As soon as I experience that restlessness, that sense of jitteriness, that need to get up and pace and sit back down and fret, as soon as I start to flip through books and set them down, page through channels and then drop the remote, walk from room to room and not find a place to settle, as soon as I realize that I want something, but I have no idea what it is, that I want something but I can’t think of a single thing that will satisfy this very non-specific, maddeningly unlabeled desire, wish, want, I automatically assume that what I want is food.
I immediately assume that whatever is making me restless and slightly irritated, a little angry and a lot dissatisfied with my entire environment, with my life and the way I’m living it, with the way my lungs process oxygen and the schedule upon which I blink, I find myself in front of the fridge, poking through the shelves, waiting for the epiphany to hit me. I consider each individual food item, I run over it in my head, I consider how it will taste and how it will make me feel, I ponder the implications of its saltiness, the results of its sweetness, the overall consequences of its richness and potential deliciousness. I weigh my impatience and irritability against the need to perform a task or even a series of them in order to enjoy the end result, and from there, have to decide if it is worth it.
It’s never worth it, because I’m not sure that it is really what I
want, a bowl of penne with salt and olive oil and some parmesan cheese.
And if it’s not what I really want, should I go through all the trouble
of making it, only to toss it? So I eat a granola bar, instead. And
that is definitely not what I wanted. Who ever wants a granola bar? I
mean, really. So I’ve still got the gnawing, gaping black hole from
which peevishness is emanating like radiation and in which a granola
bar is sitting like an undigestible lump.
This can go on for hours. That didn’t work. Maybe what I really want
is…macaroni and cheese! That’s so much work, so I’ll just boil a
hotdog. I didn’t want that hot dog. Maybe what I really want is…a
burrito! But I’d have to go out and get a burrito. So I’ll just order a
pizza and cinnamon sticks. I did not want pizza or cinnamon sticks.
What do I want? I bet it is more cinnamon sticks. I didn’t want more
cinnamon sticks, or this bagel I just toasted, or another granola bar,
or a package of animal cookies I found in the back of the cupboard, and
now I feel sick and probably, I am going to die.
I can spend whole days making myself sick, trying to figure out what it
is I want and what I need and never quite figuring out what the hell is
going on and what I’m really looking for.
So here’s an idea: If I am not finding any foodstuff to plug up all my
holes, both physically and emotionally, maybe it is time to cop to the
fact that there may be such a thing as emotional eating, as trying to
fill the void with food, as trying to comfort yourself with eating, and
it may be time to cop to the fact that that is not a healthy way to
deal with unhappiness and restlessness and boredom and insecurity. I
bet I just totally made that up!
I bet I have heard that before, but never really listened. Because I
was too busy deciding if this unhappiness would best be satisfied by
baking a cake from a mix and frosting it with butter, or eating two
pounds of cherries on the stem or a sack full of hamburgers. Here’s
where weight-loss surgery comes in–I cannot eat the way I used to, when
I’d be hit with this deep-down gnawing need. But the fact that I
can’t doesn’t make this grazing kind of long, drawn out binge behavior
any more reasonable, does it?
Sometimes I get angry that being thin hasn’t solved all my problems–not
the larger social issues, not my insecurity issues and psychological
damage, and especially, and most frustratingly, not my food issues,
which come from all of those things. I think what I used to look for
was a way to forget that I was fat, and unhappy in my body. I’m not
fat, anymore. What am I looking for now? Can I just have it, please?