I've had this nagging thought sliding around in my head the past few weeks: what if I could've prevented my eating disorder?
Hear me out, now — I know it wasn't a choice, per se, to succumb to these years of battling food demons. There are wires in my brain criss-crossed enough that I think I'll always struggle with compulsive eating. But hear me out.
I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's luscious book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as we've been watching our own garden grow. Let's just say it's been like a weed (a glorious, wonderful weed) that's planted itself deep inside my head and won't leave. My thoughts are consumed with buying locally and seasonally — embarking on weekly trips to the farmer's market instead of the big-box grocery chain, and buying what's available there, and not much else.
We're lucky that our local markets supply dairy, eggs, and meat alongside all manner of seasonal produce. I was able to pick up fresh cow's milk yogurt last week, a radical change from my Chobani or Fage once-a-day Greek habit. We came home with multicolored Swiss chard, kale, and bulbs of bok choi to go along with the 21 pounds (!) of fresh strawberries we'd picked that morning at a local U-Pick-Em. Those greens, and the leftover carrots I had in the fridge already, became the staples of my diet this week — alongside strawberries at every meal and organic almond butter slathered on Cait's homemade bread. (We bought the almond butter, but are looking forward to making it ourselves as soon as we can find an almond supplier.) It's been lovely, really.
The past few weeks of veggie-heaven have forced me to contend with my kitchen fears. See, I hate to cook. I hate it. I'm bad at it, and I'm scared of it. But I'm also tired of eating raw veggies all. the. time. and am looking for more creative ways to jazz them up. So I've set goals to cook at least one new recipe a week centered around whatever vegetables are at the market. I'm being more deliberate with food, and I'm happier about it.
For so long, I remember pleading with the universe to take away my hunger pangs. To somehow bless me with the ability to not need to eat, because the idea of eating multiple meals per day every single day was just entirely too much to handle. Calorie-counting. Obsessing over fat grams. Never eating enough so that the compulsive binges inevitably followed. Purging. Starting all over again a few hours later.
But something about the idea of seeing our tomato plants growing taller, our lettuce filling out (we can pick and eat some now!), and the first little green pepper on one of our pepper plants has filled me with enormous pride. I'm taking ownership over food and eating, for the first time in I don't know how long. Actively working to grow or seek out local, seasonal foods is both blowing and changing my mind in one fell swoop. And it feels so good.
So I wonder: what if we involve our kids in this kind of thing from day one? If I make the effort to have my own garden, to celebrate the food that grows in it, to support other local farms by buying their yogurt or milk, to consciously cook meals that mean something to the food that goes into them...will my children perhaps be spared seeing their mother's awfully unhealthy relationship with food? Will my daughters (and my sons) be spared stressing and hating food like I did?
I'm not naive enough to think that this would've been the fix-all for everything. But I do wonder: how can more conscious eating make us all healthier people, both nutritionally and emotionally?
One thing I do know: I'm enjoying eating more than ever.