I am a picky eater.
I can count on ten fingers, the vegetables that I like. I hate it when my food touches. Texture is HUGE. I only like some foods hot, cold or melted. If there are a hundred ways to eat it, I will only fuck with maybe 3. Maybe. This is just how I am.
My relationship with food started normally I suppose. Or at least, it probably looked like most people's growing up. Loved junk, hated vegetables, all that shit.
It didn't occur to me, however, that there was a direct correlation between food and body until I was about 8.
I always tell people that I had a "fat" phase growing up, but truthfully, I don't think that I did. None of my pictures betray anything of an unhealthy weight, aside from some tummy chub that many another 8 year old had at the time as well.
It started with my mom.
Three specific instances come to mind. And I think that's all it took.
I remember this one time, my mom and I were getting some clothes together for an outfit. I picked up one of my favourite sweaters - baby pink, with slight fuzz, and pulled it over my head. It fit snug on my tummy, and I looked around for some pants to pair it with.
My mom regarded me silently for a moment.
"You've gained weight" she noticed.
I wasn't sure what to do with that information.
Later on, we were sitting in church, and she leaned over to whisper in my ear: "I can see your love handles from under your shirt". She sounded grossed out. I didn't like that.
I never wore that sweater ever again.
My mom continued to rib at me occasionally, leaving me feeling weird in ways that I hadn't before.
There was another incident where I was making toast downstairs.
I didn't like cheese, so I didn't want to make a grilled cheese, but I liked the way the bread was made.
Carefully, I flattened out two pieces of buttered toast into a pan, pressing it until it crisped the way I liked it.
I heard my mom demand what I was doing from upstairs.
I moved the pan off the burner, and tried to look for a plate before she came down.
She was furious for some reason. She yelled at me, and threw my toast in the trash, screaming that this is why I "looked 10 months pregnant".
At 21 I recognise this to most likely be projection, as her partner had just left her and her family with a newborn baby and she was likely the one feeling "10 months pregnant". But at 9, this just made me cry. But she had also made it abundantly clear that she didn't care whether or not I cried, so that didn't do very much to comfort me.
After this I remember attempting to physically self-harm for the first time. I broke a bangle, and used the jagged side to swirl patterns in the inside of my forearm. I always felt fake when I talked about self harm, cause I didn't think I did it "for real". Always enough to break the skin, but never enough to bleed. That was the rule. Anyway.
I never made toast like that ever again.
As I grew up, the comments continued.
Her favorite, always spoken as she got home from work was, "So what did you do today other than eat?"
I hated this question because most times the answer was very little or not at all. I didn't even like eating in the morning.
Now I want to make something clear here. This is definitely not a smear campaign against my mom - I've made the conscious decision to not harbour resentment based on past events. I'm giving an account of what happened, but the intention here isn't to paint her as an enemy. At that point in life, though? She was.
Anyway, needless to say, I developed a complex. One of many, but eating was now something that had to be done in secret.
The gag is that I never had issues with over-eating. I liked what I liked, I didn't like what I didn't like. I don't like cookies, don't really fucks with chips like that, and preferred water over soda anyway. I remember feeling that her surveillance of my weight was unnecessary, but I also just attributed this to the growing list of things I believed my mother hated me for.
Finally, I decided to change some things up.
When I was around 14, I decided that I wanted to lose weight.
I'd been a steady stream of "I'm so fat!" for a few years now, and I was starting to annoy myself at my lack of action.
I researched and poured over articles on weight loss. Weighed (ha) the pros and cons of different diets and exercise routines. Then, finding a little bit of everything, I created my own routine. This was it for the better part of a year:
- Wake up (no breakfast)
- Go to school (no lunch. sometimes, but usually no.)
- Come home, make Conner his snack
- Clean up
- Exercise for an hour
- Eat dinner
- Go to bed
Rinse and repeat
The only thing with this, is that I was never ever satisfied. I somewhat liked my body but I just wanted it to be different ... better.
Eventually I stopped doing this, and just accepted that I was "fat". It was one of my favorite things to call myself, pinching hard at the flesh that sat above my thighs.
Fast forward to today.
My relationship with food has changed so many times at this point, that it does so continuously. In my usual style, I'll list my top three most frequented eating habits below:
Sometimes, I just don't want to fucking eat. I just don't feel like it. The thought and action of biting into, chewing, and swallowing something grosses me out.
It's weird because, although I must be hungry, I'm so not interested in eating, that it just doesn't matter. Nothing is appealing to me, except the familiar ache in my tum. I hate it the most when I've been with someone all day and get hit with the "But you've only ate _____, I know you must be hungry!". Cause then what's my excuse?
I do this a lot. And the gag is that I'm not doing it to lose weight. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a huge bonus, but it's not the reason why. I just don't want to.
This is my favourite "eating" habit.
Oh man. Shark-eating is kinda fun, I won't lie. It's basically when I eat the food in front of me with such animalistic quickness that I feel like a shark.
Sometimes, I just can't help myself. It's either something I really like, or my nose gets a whiff of food and it's game over.
Shark-eating isn't necessarily binge-eating though. It's moreso just super fast eating.
I barely even think about what I'm doing. It feels very primal, and I often use both hands.
I once stood and ate a tray of chicken wings, standing up, in the dark. No time to take my shoes or jacket off, and definitely no time to pause to turn the lights on.
After shark eating, I don't need to eat for a good stretch. Either cause I'm full or cause I ate too fast and I don't feel good. Works for me either way.
3. Da Binge
I don't do this one very often, but when I do - oh boy.
I'm suddenly ravenous. Eating is all of a sudden my favourite thing to do. I pile my plate high, order an extra side, and love to tell people that I'm a growing girl.
There is mad freedom here. I don't give a shit about my waistline, or my tummy chub. Pass the butter, the fuck!
"Mouths are for eating now", I tell my friends who dare try to continue our pre-meal conversation. There's food all over my face, and I've already made plans for my to-go container.
Regardless of how this sounds, this is the time I feel the most "normal" with my eating. Just a girl and her nuggets.
I also will take a liking to a particular food and only eat that. So far I've had intense monogamous relationships with gummy bears, asparagus, pretzels, white chocolate reeces (ONLY mini), plain(ish) popcorn and pasta. SO much fucking pasta.
I've never purged though. Not for lack of wanting - the release I imagine, would be splendid. Only because I have a strong hate for vomit that borders on a phobia.
Within the parameters of food itself, however, I am also extremely particular.
I never eat anything in all one bite, and instead have to eat it in a series of nibbles. Even grapes are eaten in 3-4 bites. I drive my friends insane.
I also have a hard time finishing food unless I'm really hungry. Sometimes, it'll be going great, and then all of a sudden - nope. The mush of food that I had just been loving on, is now absolutely repugnant and needs to be out of my mouth now.
Sometimes I wish I never had to eat again. That I could just live off of water and sunshine.
I suppose I wouldn't mind juicing.
I've been swirling the word "eating disorder" around lately, feeling its edges with my tongue. I made a reference to it in a tweet or off-hand conversation but truthfully don't know if that's exactly how I'd identify. And as I'm typing this now, I'm realizing that the answer to this is no. But only because I don't identify as very much aside from being black, a woman and an artist.
So what does this mean?
But have I ever known the answer to that question?