Monday, August 3, 2015

Foodies and master chefs

Who would have thought that these are two of the most common self-descriptions amongst people struggling with disturbed eating patterns? In high school I was known as the master baker. All of my friends and acquaintances that 99.9% of the time I would have some sort of new baked creation for them to try out; I baked and cooked profusely and will admit that I was (and still am) pretty good darn good at it. I devoted my time to mastering recipes, techniques, using science to engineer out the perfect balance of structure, moisture, and texture in cakes and frosting, spent school nights molding fondant cake toppers or pinning decadent recipes and nothing made me happier than seeing people enjoy the treats I brought them.

I remember that I was always in the kitchen or heading up cooking teams during mission trips or or church events and I always, always encouraged others to take generous portions. But I would never dare to eat my cooking myself. Maybe I'll nibble on a few lettuce leaves to appear "normal" while everyone else was eating or I'll slip back into the kitchen claiming that I needed to finish up the next course or clean up while everyone else ate and then hope that there would be no more left-overs at the end of the night. That's not normal.

I remember that during my senior year of high school and through my freshman year of college I would stare at the clock all day long waiting for the next time I "allowed" myself something to eat. And I would do everything in my power to procrastinate until I could eat again - stay in bed, nap, do cardio, and once again pin recipes. That's not normal.

But now in hindsight and after talking to so many others who are struggling, I realize that this sort of behavior isn't uncommon and I won't lie - I cringe every single time I see a recovery account on Instagram post about making a batch of cookies for their friends or family. Anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and anything on the restrictive food patterns spectrum can turn even the most uninterested person into an absolute food obsess-er and gourmand. And I'm not just talking about the typical enjoys a big ol' helping of food porn type of food-lover, but a straight up addict.

And you know what I think is the most scary thing about the whole scenario? That the personal turmoil and fear of food, lack of control, or body image issues - whatever the root problem may be - is actually stronger than the addiction to food. Think about it - normal types of addicts go through excruciating withdrawal symptoms and can/will literally kill to get their stimuli, but here we are, absolutely entrenched in our food thoughts and obsessions and yet STILL abstaining. Just let that sink in for a bit.

Lately I've realized that the further and further behind I leave my disorder, the less elaborate my meals become; I'm starting to live normally, not vicariously though other people's eating habits. And sure, I still do love whipping up a big, fancy meal for when I have friends over, but when it's just me on a Wednesday night, I keep things really simple: some meat I prepped over the weekend, a salad or maybe some roasted veggies, and a sweet potato drenched in nut butter (or more accurately some sweet potato to eat with my nut butter).

I'll admit, sometimes I am a bit sad that I am losing a sort of "ultra foodie" identity, but I know that on some level I will always love being in the kitchen or devouring up classic cookbooks. I'll always love exchanging banter and recipes with chefs or other food lovers. I'll always love trying out and reviewing new restaurants or recipes. Food truly is something I find fascinating and passion in. Trust me, it's not bad to be more engrossed by food than the average Joe, but do proceed with caution. Are you eating enough? have you been restricting your body of food types or calories it has been craving? Are you allowing yourself to eat the things you have been making? Because these are all subtle signs that your love of food is something more sinister.

At the end of the day, food and cuisine truly are wonderful things and ways to experience culture and the people around us, but there is a very thin and often hidden line between a hobby and obsession. And I'll admit - I love food. But I'm not addicted anymore.