My journey with food has been a wrought one, and you don’t have to look farther than my mother’s cheese drawer (see Problem 2: Coming Home) to see why. Growing up, and honestly still today, my eating habits are led by my taste buds and brain’s pleasure center more than anything else.
As a kid, I ate so much pineapple that my tongue burned from all of the citric acid. Oftentimes, I accidentally bit myself because I didn’t quite understand where my fingers ended and the french fries began. And to top it off, the first Halloween I was able to pick my own costume, I chose my favorite thing in the world: toast.
The first time I went on a “diet”, it was sometime in middle school, and it was an easy dietary change: no candy for one week. Unfortunately for me, that same day I got my haircut, and my barber had a baller bowl of sugary treats at the receptionist’s desk. Without thinking, I grabbed a sucker (or more likely, a handful) and popped it into my mouth.
It wasn’t until I came home, that the promise I made myself popped back into my brain. And it, ironically, sucked. I was not only filled with guilt and disappointment, but also this overwhelming feeling of shame. How could I be so stupid, so mindless, that I couldn’t even accomplish just one day without sweets?
Right around my 15th birthday, my growth spurt finally started, and it was becoming clear that my baby fat was becoming teenager (and most likely, adult) fat. That tummy was no longer a sign of some “extra love”, it was just not cute.
So when my parents asked me for my list of presents, I told them the thing I wanted more than anything else: a membership to Weight Watchers. They said yes. And my mother told me that she would do the whole thing with me.
But before we stepped on the scale for the first time, Jeannie and I drove to Happy Wok to binge our hearts and stomachs out. Dinner portions of General Tso’s chicken with sides of fried rice and cream cheese wontons were no match for the determination of our forks.
We walked into Weight Watchers meeting space (which of course, was in a strip mall), with protruding stomaches and even more protruding smiles. Stepping on the scale, we kept our shoes on, as an insurance policy for a weight loss in first week. And it worked.
But after a few weigh-ins, something happened.
I couldn’t eat without thinking about how many “points” I was racking up. I couldn’t stop weighing myself multiple times in one day, after every snack and every bowel movement. I became consumed by this tornado of numbers, of input and output and result. So, we both decided it was for the best to stop going.
To be honest, I thought that I was free of this form of self-torture until a few months ago.
Coach Hannah asked me if I would be interested in participating in a nutrition beta testing group with Lucia. (Quick rant on Solcana Wellness and Lucia: they are amazing, and I cannot recommend them enough. I’ve taken a few workshops with Lucia and am always floored by all the knowledge that she not only knows, but is able to translate in a relatable and accessible way. Do yourself a favor and sign up for whatever class or discussion that she offers next. You will not be disappointed.)
Anyway, I didn’t even blink before agreeing to participate. Coach Hannah explained that the group would focus on macronutrients, and each person could give Lucia a goal to focus on.
Being the person that I am, my goal was to lose weight. Also being the person I am, I had to refresh myself on what macronutrients were, which was pretty straightforward: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. (Second and last quick aside: my best friend in college had to teach me the definition of words: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. One day in the cafeteria, I asked her, “Do fries have protein in them?”)
Based on our personal goal, weight, gender and age, Lucia compiled a list for us, which had the number of grams we were to consume during a day, depending if it was a rest day or workout day. It seemed easy enough, especially because the dietary change didn’t focus on exclusion. Rather, it was about filling our body with as much (of the good stuff) that we wanted.
Right away, I took my tips from work and went grocery shopping. It was exciting and different for me to think about planning meals and thinking ahead. The first couple days were easy. I was hitting my numbers and feeling confident. But it didn’t take long for that excitement to morph into expectation, which inevitably became disappointment. Before the first week ended, I switched back to my old habits, like the way you mindlessly drive back home.
So, when we all sat down to talk about our progress, I just broke down. It all came rushing back to me, and it felt like I had a handful of suckers in my pocket. But being the amazing community we are at Solcana, my teammates lifted me up from this moment (shoutout to Kaitlin, Eik, and Danielle). And Lucia gave me a great heart-to-heart, speaking with compassion and understanding.
I’m not quite sure how to end this entry, because there is no aha moment here (sorry, Oprah). There isn’t a piece of this story that I can stick a flag in, and proclaim that I have changed. But maybe that’s the point.
I am always going to be this person, with these memories and this history. And maybe the best I can do is sit down, eat a slice of toast, and accidentally bite my finger.