Food and a Fashion Crisis

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Tomorrow I leave for Spain. I get to visit my brother and sister in law in Barcelona where they have lived for the past three years. The trip came on suddenly, last Tuesday to be exact, when I found myself in conversation with my husband. We both realized, he just said it first, that I need to get away, gain perspective, eat and drink well, visit family, take some time to gain perspective and love. Thankfully, my present life has room for this spur-of-the-moment decision.

While preparing to pack, I found myself backwards, stuck, reverted. I had a fashion crisis. I needed new pants. I know it sounds small and minor, but old patterns die hard. Trying to anticipate the style of Europeans, while managing comfort for the eternal flight, while keeping the suitcase small.

Every spring I find myself at odds with my body. Shopping for pants sent me spiraling downward. All the progress and growth made over the decade came to a roaring halt. My train reversed direction and I returned to the old ways…the ways of self-hatred, condemnation, name-calling, control.

What is it about the stupid number on a scale, the number on the tag?

When did an industry get to define my value?

And what’s so wrong with a fluctuating waistline? What’s so wrong with eating and enjoying?

It breaks my heart when I hear people discuss what they should or shouldn’t eat. When food itself has become moral, guilt producing, shameful. How can eating be enjoyable when it lugs such baggage?  Food, morally, an innocuous substance, has become this avenue for demonstration of our strength, our superiority. And it has the power to determine my worth or value?

Over the last few years I’ve given myself the opportunity to eat what I love, to drink, to have butter and whole milk and white bread and dessert and heavy cream in my coffee. Nothing else will do. I cannot live any longer in denial of my culinary longings. I work hard in my days. I exercise regularly and determinedly, I love my family and provide for them in all the ways that are meaningful, I love my friends, my home, my community. The end of the day may deserve a beer, a bowl of ice cream, a TV show (or many, if it’s House of Cards). There is inherent balance when we really pay attention to the why. Why do I feel the need to escape? Am I numbing something that demands to be felt? Does the third bowl of ice cream really taste as good as I think it does…or am I avoiding something essential?

As a teenager, food was an important ally…providing release, an opportunity to numb, without turning to harder substances. An eating disorder followed me closely through my teens and twenties. I had no power…other than oddly defined spurts of willpower…that sputtered out easily. I started distance running as the answer, but injury soon set in. When the kids were small I desperately turned to the food for comfort, release, hope. The long hours at home sent me running for the refrigerator. I remember entire days of standing, door open wide, cold air on my face, knowing this could not be the answer. One more spoonful was not my lifeline. Tears rolled because I had to face these beautiful little people and their needs, while not always being able to take care of my own. Food was, I believed, a deep comfort, my solace, if even for thirty seconds.

This is not a healthy place for food to occupy. Food can’t hold this place of power. Every day, every hour, every minute was either spent planning or loathing, hungry or full beyond reason.

So now, over 10 years later, food brings appropriate comfort and joy, fuel in the right amounts. Some seasons involve more indulging than others. What I did to myself yesterday was not fair. The extra five pounds I have are a result of delicious dinners with my family and friends, warming my body with the process of digestion through cold winter months, gathering around the table to a little bit more wine because it’s a Friday night and I’m with safe people. Each and every calorie has been beautiful, has been part of building my community, has been gained through God-given freedom.

If I have to buy larger pants because of joy? Well, I think it’s worth the cost. It will take care of itself as I trust my body, my heart, my motivations.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/99105016@N00/5068837″>Refrigerator in a parking lot.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>