I buy ice cream, I eat it in 2 days. Not a pint, mind you — whatever that size is that Edy’s/Dreyer’s comes in. Two days. I do the same thing with cookies, with almonds, with peanut butter, with snacky treats of any sort (c.f., Cheetos).

And I start to eat them the first day or 2 after buying them. I can’t let them just sit there until I actually want those specific foods. Here’s an example: this past Saturday, I did my weekly grocery shopping, and one of the things I bought was Edy’s chocolate-with-peanut-butter-cup ice cream. (This stuff? SO GOOD.) Saturday afternoon I made myself exactly the lunch/dinner I had been craving — a liverwurst sandwich with juicy ripe tomato, swiss cheese, and mayo. Man, was that good! As a side dish I had a bulgur-tomato-black bean-corn concoction I devised.

I was full, I was happy, I had eaten exactly what I wanted.

And 5 minutes later, while I was still (obviously) full, the savage pig animal part of my brain started chanting. “Hey, we have ice cream. There’s ice cream in the freezer. We have ice cream. Let’s have that ice cream! Now! Let’s have that ice cream now! Ice cream NOW! Ice cream NOW! NOWNOWNOWNOW!!!!”

I managed to make the savage pig animal shut up, by talking over its litany. I was full, I was satisfied, I had eaten exactly what I wanted, and, whenever I *did* get around to wanting the ice cream — truly being hungry for specifically the ice cream — I would eat it. Triumph! I did not eat the ice cream, because I didn’t want it.

Midnight-ish, I woke up, checked to make sure the BF was sound asleep, and went out to the kitchen, took the whole carton of ice cream to the couch, and ate my way through half of it.

I hadn’t wanted the ice cream, specifically. But I had to had to had to HAD TO eat it. The savage pig animal gets the better of me in the middle of the night. I’m too sleep-addled to talk over its litany. So I eat. And eat and eat and eat.

The issue here isn’t that I’m eating a “forbidden” food; it’s that I’m eating something — anything — when I don’t actually want it. And the issue is also that I still view any food as “forbidden.” Because THAT is exactly what drives me to eat it, and eat it all, as fast as I can. Because if I don’t eat it right now now NOW, maybe it’ll be taken away. Because it’s BAD.

I recognize all this. I understand, too, that identifying your disordered relationship with food and its whys and wherefores is a GOOD thing.

I still view foods as having moral connotations. Broccoli = virtuous, ice cream = SIN. That comes from years and years (and YEARS) of dieting. And the years of dieting created the mindset of constant deprivation, which makes me devour “forbidden” foods at the speed of light.

Which is why, now that I’m making a concerted effort to love my body exactly the way it is, and take care of myself by eating what my body needs to be well-nourished and by engaging in “exercise” activity that feels good and is fun, I’m also trying very hard to de-criminalize food. To make nothing forbidden. Cheetos might not be optimum nutrition, but I will crave and crave and crave them because I’ve told myself I can’t have them. And when I cave in and do get them, I eat the whole bag.

Cheetos are neither good nor bad. But I can’t make myself believe that, not really.

At least, not yet.

I read an essay in — I think — one of Geneen Roth’s books about a little girl who was gaining weight and who had issues with foods that were deemed “forbidden” to her. The therapist (or it might have been Geneen Roth; I can’t remember and I’m at work and not near my books) told the parents to buy pounds and pounds and pounds of M&Ms, because they were the little girl’s favorite food. Buy enough M&Ms that they would not run out, take a pillowcase, fill it with M&Ms, and let the little girl have the pillowcase to carry around and eat M&Ms whenever she damn well pleased.

The parents were petrified that this would lead to the little girl gaining massive amounts of weight, but they did it anyway. And the little girl did eat huge amounts of M&Ms…for about a week (possibly less). And then the parents realized that the pillowcase — which still had M&Ms in it — was lying abandoned on the floor, and the little girl wasn’t frantically eating them. Because she KNEW THEY WERE THERE if she wanted more.

Why didn’t that work with me and the ice cream the other night?

Well, I seriously think that I need to buy 2, or even 3, cartons of ice cream at a time. That way I’ll have visual evidence that I won’t run out, that it’ll be there if I want it.

And THAT, to go all the way back to the topic of this post, is why I’m gripped with panic. Because I utterly, utterly fear that if I have 3 cartons of ice cream in my freezer, I’ll devour all 3 within 2 days. Which will lead to the dreaded F-A-T.

I know that I need to (1) trust myself to eat what I want, when (and IF) I truly want it, (2) realize that no food is forbidden, and (3) realize that the possibility of gaining weight is NOT something to dread.

I know if I can feed myself what my body needs — and wants, TRULY wants — and engage in fun, joyful physical activity on a regular basis, my body will settle at the weight it’s supposed to be. I’ve been reading the archives at Good with Cheese, because she’s been going through a similar process, and — most importantly, realizing that she’s happier this way. Infinitely happier.

I want that. But getting there? Well, THAT scares the crap out of me, because I’m afraid it won’t “work” for me. And I don’t know how to make it through the panic.


7 Responses to Panic

  1. goodwithcheese says:

    You are me. Like, exactly, down to the secret eating and unnatural affection for Cheetos.

    Have you read “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies”? That book helped me hugely in legalizing foods.

    Once I surrounded myself with all the food I could dream of, I started realize it wasn’t ever about the food to begin with. It was about my little inner self rebelling against the constant deprivation and meanness I was directing towards her.

    You can do this. Whatever steps you decide to take, believe me that you can do this.

  2. Teppy says:

    Cheetos are, I believe, proof of a benevolent deity. (Because, that orange color? CLEARLY supernatural.)

    Once I surrounded myself with all the food I could dream of

    See, that statement right there causes the panic to kick up, big time. The rational part of my brain understands why that’s an effective approach, but my lizard brain is currently curled into a ball and keening, “But I’ll eat it ALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!”

    And that, of course, is exactly why I need to deal with it.

    Have you read “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies”?

    I have not, but I just put it on hold at the library. Thanks for the recommendation. And for the support. Thanks TREMENDOUSLY (with Cheetos on top) for the support!

  3. Sparkle Pants says:

    The issue here isn’t that I’m eating a “forbidden” food; it’s that I’m eating something — anything — when I don’t actually want it. And the issue is also that I still view any food as “forbidden.” Because THAT is exactly what drives me to eat it, and eat it all, as fast as I can. Because if I don’t eat it right now now NOW, maybe it’ll be taken away. Because it’s BAD.

    Oh. My. God. Do I know exactly what you mean. This entire post…that’s me. I worry so much about the food disappearing for whatever reason that I just eat it all. If I don’t, it’s usually because I have verbally abused myself so badly that I spiral deep down into depression. Which just makes me eat something else.

  4. Teppy says:

    I worry so much about the food disappearing for whatever reason that I just eat it all.

    Ye gods, yes. But, like I said in my post, and like goodwithcheese said, maybe that worry can be alleviated by actually having large amounts of [insert “forbidden” food here] available to me, so that I DON’T have to worry about it disappearing.

    Like, 3 cartons of ice cream. Or 5. Whatever it takes to make me realize that it’s not going to be taken away.

  5. goodwithcheese says:

    At first when the food arrives in ginormous quantities, you have to expect that you’re gonna eat some of it. Probably a lot of it. It took me two very large boxes of Whoppers before I got over them–there’s a box in the kitchen that I actually forget about now.

    After a while, just knowing you can have whatever whenever makes you start to pay attention to your actual hunger instead of just craving things you think you can’t have. The forbidden foods lose their specialness when they’re around all the time.

    I was scared, too, but it’s worked so much better than I thought it could!

  6. Deborah says:

    I worry so much about the food disappearing for whatever reason that I just eat it all.

    I can think of all the whatever reasons. Like having 4 sisters and 2 brothers who overeat and all the food WILL be gone. Like having a father who filled his plate until it was overflowing, and we all had to do the same, because there was NEVER any for seconds with that kind of eating happening. Or like having the food taken away as punishment.

    The food really could be gone. I used to hoard it. But then, this way I don’t get ants. :)

  7. Jessica says:

    YES! I suppose that I must feel this way, too–I’m actually doing better when I have more than enough sweets in-house. For instance, peanut butter cups make me weak in the knees, and I was buying them guiltily and devouring them. So I just stopped feeling guilty about it (a long process and it’s actually taken me months) and now…I had a whole bag sitting around my apt and I ate hardly any of them–because I can ALWAYS GET MORE.

    …But it still doesn’t mean I know that that’s true for all foods. I’m getting there!

    (I’ve added your blog to my reader. And I don’t think you can have too many awesome blogs about fat/fat acceptance/whatever.)

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