Eating to feel emotion is like filling a bucket with a hole it.
A few minutes ago I was telling a friend that they to eat less and generally change their relationship with food for health reasons. As I were doing it, I realized that I was saying everything I tell myself. Why do I not put these rules into action?
Due to the water fast I did 15 weeks ago, I now know that there is a difference in bodily sensation between hunger, thirst and emotion. I have now been consciously eating better and drinking more water but it has been extremely difficult. After paying attention to these areas I assumed that my emotions would start coming back almost immediately but that is not the case. Unfortunately, I have now come to realize that food is what I have eaten to feel feelings. Habitually I eat till I cannot move. By cannot move I mean that I feel heavy, slow and uncomfortable but satisfied. Comparing those sensations to the depression I usually felt, I started to consciously look for the emotions food gave me. I eat to feel and not for nourishment.
I guess that I have been lucky in the sense that I do not have a gag reflex because there have been multiple instances where I have wanted to purge. Those moments come about because I realize that I have over eaten and start to feel shame and regret. Suddenly after that my mind convinces me that I am not worthy of eating because I just ate too much. I then feel the need starve myself to compensate. While trying to compensate I start to get hungry again and the cycle continues. I got addicted to forcing myself to feel emotions at will. Through repetitive cycles of this behavior, I have confused the link between my stomach and brain. The result of this is that I never feel full. There are a few instances where friends of mine notice that I eat enough food for 3 people and my answer is usually “Yeah… I used to be a really fat kid” but that is only a small portion of the real story.
Going to culinary school for me was a chance to learn how to cook but what I did not know then is that I would be making food. Let me explain. Before school I only cooked simple things because I always wanted to have food when I wanted it. For that reason I stuck to simple things like instant noodles, rice, simple sauces in meat and the occasional baked item. I never paid any real attention to my food because by the time I realized it was ready, I had eaten it and washed the pot. In school we were forced to pay attention to ingredients and their interactions with each other. A step further we had to place the cooked ingredients on a plate in a way that was visually appetizing while still showcasing the individual ingredients. Although I had an amazing time doing these things, I did not know at the time that it was going to be a source of sorrow later.
After cooking school and an internship I ended up in Lagos, Nigeria. I started doing freelance cooking jobs to see what things might interest me. With my new skills I started cooking and paying attention to ingredients, my use of the knife and the visual appeal of my dishes. For some reason everything I cooked from here on was perceived as bad. I stopped liking the food that I produced. Somewhere between making the food and serving it killed the appeal it once had. I then only cooked to satisfy my longing to create something new that I have full control over.
Later on, the craft of making food became real to me. I spent a good amount of time learning about it to make sure that what I made would be delicious every time. But then it happened. The pain that I had ignored for quite some time started getting significantly worse. Suddenly I could feel my legs every time I wanted to stand up. I became aware of every motion I made as I went around and attended to my daily tasks. Gradually these feelings became worse and eventually cooking turned into what I associate with pain.
Due to some events in my childhood that were no fault of my parents, I missed the natural 101 class on emotions. As a result, the majority of things that I do that are perceived to be emotions have come from a place of intense reflection (depression). The reflective periods come about when a series of unprocessed confusing events force me to confront myself. If I do not learn the lesson, I stay trapped in that emotion. Now that I am aware of this, I am now having to consciously attack the emotions I see but do not feel in an effort to understand them. Nifemi, one day I will fully understand you and make you an ally.
Although the water fast at the time seemed extreme, I am happy I did it because of what I have learned. It is possible to feel emotions without eating. It is possible to slowly grow seemingly distant emotions. It is possible to be happy without food. It is possible to see food and cooking a source of joy and nourishment not pain.