It’s hard for me, right now. Food and I have always had a warped relationship. I have phases where I will crave particular foods like chocolate or saltine crackers. Sometimes it’s even brand specific. I don’t understand it, but for years now I’ve been working on paying attention to my body, my feelings, my preferences; it has been hard work to learn to have preferences. Most people go through normal identity development at different phases of their childhood but my identity doesn’t feel like my own.
I have this memory of walking up the stairway from the basement of my childhood home and I remember that I had to stop and wait for my vision to clear at least once on my way up this one-story flight of steps. I was so weak that they tell me later I could have died. I was going through a growth spurt and my body wouldn’t put on weight to keep pace with all the growing I was doing.
I remember my body being up for discussion. There were lots of comments on my body from my parents and my siblings and lots of talk about what I needed to eat. I remember trying many different diets and feeling dizzy sometimes, achy other times, my body rejected everything like I was “intolerant” of it. The food I would eat had to be kept separate from other people’s food at parties or get-togethers and I didn’t feel good when I ate things.
One parent would admonish me to watch the things I eat and make sure I asked questions about any food offered to me. They impressed on me always the importance of vigilance and attention to details. Of course we tried gluten-free diets (before it was trendy). Of course we tried duck eggs and goats milk and other random items that confused me inside. I was supposed to be able to tell a difference and I was supposed to feel better or worse or have some reaction or SOMETHING but I felt terrible and pained.
The other parent thought the doctors and diets and vigilance and concern was a farce. They would sit and watch me eat sometimes, taunting me to have a reaction because they had tainted the food I was eating on purpose. I remember a specific meal where I had to sit and eat alone two scrambled eggs from a duck or a goose. It was not a normal meal-time so when my parent came by, they leaned down to look me right in the eye and made a big show of looking me over. I felt so ashamed. I felt so embarrassed and I felt so evil for taking up people’s time and attention in this way. I felt sick that I dared to be this problem that inconvenienced them. They taunted me with words I don’t remember the order of and invited my oldest sibling to join in. I was overwhelmed with a terrible feeling that I didn’t understand. I don’t know if I finished the eggs or not.
In the past few days my eating habits are all different. Things taste a little different; I’m not sure yet if it’s good or bad. I used to eat and have trouble telling when I was full. Today I struggle to finish my one bowl of cereal for breakfast; then I ate half as much as I normally do at lunch, and currently have my dinner next to me because I’m supposed to. It’s available if I want to eat it but I just don’t want to. I relish the ability to do as I please.