Like most women, I’ve had food “issues” throughout my life — let’s dish!
BY CYNDI INGLE — One of my favorite photos from my carefree childhood shows me at four years of age doing a face plant into the white iced goodness of a delicious cake (pictured at right). This visual succulently sums up my relationship with food ever since.
In fact, most of my childhood snaps depict me either chowing down, cradling food before consuming it, or gazing greedily as a family member gorges on a scrumptious tidbit.
Food was a big deal in my early development as my wonderful grandmother enjoyed spoiling me with an assortment of cookies, cakes and candies. As my grandfather (a.k.a. “Boba”) – himself a short, stocky fellow, was prone to loudly proclaim, “we don’t want any skinny brats around here.” No worries on that account!
Since those early, blissful days of wanton gluttony (and bad haircuts, see photo to right), I’ve discovered that like most North American women, I’ve developed a few food and body “issues”. And now that I’m in older, even ads in my Oprah magazine (!) are telling me that I should be concerned not only about weight, but about wrinkles and other signs of aging.
At my height of 5’ 6”, my weight has fluctuated from 112 lbs. to a high of 145 lbs — but even at my lowest, I’ve never felt slim.
A pivotal moment occurred at age 13 while working at my parents’ auction business, appropriately at the “snack bar.” I was asked by a customer if I was pregnant because I sported a chubby belly. Aside from delightful opportunities for being a bulletin board for verbal abuse from perfect strangers, my snack-bar gig was the perfect chance to scarf down copious bags of salt-and-vinegar chips, to offset the anxiety I felt while trying to calculate correct change.
It was soon afterwards — when I started high school — that I embarked on my first diet. I had a reliable role model: my beautiful mother, who looked like Julianne Moore in that movie, Far from Heaven, was constantly dieting.
Back in the day, she popped an appetite suppressant with the now-ironic name, AYDS. I even consumed a few of the tiny, vile tasting squares myself.
Throughout high school and in my early 20’s my weight went up and down like a yo-yo. I probably wasn’t clinically into disorder zones of anorexia or bulimia, but I was borderline with both.
My methods included severely limiting and neurotically documenting my daily caloric intake, and chewing up food and spitting it out. During dieting bouts, daily weigh-ins were de rigueur.
Now I have a healthier attitude towards my weight, and body issues in general. My weight is around 125 lbs., but I don’t freak if it inches up a bit higher. I try to eat health-inducing foods like fruit, veggies, pasta, chicken, fish and rarely any red meat . . . all swished down with some fine wine.
If I do fall off the rails occasionally and get my glutton on with popcorn drowning in butter or a cheese fest of biblical proportions, I don’t panic. I know that sooner or later my body will get tired of fatty foods and will send out a cease and desist order.
I’ve finally realized that all the time, energy and money that women (and increasingly men) put into agonizing over “fixing” their weight and bodies are activities that deflect our attention from a fuller and happier presence and knowing of our own simple awareness and aliveness.
When I spend time worrying about my weight, this epiphany comes to me: I am split off from the development of my spirit — or as this site calls it, “souls’ code — and from caring about what is going on in the outside world (war in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone?) Stepping out of obsessing about my physical shell helps me realize that I am not just the vessel that I inhabit.
I realize it’s extremely hard to circumvent the propaganda machine that is set up around weight and body image in North America, but it’s worth fighting the (unconscious) powers that be. There is a greater power in saying, “I accept my body as it is, it doesn’t need improvement, it just is.”
Psychoanalyst Susie Orbach brought this philosophy to a mass audience in the 70’s with her groundbreaking book, “Fat is a Feminist Issue.” Ultimately, our culture’s obsession with perfect bodies and maintaining youth — which takes our eyes off the larger prize — is everyone’s issue.
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