By: Ariel Fixler
Dedication #1: To my Foodies who take food combining to a whole new level. They see Food Noise as White Noise. You know who you are. Keep celebrating yourself and enjoy a pleasure that is not riddled with guilt and over-processing.
Dedication #2: To my friends and family still struggling to love the skin they are in and take pleasure in the little things in life. Letting the noise and control overtake them, but being self-aware enough to realize it. May you gain the strength to fight the demons. May you see joy in consumption and the miracle that is digestion.
You know what I miss the most some days? Food.
When you are chronically ill every single day you forget about food. It becomes a task not a pleasure. Nutrition just becomes a “thing” to keep you going. Food becomes a utility of sorts. Something you have to remember “to take”. We don’t get to see the beneficial pleasures of food. We are too obsessed about focusing on the hours we are awake. We are praying to be free of fevers, possessing the bodily function to swallow, aren’t vomiting and are able to move our muscles. Our mind is always strong, however our body is not working in correlation with our mind. We wish we had choices in life and one of those choices could be picking what goes into our bodies and seeking pleasure in it. TO POSSESS NOT TO OBSESS.
I specifically miss eating for pleasure. I remember a time when chewing was a natural and seamless occurrence (yes that is a pun on seamless.com). It didn’t take proactive thought, fear and hyper planning. Will I choke? Will the nutrition come up as slowly as it went down? Will I digest it? Will it go right through me? Will I have an adverse and allergic reaction? Food literally was the devil to me, the burned inside of me instead of digesting and creating motility. All my meals are in the fluid form. Shakes, juices, puree soups… the list goes on. I don’t have active taste buds and I derive no active pleasure in nutrition. It’s a forced function and mechanism.
I was someone who found so much pleasure in food (mainly by being raised by my father who was an avid and social eater). A man who not once….. NOT EVER….. derided himself over food content, weight or calories. He did have high cholesterol but even when he was dealing with that health issue he was a pro. He was physically active and always proactive, until Parkinson’s and Dementia overtook him
He did something I wish everyone could do. When he was hungry he ate and afterward he derived nothing but immense pleasure. My father has always been my biggest hero. If you haven’t gleaned that from the foundation site you may be missing something. My dad’s food affairs made him even more lovable than I thought was possible. His father, Henry Fixler, was the exact same way as was my Uncle Gene (yes the same name our family never won points for originality). The Fixler men may have always noticed people with a little extra weight (because they are the men of “that generation”). My grandfather sold control top panty hose door to door for God’s sake. However, they themselves, never judged their overeager and expanding appetites for food and life.
I haven’t had solid food in almost a year. It’s dangerous for me, especially since swallowing, digesting and processing is harder than anything else. I miss the smell of food, the look of food and especially the taste. I also miss how food is a social function and a conversational “piece” and “peace”.
Food is something we take for granted, yet take so much pleasure and pain in the same fallow swoop. We have palpable and real food memories. Those are memories we associate with our food pleasures and experiences. These are memories that ignite our senses and provide tangible pleasure and satisfaction. Sometimes these food memories fill us with anger, guilt and regret.
People grapple with the pain of how to monitor their portions and use food to control themselves and restrict themselves. On both ends of the spectrum food is still their main focus. It provides fuel, happiness, pleasure and is a socially unifying method. It can be a conservational piece with every bite. We complain about over-eating, the newest diet, elimination technique or cleanse, in a way to obsessively control ourselves and allow ourselves to be in control of something (when we are powerless against so much else in the world).
So every time you obsess about treating yourself, indulging, or self-hate over having a few extra bites JUST LET IT GO. Every time you counteract the food demons by over-working out and being active (another activity I miss so deeply) think there is someone who wishes they were in your shoes. Someone who could gain the social and emotional pleasure of each bite and savor it the same way as we savor our health.
As I have stated in a previous paragraph, food memories are real memories. They are so powerful and tangible. They go hand in hand with every memorable experience. They are the backdrop and link to our pleasure center. So don’t make food your personal prison.
There is so much to take in the world of food, senses and sensibilities. There is a world full of smells, tastes and sights to be seen. The more we self-hate and judge ourselves we ultimately lose. The more we go on and on about over-eating and our regimens to burn off these pleasures we forget what is important. We forget to live in that moment. We are also so busy over thinking it and judging our intake that we forget the “treat” and “treaty” we could make with ourselves by giving into this pleasure.
Food isn’t the enemy your mind is. You are fighting with your mind and body to judge and articulate how much you ate, indulged and over did it. There are many people out there that wish you could just live in the moment and enjoy every morsel for them without beating yourself up internally and online. The ability to allow yourself to just be and not pre plan how you can combat what you just did (an afterthought attack) is a choice. No one is harder on you than yourself. No one wants to hear people whine about dieting and self-hating. They want to you to love yourselves which means loving what you ingest, digest and take in.
As a child and as an adult I was surrounded by people who could not let go of their inner food demons. My food thoughts and noise quieted at a young age or at least were muted somewhat. My friend Robin and I had epic conversation about this top at length. When I was sick I would give anything to have a choice in my food habits and rituals. To not be connected to a feeding tube. I told her for my junior prom I forgot healthy weight loss techniques so I was on a candy corn diet. Since candy corn was fat free and if you ate too much of it you became nauseated. I lost 6lbs in a week. Yea… see food noise BAM…. I remember my friend Amy did something similar with Marshmallow Puffs and I thought she is older, wiser and in AP classes so it has to be smart right? OY to the Vey. Please do not take these stories as tips dear G-d! I know people I love older and younger are still struggling so gravely with eating disorders. Please don’t do what I did. Please do not see these as an example.
Even my mom as long as I could remember gave into the diet trend. I mean she took 13-year-old me Weight Watchers when I was about 15-20lbs overweight in 7th grade. My closest friend in school was going through the same dietary trend. I want to say it was the parents of our generation, but I know the same food noise still exists today. We can blame society and marketing, but it does not seem to be going away.
In my early years, Bar and Bat Mitzvah season meant I was dressing up and my body was growing fast. I was “developing”. My mom wanted to stop my body from expanding and show me how to control it. I was way too young to learn what counting points was and restricting food rituals. I was too young to see the food neurosis I saw in Weight Watchers but I did. So I took it to the extreme and endured an eating disorder for the next year until I got help. I thought those Weight Watcher people are nuts and “I got this”. Umm I didn’t “have this”. I didn’t want to go to those meetings and weigh ins and be on display. I wasn’t a show pony. So being well ME I took control (in the least effective manner I realize that trust me). When I took it to the eating disorder extreme I was in TROUBLE. We even had a meeting in our grade about eating disorders with our guidance counselor. I was told if I didn’t gain weight I would really miss out on life and in turn have to take time out from life and school. Oddly, the fear of missing out (FOMO) even at a young age gave me the biggest kick in the ass to get better. I was 15 years old and 85lbs at the time. Later in life I was 29 years old and the same weight and would have given anything to not give into the side effects of treatment (aka a feeding tube). I would have given anything to take pleasure in the food I once personally chose to restrict (15 years earlier). That feeding tube I was threatened with (and put the fear of god in me) during my eating disorder days, was now my reality. I now had to have these tubes because my body could not process nutrition.
I always felt so badly my mom was so critical on treating herself and enjoying food. She tended to beat herself up and over think every “food moment”. In the early 90’s she was on the fat-free food craze and any diet book Oprah Winfrey touted as food bait. I knew what the Atkin’s Diet and South Beach diet were before anyone else. I knew calorie count additions and subtraction better than any math problem I had to solve for homework. Even when I was sick I would pay my mom or any of my friends compliments. Instead of taking in the compliment, they would point out the instances they overrate lately and pointing to their body flaws, pinching their fat and going into self critique mode.
Most of the people I knew who drank to get drunk. In their humble opinion them booze was basically fat free. There were no controls or limits on. However when it came to food it was hard seeing such crazy eating disorders and restricting for people who were in their late 20s and 30s (both make and female). Some married and some people even had kids had boisterous food noise in their heads. It made me so sad.
I remember when my mom stayed over to take care of me she brought rice cakes for snacking which I was shocked still existed. I surely had thought these throwback products went the way of Wasa crackers, the Step Workout, Snackwell and the Thighmaster into the 80’s and 90’s graveyard. My nurse the other night ate a bag of fat free Fig Newtons. The whole bag was a meal. I felt so sad watching it go down on both levels. Food binges are heartbreaking to watch. You are constantly restarting and resetting your system. Her body was so confused. I wish both women could set themselves free after 65 years on planet dealing with food judgement and criticism.
I have memories in my early teen years where my dad and I used to sneak out of the house when we were younger. Even in my 20’s because there was no unhealthy food in the house. At one point our family were Vegetarians. Then we ate meat, then we didn’t it. Man it was so confusing for a young girl. My dad and I had our food traditions. It was our secret thing. When my grandpa lived with us I spent all my time with him watching television and having him make me a turkey sandwich with cole slaw and giving me mini milky ways for dessert. My grandpa had non kosher food downstairs IT WAS AMAZING. It was a brand new world and one my dad and I often escaped to in our own home. It gave my grandpa so much pleasure to watch me eat. He and I conversed and laughed over deli sandwiches and Dr. Brown sodas.
My mom, my nurse and so many others by far were not the only ones crippled by food noise. Everyone does it. Everyone has it. Everybody is watching their food intake in some way. The wedding diets, the deep depression deluge, the break up blues, the post baby body, the cleanse after overeating, the holiday resolutions and the list goes on. The people who diet all the time yet will inhale anything at 3am after a night of hard-drinking. All their “food restrictions and intolerance” go out the window. Food becomes a character within itself. Food motivates them and becomes “their thing” they tell people about. Their talking point and guide.
Everyone wants someone to quiet their food demons and tell them they are beautiful, perfect just the way they are and allow them the pleasure without the pain. I feel so so sad when I see it overtaking others at whatever age and stage of life. Seeing the power in being powerless, hoping they seek the courage to curtail the control. When I went to a holistic retreat during my illness, I started to see the value in food in a whole new way. I saw what it was like to eat for fuel and energy. My only battle with food in the recent years were my problems keeping it down during treatment and my illness. The word restricting was a word I expelled from my verbose library.
So pick up the fork and put down the doubt and judgement. We are all our hardest critic and self-examiner. We have the physical flaw police on speed dial. It’s almost a negotiated dance we all do, to go on a deep dive fishing mission for subtle compliments. We just want someone to tell us we are beautiful and to let go. Someone to tell us we are enough.
Free yourself from the suffix FREE (gluten, soy, dairy, fat, sugar FREE). It’s time to be good to yourself and remember you have the ability to lift this burden and take part in loving yourself, loving food and most importantly loving your body. Someone you know is wishing their only burden was food noise and was wishing you the pleasure of lifting the pain.