Hello. My name is Mare, and I’m an addict. I’m embarrassed uttering those words, but just one look at me and you can tell what my substance of choice is… it’s food. I can’t hide my addiction; it announces itself when I walk into a room. And that is where the judgement begins – society’s and mine. Most people presume I lack discipline. And while that is partly true, what they don’t see are the countless attempts at exercising self-control, immediately followed by self-loathing and flagellation after every failed attempt, which only exasperates my condition.
I wasn’t always obese, I was actually underweight as a child. I just didn’t like eating and this made mealtimes stressful. My parents were at their wits end trying to get me to eat, but it always boiled down to a battle of wills: they’d force me to eat, and I would spit it back up.
Flash forward to the teen years – I still hated mealtimes, but that’s when I discovered junk food. My parents are the poster children for moderation and clean eating, so we rarely had processed food in the house in the early days. My mom made everything from scratch… pasta, tomato sauce, traditional Italian baked goods, freshly squeezed orange juice, melenzane sott’olio (vinegar-pickled eggplant) – ohoh, I have some in the fridge as I write this…. Must. Resist. The. Tempta… – too late. You see, this is how it goes for me, the power of suggestion is my kryptonite, and today it took the shape of an oil-soaked vegetable. Oh well, at least it was a vegetable and not… don’t say it Mare! JUST DON’T SAY IT!
Okay, where was I? Ah yes, how healthy my parents raised me and my sisters… fresh air, exercise and wholesome food. I didn’t know what mayonnaise was until I got into high school. My dad didn’t trust food that was white, creamy, or gelatinous so Alfredo sauce never clung on a single fettuccine in our household, and lemon pies were meringue-less. In the summer we ate whatever my dad grew in his well-tended garden: warm tomatoes off the vine, tender lettuce leaves, savory garlic and onions, aromatic herbs, juicy plums and delicate apricots. Even though we lived in the suburbs, it felt like we were living on a farm and everything we did revolved around food – growing it, preparing it, serving it, and preserving it.
My sisters and I eventually wore our parents down and convinced them that we should be eating some North American “cuisine” and so Tang, Nesquik, Frankenberry, Lolas, and Wagon-wheels made it into our little bungalow in Etobicoke. However, the grand-poobah of all yumminess was the delectable Italian creation, Nutella, which would disappear by the globfuls, and that’s when my parents started hiding food from us. This practice didn’t help me with moderation, it actually turned me into a bloodhound and I was able to sniff out junk food three blocks away.
Now on to my early adulthood. I would like to say that I experienced all the typical activities of a 20-something: went off to college, partied, dated, and discovered who I was and what my purpose in life was going to be – but no, not me, I took a different route. I bypassed this stage entirely and got married immediately after high-school and it was during this time I began emotional eating and my weight started to pile on. My unhappiness was literally bursting at the seams as I shovelled the food down my throat at a dizzying rate. Hungry or not, the only hand forcing me to eat this time was my own.
Married at 19. A mother for the first time before my 22nd birthday. A second child 13-months later. And that’s where I remained for the next 19 years. I had no identity other than unhappy wife and frazzled mother, and my only relationship outside of family was with food. I ended my marriage 12 years ago and walked away with my daughters, some furniture, my books, a sense of humour, and a deep-rooted food addiction.
In all honesty, I don’t know if I really like food or not. I guess we’re frenemies. I know I need it to live, but somewhere in my time continuum our love-hate relationship messed me up. I use it. It uses me. So here I am, a plus-sized, 50 year old, single, empty nester. I didn’t think I would be here right now. The reality of my life and what I hoped it would be at this stage are polar opposites.
So why a blog, why not gastric bypass instead? Surely, it would be the easiest and quickest way to lose weight, right? For some perhaps, but not for me. I know if I don’t get to the root cause of my addiction, I will find a way to gain the weight back. Besides, I can’t afford surgery, and a blog doesn’t cost a cent, plus it’s calorie-free!
It’s still scary though – risking being ridiculed for what I’m carrying on the inside, as well as the billboard I sport on the outside. But, I feel this is an opportunity to provide online support to a hurting and often misunderstood community. I’m not a professional, but I am someone who has lived a lifetime with this condition. Writers are told, ‘write what you know’ – I KNOW THIS. It consumes me. It defines me. Now I’m going to use it as a catalyst to propel me into wellness once and for all! I know freedom is out there – I often feel like I’m lost in an elaborate maze and I just have to find my way out… I should have marked my route with breadcrumbs, but who am I kidding, I would have eaten them along the way!
This site is not just for food addicts. It’s for anyone who has an unhealthy relationship with food, a distorted body image, or a place for a yo-yo dieter to catch their breath. If you don’t suffer from any of these conditions, but know or love someone who does, I hope this is a place you can gain a better understanding of what they are going through.
HUMBLE PIE: While writing this entry, I ate the last of the melenzane sott’olio; 6 rice crackers topped with cheddar cheese which I nuked to gooey goodness; talked to my girlfriend Anna over the phone; made and ate a baked potato and buried it under globs of butter and salt; played 2 rounds of Song Pop with my British pen pal; drank a 473 ml bottle of Diet Lemon Tea Snapple; and paced to and from the panty at least half-a-dozen times. Why do I do this to myself? This is what I’m hoping to uncover.