When Food is More Than Fuel
If food was just food, fewer people would be overweight.
I remember I once had a girlfriend for many years who I saw once a month or so, and this woman was very overweight. We decided to take some classes together so we ended up seeing each other three times a week. Every time we met she would bring me food, which, though I was not hungry, I dutifully ate so as not to hurt her feelings.
After about six months into our classes I had gained 10 pounds and many of my favourite pants were too tight on me. So, the next time she brought me food I said, “No thank you”. She’d say, “It’s just a treat,” “It’s only a little bit,” or, “I made it just for you.” And, I would often give in and take the food item so as not to waste it.
I gained more weight and my belts no longer closed. Then, my friend went on a diet for two months and she stopped bringing me food. I lost 10 pounds. So I tried to talk to her, to explain that I don’t see food as a treat and don’t enjoy snacking and that this extra food was now adversely affecting my life. She told me that sharing food was how she expressed love. “But if I don’t want it, then that’s not love. Love is when you give people what they need and want,” I said.
Her reply? “You just want to be a stupid skinny witch.” (That last word was not the exact one she used, but you get the idea.) That was pretty much the end of that friendship. But isn’t it crazy how food can be such an emotionally loaded presence in our lives? We use food to celebrate our successes and to drown our sorrows when we falter. We meet over lunch to work out business deals, as though our full stomachs will make us more agreeable. And, of course, the act of breaking bread is so powerful that it’s been incorporated into some of our religious practices.
Most of these practices are healthy, but why is it that we sometimes can’t stop after we have gone too far with our attachment to food?I once watched a woman feed her dog so many treats that he looked like a butterball. She was devastated when he died of a heart attack at the age of four. I don’t think she ever stopped to think that too much food had caused her dog’s death.
Often, people do this sort of harm to themselves. A traumatic upset will cause them to feel a need to put a buffer between themselves and the rest of the world. Sometimes the buffer is alcohol or drugs, or sometime it’s a layer of fat. I had an upset a couple of years ago and I started to eat compulsively. I have since decided that I don’t need a layer of fat to protect me, and I’m automatically making better choices about food. So, I’m going to acknowledge that it’s okay to use food to celebrate special occasions, but that companionship is the most important part of the celebration. Other than that, I will just consider food as fuel for my body.
Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.