Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sadly, It's Just Food

Over the past couple of weeks I have come to a rather sad realization. Well, it's sad, because I feel like my fantasy-land bubble is bursting... but it's also a joyous thing in another way. In other words, I think once I get over the sadness I will be thrilled with this lesson.

The new insight is this: it's just food. Now, this is not news to a lot of people. In fact, I've been reading variations of this concept for ages: "food is just fuel" and things like that. I even caught glimpses of a non-emotional relationship with food when I got completely off junky foods and started low carbing with Medifast. I described sitting by a loaf of warm bread and it not "calling" to me; it may as well have been a rock on a plate. I just didn't care.

However, I can assure you that if I were to take a bite of that bread *anyway*, suddenly it would become way, way more than a rock. Food, once it is in my mouth, has always become an Experience. It's some kind of transcendent thing where, for example, if I eat a slice of cheesecake it is almost as if I am suddenly floating above the clouds with angels singing and beams of light shining around me. When I'd sit down on the couch and eat a bag of chips I'd sort of zone out and go to some other place, unaware of anything around me, wrapped up completely in the crunch and the grease and the salt, the sensation of the food going down my throat and the fat coursing through my veins. When I'd eat a plate of pasta, nothing else existed and I was thrown back into some kind of carb high in a world of Parmesan cheese and sausages. It's weird, but it's almost like getting drunk or high I guess. A complete "experience."

Well, that seems to have changed. Over the last few weeks, food HAS called to me as I went off Medifast for one week. I HAVE had cravings and hunger that I have given in to. But none of the foods... NONE... have given me what I wanted from them like they used to. A candy bar used to erase my problems for awhile. A sugary latte would drown out any stress or sadness I was feeling. A plate of cheese made me happy. And the actual, physical experience on my taste buds was just euphoric. Now, I am not sure what happened... if my brain or my body or my taste buds changed so dramatically from being on Medifast for 9 months... but now, it is just NOT the same.

I eat a cookie, it is just a cookie. It's the same recipe I made and got high on last Christmas, but now it just tastes bland, too sweet, boring. I get nothing out of it but a bellyache.

I make my favorite sandwich, take a bite, and it does nothing for me. No erasure of negatives, no special happy high. It tastes like its components: ham, cheese, pickles, mayo. Combining them does not magically turn them into a special potion to solve my problems or make me happy.

I have a piece of bacon, and it tastes like salt and grease. I don't love it, I don't hate it, it is just a piece of bacon and does not change how I feel, and it does not send me spinning into a bacon-happiness coma.

Today is the day my father died, more than two decades ago. I cannot believe he has been gone from my life longer than he was in it. It makes me terribly sad. I have blogged before about how his favorite sandwich was a Reuben, how I didn't even like them when I was a kid and teen, but suddenly after he was gone, I wanted them all the time. Every chance I'd get in a restaurant I'd order a Reuben sandwich, and that first bite would throw me into a delirious swirl of salty, greasy, miss-my-Dad-but-I-am-like-him-with-this-sandwich head trip. Now that I am getting healthy, I try to avoid Reubens. Haven't had one in a long time. But today, I was in a restaurant with one of my kids who got a food gift card for Christmas, so he'd asked me to take him there for lunch. On the menu? Reubens. Big, greasy, salty. I thought about my Dad and how he was gone. I knew it was "the right thing to do" to have a Reuben today in his honor, to be close to him. Only, I knew it wouldn't work. And for the first time in 21 years, I didn't want a Reuben.

I got something else, a turkey sandwich, which was fine but was, again, just food.

It is sad to me, in a way, that there is no special food anymore. I have let myself have several things I have been "dreaming" about for the past 9 months but have not let myself indulge in: a piece of lasagna, a cupcake, some cinnamon toast. Stuff that used to send me flying when I ate it. But this past couple of weeks, every time I ate one of those things, I was disappointed. It may as well have been a plain boiled chicken breast with broccoli. It didn't matter. It *doesn't* matter anymore. I like nicely prepared food as much as anyone, but it is still just food. And now, the simplest things have the most delicious taste to me. A piece of poached salmon with some steamed green beans and salad would be more satisfying than any fancy dish I could dream up.

So yeah, things have changed, and I am kinda sad that I can't "get high" or "escape" with food like I used to. But knowing that whatever I put in my mouth is going to be JUST FOOD and nothing more is also very freeing. Because if that lasagna and garlic bread is *really* the same experience to me as chicken breast and broccoli, then there is no deprivation involved in choosing the latter. And losing weight becomes routine, and not as difficult, and I know I am really... for the first time in my life... okay with NEVER having another Big Mac or another Reuben sandwich again. And that, my friends, makes me happy.


chris m said...

Great post. Reads like you are not "addicted" to food (anymore), as you get no more "highs" from it.
After all, you are so very right, food is just fuel, nothing more.

Michele said...

Wonderful, illuminating post. It is just food, and has always been just that. It is just that we over-eaters gave it lots of other characteristics and abilities that it did not deserve. Simply food. There is more to life than food.

Leslie said...

Great post, and just what I need to hear today. I've had that same experience in the last month of carby sweets of all kinds, breads, candy, cake - it really is disappointing, though I hadn't thought of it that way until you mentioned it.

Not only has it not tasted that good or "done it" for me the way it has in the past, I could feel myself over the last few weeks getting increasingly irritable, tired, antsy, mean-spirited and brain foggy; really my thinking got almost as nuts as when I was drinking. I believe I've been literally toxic from sugar and high carb intake.

I'm on day 2 of low carb eating, and even by this morning I felt better. Not perfect, but decidedly better. This IS the easier softer way, though I've proven it to myself before and backslid.

Thank you SO much for the email. I'll be answering it in the next day or so. And I just made your cauliflower mac'n'cheese for dinner - can't wait to eat!

Beth said...

I have had just glimpses into being that "separated" from food... but for me, it's a slippery slope. I hope that in a year I feel the same freeness that you feel. Thank you for this blog!

Anonymous said...

So amazing that you found this. I wonder if you put something else in its place? I know a lot of people (of both genders) who think that a relationship or kids will provide that same kind of "instant happiness, just add water". And that might be more healthy at some level, but for me I remember even in my early 20's saying that the men in my life were "like trees", something I noticed as living objects but not something I learned to expect much from, in the way of communication or happiness, unlike my food addiction. In fact, the times I've been most disconnected from food have been times when I've been depressed in general. So its kind of nice to feel that appreciation.

spunkysuzi said...

When you describe what eating for felt for you, you could have been describing what food does for me.
I can't wait until food is just food for me! Until then i'll just keep trying.

Desert Singer said...

I'm so happy for you!

beerab said...


Lyn you are such a wonderful person and an inspiration- I'm so sorry about your dad- from all your stories he sounds like a wonderful father.

It's so hard to think of food as JUST food- but I do notice I don't go nuts anymore when someone is eating french fries- that has to be a plus right?!

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Lyn (as always). I am still in the food gets me high cycle. A word of caution...like smoking cigarettes, it can come back.

I was at that point at one time in my life ... 125 lbs., aerobic instructor, WW Leader...WTFH???

Tread lightly, my dear ... I want to be reading about how you are so successful for years to come :-)

screwdestiny said...

Well, congratulations on getting over your food addiction. That's just wonderful. Sounds like you'll need to find something else to get you "high" though. Exercise, perhaps? Endorphin highs can be fantastic.

Diandra said...

I guess that your subconscious has shifted focus from your old means of escape to other methods that work for you know.

(Have you read "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth? I wasn't too sure about it, I'm not a big fan of the "God" concept society sticks with, but thankfully there is hardly any of it in the book. And the most important lesson I got from it was that emotions are just that - emotions. You experience them, and they pass. And life goes on. No need for escape food.)

SUE M. said...

I've had the same thing happen to me. I haven't really eaten my all-time favorite thing in about 2 years, Christmas cookies. I used to love, love, love them. This year I gave myself permission to eat some. I ended up eating tons and tons of them. I kept searching for the ONE that tasted good. After a big bellyache, I realized that none of them were all that worthy. They no longer hold the appeal that they once did. So next year, I won't bother with them.

cindy said...

Ohmygosh! If you and I were sitting here side by side..we would be like eye to eye, laughing. Cause I stumbled across the same observation as well (over the holidays). I was bouncing out of control on Christmas Eve and felt something similiar. It was just not the same...and no amount of it (food) made me happy...and it dawned on me...its just stupid food. It can't make me happy, it can't solve my problems, it can't even soothe the way it used too. Which, yep, makes me sad. But I reckon that means we are growing! YAY US! LOL. Excellent post my friend!