* photo credit: kate hiscock on flickr.com
Yes, I just wrote that.
My family was obsessed with food. We went out to dinner a LOT; there wasn't a new restaurant we didn't try. Chinese, Mexican, Italian, you name it, we ate it. And no dinner was complete without at least a couple of appetizers. If you asked my father...actually, you didn't have to ask him. He loudly proclaimed this after every restaurant meal, "That was THE best [fill in the blank] I have ever had." It became the running joke in the family which was one he never seemed to get. He still says it to this day.
Food was our connector. It was an easy conversation at the table, a way to keep things on the surface. Because we sure as hell didn't want to look at what was lurking below. A obnoxiously-stocked fridge, a packed cooler for the boat, a brand new restaurant to try, they were all just part of the family. A very dysfunctional one.
The lightbulb started to illuminate when I was a junior in high school and I was no longer hipless. Well, I still didn't really have hips as much as I had thighs. I was flabby and I still had my baby face. When my cheeks started rivaling my hair in size, I knew I was in trouble. I started to take my tennis seriously that year when my high school team started training with a tennis pro at a local athletic club. Our trainer had played tennis in college and his passed along his athletic training on to us. The club had a weight room and my mom allowed me to join. It changed my life.
I researched and purchased weight-lifting books and became a vegetarian. Visible fat completely grossed me out, therefore I boycotted eating meat altogether.Grizzle was the enemy. This drove my father absolutely crazy. My stubborn streak is wide and long and he eventually stopped harassing me about it. I got in better shape but something was still off.
In college, I continued my vegetarian diet but I didn't figure out that my biggest culprit to my continuing battle with my body was my love affair with carbs. As a vegetarian, carbs had become my new best friend. My thighs were stubborn,too. I started taking the first unofficial weight loss pill: aspirin, caffeine, and ephedrine. (A guy friend obsessed with his body image passed that little heart attack laden piece of advice onto me.) I lost weight but then I also lost muscle; I looked sick. Again, self-sabotage. Along with my stubborn streak, I also have a thick skull.
Now, at almost forty years old, my light bulb is burning bright. I have finally figured out what food is supposed to be. Fuel. That's it. Nothing more. Don't get me wrong. I still love food but I'm not obsessed with it. It has to be exactlywhat it was meant to be. Sustenance. My German genetics and a fourth of my life spent eating horrible are stacked against me but did I mention I was stubborn?
If I want to have a healthy body, inside and out, I need to have protein with every meal and every snack. Carbs are a bare necessity and veggies are my new bestfriends. If I had known then what I know now, I might have had a whole different view on life. I might have been a much more confident person growing up.
Food wouldn't have been my evil twin as much as it would have been my biggest fan.
Hallie Sawyer is a freelance and historical fiction writer, with publishing credits in KC Parent magazine. She grew up in northeast Nebraska but now lives in Kansas City with her husband and three children. As a health and fitness enthusiast, she now looks at her relationship with food as a partnership and no longer as a high school crush.