Tuesday, July 6, 2010

to eat or not to eat.

There's this new ABC Family show called Huge. It's a terribly-written show with a terrible name. Basically, it's about a "summer weight-loss camp" and, according to Wikipedia, has been described as "Glee meets Ugly Betty." However, after experiencing one hour of it, I can safely say the critics are wrong. This show may be "inspiring" on some levels, but it's just poorly executed.

But show criticism/review aside, let's get to the real meat and bones of why I was watching Huge (other than I had the TV on to ABC Family anyways).

Discussions about body image have always frustrated me. Everyone around me always seemed to be obsessed with weight. "You're not eating enough," my grandmother would worry as my grandfather lightly teased me about eating too much. Everyone, from family to elementary school peers, had pounds and ounces on their minds it seemed. From a young age, I was very conscious of appearances and, after I started losing my hair, I was afraid other aspects of my appearance would begin to spiral out of my control. I kept a mental note of the sizes and shapes of people around me to compare to my own small body. The day my mother told me she had to loosen the button on my uniform skirt in fifth grade was a devastating day. It hadn't occurred to me that I was just growing at a normal rate and that other girls' skirts were probably being altered in the same way; I was convinced I was getting fat and I already had enough of being stared at for one lifetime, I felt. During doctor's visits, I would carefully memorize the number the nurses would write down for my height and weight, then use our slow dial-up service later that night to look up what was average for a girl at my age. If I was below the average, I'd feel better about eating dinner that night; if I was above the average, I'd feel guilty, but still eat because I found the concept of dieting to be strange and impractical. I could never consciously deprive myself of food, at least at a young age.

As I became busier and busier throughout high school, I began to think about food more. On the way to school in the mornings, breakfast would normally consist of a muffin to go or a Pop Tart or two - whatever could be eaten in the car. On the mornings I'd wake up feeling sick, I wouldn't eat at all and just drank hot chocolate or tea or coffee instead. While my friends would snack at break, I rarely did - not because I was avoiding food, but because I just wouldn't feel like it. When lunch came, I'd eat, but as I became bogged down with more responsibilities and duties -- meetings, last-minute studying, early starts on homework due to late-night practices -- I stopped eating lunch. After months of this routine, by my senior year, I started to realize: I just wasn't that hungry anymore. It seemed as if I'd lost my appetite for good. I would get hungry, but half of a sandwich or a bag of chips would make that hunger go away.  I loved food, but it wouldn't bother me when I wouldn't eat.

One of the things people like to scare you with before you move away for college is "the freshmen fifteen." I continued to eat sparsely, though my penchant for snacking increased. For the past three years, when I'd get bored, I would snack. When I'd study or do work, I would snack. When I watched TV, I would snack. But then snacking too much makes me feel guilty for reaching some sort of nonexistent food quota for the day. Any sort of regular eating schedule I once had was gone.

But in the past week, since moving into my new apartment with my new roommate, I've been eating three regular meals during the day - not every day, but most days. It feels weird, and it almost feels abnormal and strange. My body's been too used to running on caffeine and water. Not eating doesn't make you not fat though, but that's not my goal: I don't eat enough because I've gone too long not eating normally. What is normal, really?

Oh, but my Dashboard Horoscope is telling me to think back to my favorite childhood meal and recreate it for someone I love today. Today, apparently, is a great time for good food.

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