What Do I Do Now?

Learning how to live a fulfilling life after the loss of a partner.

'Baby Fat' 2

One way to deal with fear of food.

Sorry I've been away so long. I planned to continue this little bit of my personal story but have had an interesting month publicizing my book: Moving to the Center of the Bed: The Artful Creation of a Life Alone. Then my family arrived, and Thanksgiving being the only time of the year when we are all together, my days and nights were spent with them. Lots of fun and food, which brings me back to the purpose of this blog...'baby fat'...body dysmorphia and fear of food lest it kill me as I thought it did most of my family.

I left you at the point where I had decided to do something about those fears and inordinate critiques of my body if I put on a pound or two. Finding myself living alone and most probably so for the rest of my life, I wanted to be free of old habits and fears. So, tackling my fear of weight gain and of eating the ‘wrong'...translate... ‘delicious ' food was high on my list. But at this late hour I wondered if I could really develop a new attitude about my body, food and health. Was there some way I could eat, even indulge in some fat-filled-fun-foods, and not feel as if I'd have to pay off the Goddess of the Waistband? Or test cholesterol levels monthly? Could I actually eat an ice cream cone without a topping of guilt?

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Well, I decided to make it my priority to find out. I'd finally had enough. No more dieting...ever! I even said it out loud to make sure I heard myself. It's scary to think about giving up past behavior. But I was really ready!

I decided to give myself a project. I made a list of all the foods I have ever loved, including foods that I'd eaten on trips to France with my husband. I didn't get too far before I started daydreaming about those trips and the food. We had traveled to every part of that beautiful country, wandering cities, countryside, vineyards. But our trips were centered on the table. Three star dining, the best of the best cuisine and wine a person could ever be privileged to take in. Heaven on a Limoges plate. Nirvana in a crystal goblet.

I sat at my desk, writing, picturing myself in France, at table, so happy, so filled with rich and delicious food...butters, creams, sauces, pastries. Those were the only times I ever allowed myself the true pleasures of the table with abandon. I wasn't concerned with weight gain, just grateful for the pleasures the chefs had created. I remember talking to some of them about the loving relationship the French have with food. And I watched the French women at other tables. None were fat. All ate with gusto...and not just a taste to keep themselves trim...as some have claimed. Plates were cleaned!  Lunch was a three hour long affair. And I joined right in, relishing the perfection of the table, the way the food made me feel...so connected to my sense of well-being. I didn't care if I did die on the spot. I wanted my last meal to be quenelles de brochet... a kind of seafood dumpling in a rich lobster cream sauce...and not chopped tomatoes and nonfat cottage cheese.

I suddenly craved the taste and the feeling of the love that went into cooking that fine French food. And at that moment I got it. I really got it. That woman who dined with her husband all over France is the real me. A liver of life and lover of food. Not the fear-of-fat driven little girl/teen/wife/mother/grandmother. I had the desire to run out to the store and buy the groceries to make myself a rich, comfort food meal. And instead of denying the urge, I did it. And while I was in the supermarket I had another idea...something to jump-start my plan to have a new relationship with food and with my body.

I decided to burn my diet books as a symbolic ritual to help end my negative thinking, behavior and the suffering it had brought me. Something concrete and visual that I could re-image if I were to be tempted to move back into a former mode of thinking. When I got home I looked at my bookshelves and the diet books that stood next to my revered volumes of Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, James Beard and Lidia Bastianich. One by one I took them over to the fireplace and sat looking at them all stacked up, shaking my head at their numbers and variations. And then I had another idea. I needed reinforcments!
I sent emails to my closest friends who were all aware of my fear/love of food. I told them what I was going to do and the exact time of the bonfire...6:00 p.m. I asked them to send me their good vibes and to raise a glass to my new awareness. It was 3:00 p.m. I went back into the living room and began tearing up the books. I still can't express how freeing it felt just to be ripping the guts out of those books and putting them into the fireplace. When I was done, I looked at the spines of the books lying on the floor, useless. I was gleeful! So many people had made so much money on me and my fear of food. I dumped the spines in the trash and then went into the kitchen to prepare my comfort dinner...fried chicken...mayonnaise rich coleslaw and potato salad.

From time to time I'd go to the computer and was happy to see that every friend I'd written to had responded that they would be symbolically with me at my bonfire. All was ready!

A little before 6:00 p.m. I poured a glass of wine and grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and took them with me into the living room. I wrote the following words and raised my glass to myself and read aloud: "I am burning my fear of food, my attachment to past behavior, my negative thinking about my body, a belief system that has never served me, an artificial ideal that can never be achieved. I am thankful for my body, full of health and vitality, and I will nourish it with delicious food. I thank my friends who support me with their love and understanding tonight. May what I do now always serve to remind me who I truly am and what I truly believe...that live is to savor...with good food and drink."

I took a sip of wine, put the glass down and struck the match. The diet book bonfire was lit!  What a beautiful sight!  It took an amazingly short time for all those pages to be consumed. I thought about all the years of torment spent poring over those pages...and they were gone in minutes. I felt wonderful! And the ritual had whetted my appetite. I took my scrumptious dinner and glass of wine out to the porch and enjoyed my own cooking as never before.

As the days moved on, I stayed vigilant lest the old beliefs and behaviors about my body image and ‘killer' food rear up and take hold. It is not easy to change what has been imbedded lifelong. But over the months and years since that day I have been more and more successful in developing my own attitude about what I eat and enjoying it in a way I never believed I could. And, too, I try to remember daily to love this wonderful, aging body of mine that moves and breathes and wants me to feed it deeeelicious food. And so I do!

 

 

Sheila Weinstein, writer and pianist, reinvented her life after the death of her husband of 50 years, which led to her book, Moving to the Center of the Bed.

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