Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year (Part 2)

Shameful Secret #2 - Horrible eating habits from childhood

This one’s not so secret. Pretty much anyone who didn’t grow up in some hippie we-grow-our-own-wheat-germ-and-rutabaga commune learned some crappy eating habits along the way.

The "Pepsi Generation" was always depicted like this:

Fun, fit, extremely attractive, playing volleyball on the beach...

Not like this: 
Image via

Although I tried extremely hard as a mother not to pass my own poor eating habits onto my own child, still there were more boxed, frozen, ready-to-zap meals than I would have liked. A lot of fast food and hot dogs grabbed at the ballfield. Because when you’re a single, working mom, juggling your job and traffic to get the kid picked up from after-school-care and to the field for practice or games and then back home and two hours or more of homework and into the shower for him if you can fit it in, and you’ve also got to try to get him in bed for almost enough sleep (so the circus can begin again, in the morning)...

The sit-down family dinners, nutritionally balanced and beautifully presented, while they did occur occasionally, were pretty much an unattainable fantasy most days of the week.  I served him everything, including foods I disliked, and encouraged him to enjoy many foods. One of my food rules was something green served with every dinner: salad, broccoli, green beans. Even peas.  (the horror, the horror!)

So I don't beat myself up about how I parented my son, foodwise.  In retrospect, I probably could have done some areas better, but all things considered, I did a bang-up job, with the funds, time and knowledge I had then.

But my own childhood... unlike many supertasters, I had no problem ingesting vast amounts of sugar and fat in the form of milk, cheese, ice cream. I was a skinny little thing, then, and I know my mom and grandparents worried about my picky eating habits, so if I would eat anything, I’d get more of it.

As we know now, malnutrition isn't just about being hungry.  You can be obese, you can be full, and still be malnourished, if you're not getting the foods the body needs.

I ate things that make my teeth hurt now to even contemplate. Angel food cake with Mom’s homemade caramel icing was a favorite birthday cake. (I’d like one slice, now, but the thought of a second makes me shudder.) I’d come home from school for lunch and Mom would make me pancakes, dripping with butter and laden lavishly with brown sugar. I remember she even made me a sugar sandwich, once: Wonder bread, thickly spread with butter, and then heavily crusted with white sugar (my stomach heaves just to think of it now.)
Image via

Then there were Grandma K’s yummy round Danish pancakes, aebelskivers. Those I ate with a little butter and dusted with powdered sugar.

But my favorite was Grandma K’s ginger cookies. While there were many types of cookies offered everywhere as we visited family during the holidays: little round balls covered with powdered sugar and filled with jelly, peanut butter cookies with fork marks across the tops, chocolate chip, meringue drop cookies, and many others, ginger cookies were not only for the holidays, but for every visit to Grandma K’s.

There wasn’t much to do at Grandma K’s, and the toys she had were on the sparse side, plus I was the youngest grandchild by about 5-6 years, so I had no one to play with while the grown-up sat and talked, talked and sat. I did love sitting in the kitchen, out of the way on the “grandchild” stepstool with the fold-down seat, watching my Mom, her younger sister, and my Grandma bustling around, either making our family dinners, or cleaning up after them.  Usually with a ginger cookie in my hand.

I love this family picture - the women, the aprons,
the old fashioned sink and wallpaper.

Some people eat something similar to our cookies, as ginger snaps, and sometimes Grandma would make hers small and crunchy, too, but my favorite was bigger, chewy cookies, which is how I make mine. Mom occasionally made them to her mother’s recipe, too, and when I got to be about 6-7 years old she let me “help” her make them.

Ginger cookies are irrevocably tied to childhood, family, and holidays in my mind, and though I don’t have them year round, I must bake at least one batch over the Christmas holidays.

This created much friction between me and OCPD b-f.  Because mostly, I wasn't allowed in the kitchen we ostensibly shared.  It was hisHis, and I was such a slob, if I used the kitchen I might get flour on the counter.  Besides, I was in the way.

Moreover, he didn't like ginger cookies, and he didn't understand why I felt compelled to bake them, even when I explained.  He didn't much care for sweets of any kind, and he openly despised me for having occasional food cravings, even around the holidays.  (Even though he's an alcoholic with terrible eating habits, himself.)  It got worse when I began to gain back much of the weight I'd lost in our first year of living together.

Being told I couldn't/shouldn't want to eat something only made me want to eat it more.

Now, I know I have many Food Issues.  Besides the pickiness, I know (in my head) that food isn't love, that eating something sugary or fattening is only temporarily satisfying.  That I can (and have) used food as a narcotic, eaten myself into a food coma much too often, and that I truly need to develop a healthier, more intuitive and less "bad vs. good" relationship with food.

I don't want to go the "all-or-nothing" route, as some do, pretty much swear off sugar or bread or mac 'n cheese or whatever.  Yes, I do need to eat much less of it, but no, I am not ready to give it up for the rest of my life.  Really and truly, if it was a choice between being shot in the head, and never letting chocolate cross my lips again, I would take the bullet.

I've been reading some wonderful books and sites on eating healthy.  Katie's Health for the Whole Self has been especially helpful, especially this article on figuring out of it's your physical self or your emotions calling you to the fridge.  Going into 2011, one of my presents to me will be learning to be better to myself, which includes learning how to eat in a way that's healthier for my body and soul.

The one thing that holds me back, is that I am afraid of fully breaking the connection between eating and emotions.  Can I do it for some foods, and not others, or that is like being "a little bit pregnant"?  You see, I still want to eat ginger cookies at Christmas, and I still want them to take me back, through smell and taste, to that chair in my grandma's kitchen, watching Mom dry dishes.

(To read Part 1, click here.)
(To read Part 3, click here.)

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