Foodwise, I’ve lost my tribe, and I’m wandering in a vast, lonely wilderness with a bag of snacks that no one will share with me. (Except my children who would as soon murder me as share them so I hide my snacks from them.) Trying to keep track of who’s off sugar, who’s avoiding gluten and who’s gone raw foodist is like trying to keep track of my children’s favorite toy– the ground is ever shifting and the stakes are high.
After years of extreme and rigid eating (think: cabbage, mozzarella cheese and milk every morning for three straight years), I have found my spiritual home in moderation. Once I got into recovery for my eating disorder, it still took the better part of a decade not to be a full-out freak about food. A few of my old friends enjoy reminiscing about the days that I would carry a can of tuna fish to a restaurant because… well, at the time I thought I was doing it to “follow my food plan,” but really I was scared to death of not controlling my food. I wasn’t, however, scared of embarrassing everyone around me by popping open a can of chicken of the sea while everyone else supped on falafel or steak frites. (Have you ever brought your own can opener and canned meat on a date? Not exactly an aphrodisiac, people.)
A long time ago, I came to terms with the fact that I had used up all my privileges to engage in eating trends. But now I am feeling like that one child who actually was left behind as everyone else forges a new identity as “paleo” or “vegan” or “nondairy” or “sort of that Crossfit diet but not quite as extreme.”
I’ve asked myself if I am jealous that other people can dabble where I can’t. The answer: hell yes. But like an alcoholic who knows she can no longer drink alcohol socially, I know in my marrow that dipping into something extreme or restrictive will trip a trigger in me and I will lose my hard-won battle to be mostly serene about food.
(I will note Jeff and I are experimenting with more plant-based dinners, but I recently made some pumpkin thing that was so inedible that I was craving chicken wings smothered in ground beef for weeks.)
What I find most upsetting is that I don’t really know anyone who is serene about food. Everyone’s sure she is eating wrong– too much of this and too little of that. And who the hell can follow the “advice” out there, which is confusing and scary? Unless I can figure out how to grow my own food on my fourth floor balcony in downtown Chicago, I have to trust someone else to do that for me. And I don’t have free time to suss this all out; in my free time– those precious 15 minutes per week– I want to play with my kids, write, and read books for pleasure (not to confirm the 800 ways I am going to die of cancer before the next lunar eclipse).
What I remember and miss about being engaged in a way of eating that was counter-cultural is that it created community. In my tuna-in-my-purse-days, I knew everyone who ate like I did, and we had a bond. It was a glue that was thicker than blood. Now I am only glued to the handful of people who are left who don’t engage in the other sects of eating. The catchall group. The “and everyone else” group. And I guess that’s fine, but it still feels lonely and unspecial. And ooooh, sweet buttercream on a fudgey chocolate muffin, I sure like feeling special. It also feels lazy because everyone else is working so damn hard around food, and I just don’t have the bandwidth to pick up a new hobby right now.
So, I’ll soldier on with the only barometer that works for me. Is there tuna in my purse? No? Then I am doing just fine around food.