I love food. In the “eat to live or live to eat” classification, I most definitely fall into the latter category. I love food so much, I couldn’t even tell you what my favourite dish is. There are just too many delicious items out there to be tied down to just one, and I’m the kind who enjoys variety more than anything else.
I had a good relationship with food all through childhood. I ate most things with relish; indeed, there were very few things I ever flat-out refused. My mother’s policy of not forcing anything on me made sure I never really got around to hating anything irrationally. As long as it tasted decent, I didn’t mind eating it. The only things I didn’t much care for were sweets, which took a lot of people by surprise, but it wasn’t ever an issue.
When I landed in Singapore, other than not being able to find a sufficient variety of vegetarian food, I didn’t have too much of a problem. Or so I thought. Food is so cheap in Singapore, you can eat out every single day and stay inside your budget, and I did this for much of my life there. Cooking in university was never really a serious option, and after I left, work kept me too busy to do it. I could have cooked if I had really put my mind to it, but a combination of laziness and easy availability of cheap food kept me from doing it.
I didn’t really understand how much of a problem this would turn out to be until I started gaining weight visibly. Even then, I figured my lack of exercise was the main issue. I wasn’t an over-eater (at least, I didn’t think of myself as one), and because I always associated eating wrong with eating too much, I never pegged food as a problem until much, much later. It didn’t strike me that I just didn’t have the right genetics to be eating out every single day. I never stopped to think that as a vegetarian, and because of the limited options available, I was ingesting way more carbohydrates than my system required. I didn’t realise that my terrible meal timings (10am breakfasts, 3pm lunches) were an actual problem.
I’ve never been skinny, but until a certain point in my life, I was healthy. When I crossed over into “fat” territory, food became the enemy. Not that I didn’t like it any more… that would have resulted in a different kind of problem, I guess. My problem was that it became a source of guilt. My family had become the people I needed to hide my love of food from. I’d enjoy a good meal and then feel guilty that someone might find out. I wouldn’t upload pictures of food to Facebook, and I was constantly worried that someone would tag me in a picture or a check-in that gave away that I was making bad meal choices. Unfortunately, guilt and restorative action don’t always go hand-in-hand, and so, because I couldn’t really change my habits and because I was so adamant about not admitting my problem or letting others help, the circle of weight gain and shame kept going.
It took a lot of time and effort to break that cycle and stop looking at food in terms of how it would influence people’s opinions of me. I had spent too long linking my eating habits to what others thought and feeling guilty about it, instead of feeling guilty about what my habits were doing to me. Once I was able to understand that, and that what those other people felt was concern and not disdain, I was able to regulate my own feelings better and look at food in a whole new light.
Today, I still love food as much as I always have, but it isn’t a one-way street any more. I pay attention to what it does to me and for me, and I try and work those things towards my advantage. I don’t restrict myself from things I like, but I don’t over-indulge, either. I understand that food is as much of a thing of the mind as it is a thing of the tongue, and I try and stay aware of that. It’s a healthier relationship.
Most importantly, though, it’s a happier relationship, and that’s all I could want.