I don’t have a great relationship with food. I don’t think I ever really did. As a kid, I was a picky eater, in as much as I could be in a household where I didn’t dare challenge my Mom’s authority by suggesting I didn’t like a certain food.
Let’s say that I was particular about my food. On my plate, things couldn’t touch; each portion had to have its own place. And when I ate, I ate foods one at a time so that they wouldn’t touch in my mouth when chewing. This should have been the first clue of my OCD tendencies, there were many others, just wait for it. Surprisingly though, I loved spinach which I think was odd for a child to actually crave spinach but it was probably because I was anemic.
To be fair, I would venture to say that most young kids are finicky eaters likely because taste buds need time to develop along with hormones and enzymes as we grow. Luckily, I grew out of my food idiosyncrasy and learned to appreciate a rainbow of foods. These days most of my current meal preparations include throwing foods together in a giant salad or stew. Now though, instead of stressing about food cohabitation, I’ve since developed other issues with food that are wreaking havoc on my health.
So you’re probably thinking this all has something to do with a desire to be a certain dress size since it seems attaining a perfect weight has the most attention these days. Nope. I’ve been the same 97–100 lbs since I was 16 years old. Call it a high metabolism or maybe I have a giant tapeworm, the jury is still out.
I don’t expect or want sympathy since it’s unlikely I’d get any, especially if you’re someone dealing with weight loss issues. But here’s the thing, no one likes to be judged, teased or harassed about their weight, whether you’re over or underweight.
I’ve been teased about my weight since I was a child — from family, friends, heck even strangers! Seriously, I’ve been in the checkout lane at the supermarket and have had complete strangers tell me that I would look and feel better if I just put on a few pounds. Not cool. And it’s not that easy. Trust me, I’ve tried with protein shakes, cheeseburgers, pizza — but typically I eat when I’m hungry and don’t eat when I’m not. Typically.
B ack in 2007, growing the audience for Modern Hippie Mag meant that I was learning more about organic foods, dietary supplements, and nutrition which only intensified my efforts to only eat “clean” foods. I became obsessed with food ingredients, namely additives, GMOs and pesticides and how harmful they are to the environment and to our health. I worried about synthetic hormones in beef and dairy, I worried about Mercury and parasites in seafood. And as a germaphobe, I worried about bacteria and fungus.
So what do you think happens when an obsessive-compulsive person begins to fret about every single food she eats? Bingo, you have the makings of a food phobia.
It wasn’t until a good friend and fellow healthy food aficionado gave me pause to consider how my food restrictions could be affecting my health. Mind you, I didn’t think of myself as having a food phobia. It felt completely rational to me to omit unhealthy foods from my diet. I didn’t see that I was developing severe anxiety over what I should eat that I wouldn’t eat anything at all. Granted, I already had an issue with skipping meals when super-focused on work, which is another lovely OCD affliction.
Malnutrition results from a poor diet or a lack of food. It happens when the intake of nutrients or energy is too high, too low, or poorly balanced. — Medical News Today
When your body is deprived of nutrients for an extended period of time it’s not only your weight that suffers. Malnutrition causes fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, inability to concentrate, depression, reduced sex drive and a host of other issues. And worse, prolonged undernutrition can lead to respiratory and heart failure.
And so, I was unwittingly starving myself to death.
Knowing is NOT half the battle
It’s not enough to simply know you’re doing something that could ultimately kill you. You have to understand, even more so, you have to want to understand that you have a problem and then you have to own it. You have to admit and accept that you have a problem and then devise a game plan to change harmful habits.
Let me be clear, this isn’t about assigning blame. I suppose I could blame my mother for contributing to my OCD behavior which possibly influenced my behavior with food but I honestly don’t see the point in doing that. Assigning blame won’t change anything. Additionally, there’s research to suggest that OCD is genetic. You can’t fix genetics, you do the best you can with the cards you’re dealt.
Kindness, it’s what’s for dinner
My food phobias began to take shape over a decade ago, and I’m still dealing with them. I still have days where I skip meals because I’m hyperfocused on work and I still obsess about what I should and shouldn’t eat for fear of ingesting GMOs and pesticides and synthetic hormones. My hubs can attest to my ongoing fear of germs and bacteria — bless his heart for his patience. I’ve benefited from therapy in the past and I know that’s an option, but given that I accept that I am the only person who can do the work of effecting changes in my life, I’m choosing to practice self-care instead.
Here are a few thoughts that help me:
I will be kind to myself and my body by doing a better job of eating regularly.
I am grateful that I have access to a healthy array of foods.
I enjoy discovering and creating new recipes.
I have faith in the healing power of food. Food is my friend, not my enemy.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama
When it’s within your power to be kind, be kind.
I chose to share this because often we forget that everyone is dealing with something. You have no idea what someone is going through simply by looking at their outside appearance. You can’t see inside a person’s heart, the road a person has walked, or the struggles they face. Just be kind, you don’t know what a person is battling.
And I hope that this clues you to the fact that being thin or skinny isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Being thin is not a magic bullet that vanquishes all evil. Take it from a skinny person, just like most everyone else, I’m dealing with my own personal brand of shit in the best ways that I can.
I’m not a physician or mental health professional, so if you’re struggling with a food phobia or disorder of any kind, please reach out for help.