Finding the balance between focus and fearful eating
Celebration dinner last night. My husband was honored at the college where he teaches. A nice honor from the students. But we didn’t feel quite well enough to take ourselves out for dinner. My daughter is sick, I had a headache. He was a bit worn out from the day of college Homecoming duties.
So we rented movies and picked up dinner from a nearby restaurant.
A nearby fabulous restaurant.
A really, terrific restaurant that makes especially scrumptious food from fresh ingredients.
My first, gut reaction at seeing all this great food was fear and panic.
This is not at all a normal reaction to delicious food.
I had already eaten “off plan” earlier in the day. I had struggled during the week with candy encounters. And now, a celebration feast, with plenty of healthy food. And my first reaction was to panic.
That’s just not a healthy response to food. I don’t want to fear food. I don’t want it to give me an anxious, clutching feeling around my heart and throat. I want to see food and react by salivating and appreciating the way it looks and smells. Like everybody else.
I want to be like everybody else.
At the same time, I know I can’t eat the way everybody else does.
Through years of dieting, and probably because of my success at losing a bunch of weight, I cross the line between a healthy focus on weight control and fitness to fearing food. I’ve always thought of myself as very far from disordered eating, but here is a clear symptom of a disorder.
So I filled my plate with mostly salad, and a little of everything else. And I sat and stared at the beautiful meal, and had to really work on remembering that food doesn’t hurt me. Slowly the panic disappeared as I appreciated the effort and the art the chef had given to the various sauces and concoctions. Every crouton, every lettuce leaf, every vegetable, and yes even garlic bread, I can say I really enjoyed.
When I was full I stopped eating.
I did consume more calories yesterday than I should have. I am not several lbs. heavier today.
I did share a wonderful meal with my celebrating family. I was not morose or whiney about what I “can” and “can’t” eat.
My family finished the meal with ice cream. I declined, because I’m avoiding all added sugars.
I did enjoy a beautiful meal without ruining it through fear.
But I came close.
So, here’s one to explore, then. Is all this work on weight loss and fitness changing the way you look at food? Are you confusing focus on the problem with obsession? Concentration with compulsiveness?
I never thought I could become confused. Shoot, I’m too smart for that. I love food too much. But there it was, yesterday. Plain and obvious.
It’s so easy for us to cross that line. We may cross it when putting on a few pounds makes us panic. We may cross it when we give ourselves a deadline for losing weight or meeting a fitness goal. We may worry more when we exercise less. We may feel everyone’s watching and judging every mouthful we consume. And of course, we can really be tossed over the line when we experience a bout of uncontrolled eating, as I did with my sugar run-in this week.
We should be able to enjoy our food. It’s one of our great pleasures. We need to be able to enjoy it during regular mealtimes with our families and friends. Losing these experiences may not be worth the weight loss. If you feel yourself being overtaken by food fear, it may be time to stop and get some help. Stop and think. Stop and meditate on this one. Write about your food fear in your journal to sort the feelings out, and if you can’t find a way out of it yourself. Contact your doctor, a counselor, a member of your clergy for a referral to an eating disorders specialist.
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