Because I experienced trauma around food, I have spent the second half of my life learning to develop a healthy relationship with it. Still, I find it challenging to eat right foods at right times, in right quantities for right reasons. I have the metabolism of a hummingbird and so I do need to eat a lot and frequently or my hands become shakey and I am taken down by headaches and nausea when my blood sugar gets too low. Also, I have been known to quit a job, end a relationship, move out, or tear a person’s head off due to hunger induced insanity(Hanger)—completely irrational. Usually once I was so far past hunger and the next opportunity to feed myself felt too far out of reach; I would just lose my mind.
I am deeply affected by touch, sound, smell, texture, and appearance, as is my older son. So, many food items were simply unthinkable. This is part of our unique sensory processing. Being told what I must like or not like, but eat anyway (the unspoken: if I wish to connect and be worthy of love and safety) and when I should and should not eat, based on the clock, really fucked me up. Also, the absence of daily food options that were manageable for me at a sensory level did not help me to thrive. When I would go away to a friend’s home or camp and college, I was nuts with food. Binging and purging several times within one meal or sitting. I couldn’t get enough and then it would be too much. It wasn’t for weight that I did this. It was not knowing how to process the
satisfaction of foods that were comforting offering a full but not overstuffed belly– abundant and available to me at my time of hunger. The generous offering and safety to just eat things that were unscary with people who were unscary. I could not manage myself, at all. I had not learned.
My boys and I joke about the calve’s tongue that would torment me from my childhood fridge: grayish purple with the enlarged and irregularly shaped white-ish pores and the roots on the back as if it had been yanked out rather than cut. I still see it vividly plastered tightly with saran wrap to the white styrofoam with with the slapped on label “beef tongue”. Also, there were calves’ liver and kidneys which seared their haunting images into my mind. My mother at times, would ask me what I want for dinner and then would follow quickly with—“and do not name all the things you don’t want” But I hated all the shit we had– and what I did want and crave was not available, so the question was just silly, if not antagonistic. Was there hope that I might just say “Oh, I will have some baba ganoush with fava beans and Prime Rib(gag just thinking of it) or chicken livers?” Lambs are angels, my favorite animal, so the mention or sighting of their chops or an entire leg was distressing to me. Food was scary, not only because the idea of animals dying and the terrifying people who slaughtered them, but food was a guaranteed source for judgment and fighting. I was too hungry, too picky and just a pain in the ass. “If she gets hungry enough she will eat it, right?” Nope. Never happened. Never. I was hated was when I was hungry and/or stressed, and yet…..
So, what prompted this post is that tonight, my older son wanted burgers while my younger son wanted tacos. I was glad to prepare each to order. I informed them how they owed this to my mother. That if I had a normal relationship with food, I would make ONE dinner from a list of things that they like- and some nights it may just not be what they are in the mood for(but never anything they dislike). They eat as much and as frequently as I do and they enjoy eating, as much as they like/need. Our only food rule is- dessert: only for those who have eaten enough dinner. For them, with me, food is not scary. I do not require them to try things that I think would taste or feel bad to them. And they have become quite adventurous lil eaters. My sons share my objection to “wiggly meat” which to this day my mother claims to not comprehend. That is ok. I no longer need her to. Sweet Greg is also disturbed by most meats and will have nothing to do with any sign of muscle, fat, tendon, skin or goo. On one of our first dates when he brought steaks over, I knew I loved him because he also brought these things that I refer to as “meat grabbers”. He has never touched raw meat. He refuses. He got me my very own pair of meat grabbers. It is a miracle that I prepare food for my boys because honestly, the texture and touch of most all foods on my hands makes me feel physically ill. Even the foods I like. To the touch, avocados, strawberries, cantaloupe, salmon, all meat, even pasta—things I like upset me at a sensory level when they come in contact with my skin. I am grateful to have a son who is similar and allowed me to learn to nurture him in these ways. Parenting him and protecting him from overload has been an immense part of my recovery from food abuse and other stuff.
My mother was actually avant garde and gourmet in her cooking preferences and skills. It was just not a good fit for me and that seemed to insult her authority and effort. I still require enormous quantities of food and eat frequently. I genuinely struggle to know when I am hungry, full, need a time out, or a restroom. Mostly, I wait until it can no longer wait, shaky hands and tell me to eat, a stomach ache tells me I am full and a barely contained bladder informs me of necessary action. Honestly, my wiring and my upbringing made it challenging to know what was true and necessary to take care of myself. I hope that I am preparing my children to care well for themselves and others, to seek serenity, to have their most basic needs and rights honored, if by nobody else, than themselves.
Anyway, all to say if not for my mother, I would be making only one meal only and we would eat at designated meal times only rather than the 6 meals per day that we enjoy. So in addition to good medical and dental care and my college education, I am grateful for the cautionary tale of how to make your kids fear food and family and struggle to control it or themselves with it. I am a work in progress and they are my best teachers. With them, I practice eating sanely and exercising; becoming as healthy as I can be. They deserve a healthy mom. Anything for them. Always.
PS–I think it goes without saying. I do so many things I am not proud of as a parent. I by no means claim anything near perfection in anything I do. I tell my boys, I am not perfect at anything ever….but telling the truth. My experience is my truth. We are only as sick as our secrets and lies. Secrets and lies are neither wholesome nor badass. Ever. Truth seeking and sharing is difficult, it is not the easier way.
What is your truth?