Getting Honest About Food

I’ve debated sharing this for a while. I have been pretty damn open about my battle with depression and anxiety but haven’t talked too much about how my issues with food play a role in all of that goodness.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day.

 10 years old, July 1996

10 years old, July 1996

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew I had a complicated relationship with food, it just seems to have always been there. I do remember when I realized food was complicated. I was 9, maybe 10. And I got yelled at by someone I looked up to for eating Cheetos right out of the bag. Not because it was unsanitary or anything. But because I was eating more than a serving and from their perspective, eating more than a serving was going to make me fat.

I remember the shame I felt in that moment, because if my few years on earth had taught me anything it was that you never wanted to be fat. I had been called fat. Boys in school threw it around as an insult they knew would sting. It was the worst kind of attention to have directed at yourself.

For as long as I can remember, I have used food as a surrogate in my life. I’m happy, I eat. I’m sad, I eat. I’m frustrated, angry, anxious, tired, overwhelmed, depressed… I eat. I want to punish myself. I don’t eat. Or I eat so much that I am overwhelmed with guilt and I make myself throw it all up, only to repeat the vicious cycle over and over again.

You know how exhausting it is to wake up every day for the last twenty-some years and know the one thing you need to survive is also one of your biggest enemies? Your strongest weakness?

I know some of you do. I know realistically, many of you relate to what I’m saying. Maybe not as intensely (or sadly, maybe more intensely).

Food will also have a hold on me. We’ll always be in a complicated relationship. But there are things that have helped. Therapy, being more open with those around me. Meal prepping and cooking -- something I love that I wish I could do more of. Trying to address my feelings and frustrations through other outlets before they become a $20 trip through the Taco Bell drive-thru.

 32 years old, August 2018

32 years old, August 2018

Recommitting to an exercise plan has also played a major role in how I feel these days. Feeling my body become stronger, worrying less about the number on the scale and more about how I feel has been a game changer in addressing my fear around food. It’s also helped tackle my anxiety and depression.

I can look back at photos over the years and tell you exactly what I was masking with food. How the 20 pounds I gained -- and lost -- sophomore year of college had more to do with my failing grades and less to do with wanting to be healthy. How losing my job in 2014 opened up the door for late-night happy hours every night of the week, an easy way to avoid the fact that I felt like a freaking failure and couldn’t talk about it.

There is no perfect formula and like anything that is hard in life, some days are better than others. But I’m tired of giving food power over my life.

Enough of the dysfunction.

If you want to talk, please reach out. My email is lindsay.guentzel@gmail.com. While I don’t see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders or dysfunctional relationships with food, I am glad to help connect you to resources I’m familiar with.