Monday, June 14, 2010
I am not a food sharer. I really, seriously suck at sharing anything on my plate. I'm like Joey on Friends (ah, Friends - I miss that show) when he goes out on a date with a pretty girl and has to dump her because she took one of his french fries. You take my food - it's just not gonna work out between us.
This bad behaviour is especially difficult when you're in a relationship. And I'm in a relationship with a fellow foodie. We love going out to dinner at new places, ethnic restaurants, hidden gems of culinary delight...mmm. And while one little bite off each others' plates is fine and kinda cute (because I certainly don't mind digging into someone else's dish), any more than that and you might hear me omit a small, but audible, growl, moving my plate away from the wandering fork and hoarding it like Gollum. My Precious!
I have realized lately though, that this behaviour is also closely linked to my Clean Plate Syndrome and that by NOT sharing my food, I am more likely to eat more since I haven't quite mastered the "save half for later" skill. So what's a food hoarder to do but open up and offer some to the fellow diner? I shudder at the thought.
I guess it's no big secret anymore that I'm a secretive eater. I have used food for years for a variety of purposes, but one big one is so that I can have something all of my very own that no one else knows about. Those of us who have lacked enough privacy early on in our personal lives (read: loving but intrusive mother) need SOMETHING that is off-limits to everyone else, and food just happened to be my thing. In my youth I became the master of eating five Oreos - one out of each row - and putting the bag back EXACTLY where I found it so as not to arouse suspicion. I also ate random items like baking supplies (nuts, chocolate chips, etc.) that were in large enough containers a small handful here and there wouldn't be noticed. I ate things out of the downstairs pantry that had been put away for later, so that by the time someone noticed stuff was missing it was months later. Or conveniently for me, I could easily blame the theft on my two growing brothers and their never-ending appetites. I even snuck food during family dinners, right in front of everyone sitting at the table. I'd help myself to an extra serving here and there when I thought no one was looking, hoping no one ever questioned me about how much I was eating. The serving dish never made it by my place setting without just one more little bit ending up on my plate. I learned to binge on really bizarre food combos like Saltines and butter because they were always available, and because no one usually looked in the Saltines box unless someone in the family got sick. And I did all of this while no one was looking, while mom was at work, or while I was home alone. My little secret. Something that's all mine.
It's because this food is MINE, MINE, ALL MINE, (and has been for years) that I can't conceivably justify letting it go without somehow letting go a little piece of myself with it. If you eat off my plate, you may as well be taking a bite out of my arm, or my leg - or deeper down, my soul. I have needed my food to make me into a whole being - a woman with turkey legs, and pork shoulders and beef ribs and a mashed potato stomach - and sweets and treats on the brain all the time.
But just as I've been building myself up with food, I've also been building my wall to keep other people out - "You can't have a taste of my food, and you sure as heck can't have a piece of me." Until suddenly you wake up to the reality of the situation and realize that although you may have the love of food, you don't have a single, solid relationship with another human being that is worth as much to you as an evening at home with your couch and a bag of potato chips. This happened to me, quite recently. And when it did, I got very depressed and just wanted more potato chips.
Thankfully, my relationship with my stellar therapist was on track at the time and we got to sorting out this issue, and quick. Social eating is the LAST possible behaviour to be "fixed" in food addicts. EVERYONE - skinny, fat, athlete, couch potato - has social anxiety around eating. Everyone. No one is alone in this category. Everyone at the BBQ is wondering if so and so is watching what they put on their plate. Everyone at the birthday party is wondering whether or not they should really have a 2nd piece of cake. Everyone has issues with Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes Easter. We are only human. And oddly enough as humans, we are utterly and completely fascinated by each other and what we all eat.
As I've been working my way through this issue in my therapy and in my life, I have managed to loosen up a bit. SparkPeople has absolutely helped as well, but I'm finally learning to share. I'm learning to share not only my food, but my life as well. I'm working on breaking down my walls and getting closer to people - and letting people get closer to me. And when I'm full, I give what's left on my plate to my boyfriend - He of the iron stomach and the enviable metabolism. Not only does it help me stay in my calorie range, but it also helps me leave the table feeling good about myself and what I have accomplished.
I won't lie - I'm still mourning the loss of half a plate's worth of my breakfast burrito yesterday morning, but I'm moving on. I've got half a plate's worth of my Chicken Shwarma and Fattoush Salad waiting for me in the fridge for dinner! And tonight - it's MINE, MINE....ALL MINE...but really, if you want a bite, I'd be willing to let you try.