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.