What would my life be like if I didn’t constantly think about food and my body. As soon as I stop eating I start thinking about when I can eat next, whether I should eat more or less, whether I should change my whole diet up. Should I give up sugar? Become a vegan? Eat more fish? I’m in a battle with food and it’s got the upper hand. I try so hard to impose control over my food and body — maybe because I fear that I lack control in so many other realms. Then when I fail to permanently give up sugar for the 25th time, I feel that I’ve failed. Evidence that I’m not a strong, disciplined person with superhuman ability to resist the temptations, which topple mere mortals.
My most crazy-making food relationship is with cookies. My friends know never to invite me over with an empty cookie jar. I don’t feel safe without easy access to cookies. Sneaking cookies in the middle of the night as a child was a ritual. Now “secret” binges are the norm. I know my partner knows, but I do it anyway. I don’t want to be seen “failing.”
Life is hard. Whether you struggle with mental or physical illness, you’re having difficulties in relationships, you’re trying to make a better life for yourself, you’ve experienced some kind of loss — the list goes on — you know that life comes with pain. But you have to go on living. So if, for a time, the only pleasure you can find is a cookie and it gives you what you need for right now so that you can go on, have the damn cookie. But maybe skip the side dish of shame, secrecy and obsessing.
Why do we waste our time assigning shame and guilt to arguably amoral actions? I am behaving badly if I’m lying, stealing or cheating. Am I truly behaving badly if I eat cookies to help me cope with pain?* It’s so important that we love and care for ourselves. Particularly, when we’re having a hard time. Love shows mercy. And sometimes mercy looks a lot like a cookie. So just have the cookie already. Here’s one I baked myself. 🙂
*There are certainly arguments to be made regarding the culpability of externalizing unhealthy choices – but in the absence of intention, maybe that argument isn’t as strong as we self-righteously assume. A blog post for another day.
Revised 10.22.15 for clarity.