My Anxious Relationship With Food

Everyone loves to eat. That’s a truism. Like all romantic love, how they go about expressing that love varies. Some find joy in sampling different cuisines, others gorge on calorie-rich versions of home-cooked food, and still others prefer Maa/Baba’s cooking and their cooking only. A few I know only eat on vacations and holidays. I dabble in all four and more. Fussing out different cuisines – just the right amount of saffron, just the right softness of pork, the lightness of the bread – seems a bit arrogant to me. Only seldom have I muttered, ‘I don’t feel like eating this.’ Even ghiya, tori, tinda – the hatred trinity of vegetables – go down just fine. I remember being surprised when I realized these outcastes weren’t supposed to be liked/touched/eaten. Add a boondi ka raita and everything is palatable for me. Over time I have learned to love bitter gourd and cucumbers as well.
As a child my relationship with food was quite straightforward. Have food, eat it. It wasn’t until three years of being obese that I – and my parents – realized that I was so. The maternal/paternal love goggles of Maa-Baba had come off while I went, fat? Is that a thing? How does it matter? What would change if I were to be say. . . thin? Before gaining all that weight I was a skinny kid and an eye sore for my parents so for longest they welcomed the appetite I had developed. Maa no longer had to run after me to make me eat. Roshogolla, shondesh, patishap, paranthas, muri ghonto, maangsho – could be a part of a single meal.
Losing weight the first time was rather easy. The weight I had gained wasn’t old, my eating habits were the worst so cutting down was easy, and I was months away from joining college so the motivation was easy to find. Within 3 months I was at a healthy weight. But what those three months did was to make me conscious of whatever I put in my mouth and tell me that I was fat and that it wasn’t a good thing.
It’s been 12 years since then and my weight and fitness has fluctuated between what I think is my ideal, fit weight and the number which depresses me, make me lethargic, and makes me want to hate myself. That’s a 10 kg window. Which means it takes me quite a while to realize I have fallen off the fitness wagon before I get up on it again, and by that time a lot of damage is already done – physically and psychologically. At my heaviest and just before I start the cycle of losing weight, I hate food. I loathe it. Food – rather than being the joy it is – is just a bunch of calories keeping me away from true happiness.
I can’t stand the sight of it, I can’t tolerate other people eating unhealthy, and I feel like punching people who ask me to eat. There have been extended periods of time I have troubled people while they eat because I couldn’t eat myself. I would remind them what they are doing to their bodies, count the calories, Google, and just be an obnoxious person.
To my credit (or foolishness), I have never followed any of the new-fangled diets that promise results in ten days and gives your abs the likeness of granite. But what I have done instead in the past ten years is make my own doomsday diets, a few of which only consisted of a few morsels a day. This despite the fact that I have not being fat in a really long time. Even at my unhealthiest I can’t be called obese or even overweight. My face belies my weight.
There’s something I have realized in the ten years I have lost and gained and gained and lost my weight, gone on diets, healthy and unhealthy, thrown caution to the air and eaten anything that moves – I eat more, enjoy it more, and love it more when I’m at my fittest. It’s not about the weight or what I see in the mirror. It is how I feel about my body, what I can achieve with it, how much I can push it. That’s when I have the most energy, I’m happier, and I’m not thinking about fat percentages, the rolls of fat, and the shirts bulging from the sides. When I stop running, swimming, working out, I spend more time, rolling around in my bed, just feeling bad – not about my weight but about everything – and feeling anxious about things. For the past couple of years I have tried to make fitness an end and not a means to an end, and with that my relationship with food has improved. To end this blog, I should list down the first five things that come to my mind when I say ‘good food’:

  1. Muri Ghonto (Maa-Baba)
  2. Papdi Chaat (BTW)
  3. Butter Chicken (ANY PLACE.)
  4. American Chopsuey (Chinese Hut, Pitampura)
  5. Eggs Florentine (Indigo Delhi, Mumbai)

P.S. – Typed on my phone. Please excuse the brevity and the errors.

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