I realized that my relationship with food began in childhood. A luring smell was always the first thing that welcomed us at the door when we came home from school or after traveling miles to visit her.
My memories are mostly sensory. The tempting smell of her stews, the unique taste of her secret spices and the memory of watching her standing behind the stove, lovingly stirring for hours, staring at the food in the same tenderly way as at my father. Her huge pans with bubbling contents would be protected and controlled in the same fierce way she would protect her children.
It didn’t seem to bother her that we would devour a meal within 5 minutes, which took her at least 3 hours to make. Whenever we left food on our plate or didn’t have an appetite she was worried if we were sick or that we didn’t like her food. She would also remind of us of children who were less fortunate than us, encouraging us to always clean our plate and show our gratitude for our daily meal.
My parents never took us out for dinner. My father would say that no restaurant could beat my mother’s cooking and we all agreed. My mother took this as a compliment and never complained or seemed to mind that she never had a day off.
After she passed away, 2 years ago, food still evokes the feeling of comfort, love, care and attention. She may not have been a soccer mom, nor was she patient enough to entertain us with playing games or telling bed time stories, but she never let us down in our basic needs…always going out of her way to nurture us with food. I still associate food with motherly concern for my well being, comfort and celebration.
However my relationship with food became toxic. Growing up, I became more dependent on food for feeling emotional safe and well. I still hear my mother’s soothing words:’ eat this…it will make you feel better' or 'you have to eat, otherwise you will get sick or faint during practice.’
If I don’t begin a new relationship with food that is based on feeding and nurturing a forty year old woman I will always depend on food to ‘feel better’ rather than to feel healthy.
This third week of my challenge, I will update my mother’s message with:’ you don’t need those extra calories, all that excessive fat and sugar will make you sick and you will have to become more active to stay healthy.’
In her eyes I always stayed her active little girl practicing martial arts, gymnastics and swimming. She refused to see that her girl was growing up and wide, but it is up to me to see reality. That bigger girl in the mirror will only grow bigger if she keeps eating like that little girl.
I wonder if it is possible to really ever break free from this emotional eating, this bond with my childhood, this invisible thread with my mother, and learn to eat for the right reasons but this week I am going to take the first steps.
Are there other ‘girls’ who recognize this and have outgrown their childhood relationship with food?