May 12, 2011

Women Food and God

There is a stranger in my house.

Okay, maybe not a stranger, but a former acquaintance I've phased out of my life in favor of a more preferable companion.

Hello again, jar of peanut butter.

Peanut butter is, by all accounts, incredibly delicious. My afternoon snack for most of the school year was peanut butter and Teddy Grahams - I would buy single-serve containers of Jif because even though they were a little more expensive than buying a jar, something about the individual cups made me less likely to binge on them. I stopped bringing them for my snack in the last few weeks because each container was 250 calories, and I wanted to get the most out of my calories, so I'd bring fresh fruit instead.

Now that I am transitioning to veganism for a month, nuts and nut butters are on my recommended eating list. Though packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, they're also really high in calories. I'm hoping that with this jar, I can have my peanut butter and eat it too - one tablespoon in my oatmeal, for example, for 100 calories gets me the health benefits without blowing nearly a quarter of my daily calories like the little containers would.

Could I still get the individual cups and just use half or less as I see fit? Of course. But I want to try this. This is a test of my resolve, of my progress, a true NSV I could really be proud of. Because despite losing over a hundred pounds and being able to control myself under most conditions, something about a jar of peanut butter makes me want to grab a spoon and just start eating until it's empty.

It brings to mind an amazingly incredible book I read a few weeks ago after hearing so many glowing recommendations from other bloggers: "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth. She talks about how our relationship with food mirrors our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with however we define a higher power. In one section, she talks about loving food in excess - it ceases to be about the food itself and becomes a quantity fixation. If chocolate was really the answer to the problem, then you could eat one kiss and be fine ... so why then do we feel the need to eat the whole bag?
Sometimes people will say, "But I just like the taste of food. In fact, I love the taste! Why can't it be that simple? I overeat because I like food."


When you like something, you pay attention to it. When you like something - love something - you take time with it. You want to be present for every second of the rapture.

Overeating does not lead to rapture. It leads to burping and farting and being so sick that you can't think of anything but how full you are. That's not love, that's suffering.

p. 53
So much of this book gave me chills. I saw myself reflected in so many of her patient's stories - the Permitters who binge eat in order to numb themselves and thus float through life unaware, the career dieters whose weight loss efforts consistently fail because they see it as a way to become someone different and new instead of realizing that your problems exist no matter what size pants you wear. She talked a lot about using food to soothe past aches, something I most certainly am guilty of:
It's not life in the present that is intolerable; the pain we are avoiding has already happened. We are living in reverse.
p. 40
Physically I'm digging and scraping the peanut butter from the sides of the jar, but emotionally, I'm trying to dig my way away from my problems and my stresses. Peace with my mother is not at the bottom of that jar. A job is not at the bottom of the jar, either. The problems aren't hunger, so the solution shouldn't be food.

Instead, her solution is to make peace with food. Stop seeing it as something you can or cannot have, and stop using it to punish or reward yourself. Obsession with food can be as dangerous as any other addiction, and ought to be dealt with as such.
The obsession will end when you love discovering your true nature more than you love being loyal to your mother or father. The obsession will end because you care enough about yourself to stop damaging yourself with food. Because you love yourself enough to stop hurting yourself. Who doesn't want to take care of what they love?
p. 193-194
She also emphasizes the importance of feelings - as a Permitter, I binge eat to numb myself of my feelings, because who wants to feel sad or stressed or depressed or angry when you could eat yourself numb and then go to sleep? This is something I still struggle with, even three-quarters of a year after I started my journey.
If you don't allow a feeling to begin, you also don't let it end.
p. 123
After I've chewed, swallowed, and napped, I'm still jobless, I still have damaged and broken relationships. If I don't face it in an appropriate way, then it's still there - nothing has been resolved. I need to take time to cry - because that's what people do when they're sad. If I'm mad, I need to scream into a pillow, or write it all out. Face the issues - actually confront and deal with them - and only then can there be progress.

I have to confess that lately, I've been slipping up an awful lot. I'm hurting emotionally for a lot of different reasons, and I haven't taken the time to mindfully process these feelings. Instead, I remember how comforting homemade cookies are - the process of making them, the waiting for them to bake, the taste and the texture. It's painful, but it's familiar, and when I'm stressed or depressed, I crave familiarity and comfort. Lately it's been easy to forget how much of a relief a good, full-body bawling can be, or how much better I feel after a long run than I do after excessive snacking. Today, I'm rereading "Women Food and God," recapturing my motivation, and falling back in love with the girl I've spent the past nine months trying to get to know as I work hard to make her as healthy and happy as possible and look as lovely as she feels - and rightly deserves to feel.

What about you? Have you read any of Geneen Roth's books? What's your favorite non-food way to soothe stress and anxiety?


Scrumpy said...

God, can I relate. I never used to have PB in the house for the same reason. I actually like the natural nut butters because they are a little runny, which makes it easier for me to spread a little thinner on things. (I love it spread on a banana split open length-wise with just a little coconut on top.)

I haven't read the book yet, but Jen recommended it too. Now I feel I must.

I'm feeling down and out about the weight loss thing these days. Sometimes I get caught up in how it will always be a struggle. Now is definitely one of those times.

Chubby McGee said...

"Physically I'm digging and scraping the peanut butter from the sides of the jar, but emotionally, I'm trying to dig my way away from my problems and my stresses. Peace with my mother is not at the bottom of that jar. A job is not at the bottom of the jar, either. The problems aren't hunger, so the solution shouldn't be food."


I've gotta snag that book.

Have you tried PB2? I've heard nothing but rave reviews about it. It's PB, but it's in powder form. You add water to it to keep the cals low. I think BitchCakes eats it.

Kelty said...

I haven't read this book, but I love the quotes you've presented-they really to do resonate with me as well. Especially that we are living in reverse-that embodies so much of this struggle!

Good luck with your peanut butter-I think you really have come far enough to tackle the challenge of restraining yourself. Something I do when I have something in my room that is usually a trigger food is to distribute it into servings before I'm craving it. Maybe measure out servings of peanut butter and put them in a tiny tupperware?

To soothe and stress anxiety I used to always take a bath while listening to music and drinking tea. I could handle ANYTHING after that. Unfortunately, I don't have a bath tub at my new apartment...tricky.

Jovia said...

Thank you for leaving your comment yesterday. I was in kind of a bad place and it helps to know someone listens.
The book you mentioned sounds interesting and I'll have to check it out.
My favorite way to relieve stress? Probably sleeping it off, but hopefully it'll be something more active soon. :)

Unknown said...

Well I'm going to have to read that one too I think. Roth has a great insight into the world of binge eating.

One thing you said struck me. You wrote "The problems aren't hunger, so the solution shouldn't be food." Which I totally agree with. At the same time I can't help thinking that for me I do hunger but just not for food. I hunger for a better relationship with my mom, I hunger for a more fulfilling job, and I hunger for a less stressful life. It's just not the same type of hunger. I require fuel for my soul not fuel for my body so food cannot fill those voids. I think part of the issue (for me) may be just not realizing the difference. I'm not sure that helps any really, but its what came to mind when I read that.

Here is to making progress both physically and emotionally!

Meghan said...

I want to read this book. I see it around the bookstore all the time. I think I'll give it a try.

Good luck on your all plant based diet, I'm sure you will rock it!

Sarah said...

You've posted such good quotes. It's absolutely true that overeating doesn't lead to anything good, even if it comes from good food. Sometimes it's hard to remember though.

As for nut butters, I am a big fan and hope you can happily find a place for them in your day.

downsizers said...

I have this book and had begun reading it. When you posted these quotes I found my copy and looked on the pages you mentioned and had underlined the same things!! I will not finish the book. Thank you for bringing it back to mind.

Pretty Pauline said...

I actually recently ordered one that I have not had time to crack open. OH how I relate to sooo much of this!!!! Especially:

"It's not life in the present that is intolerable; the pain we are avoiding has already happened. We are living in reverse. p. 40"

This entire post fits the journey I've been on, as I'm learning to LIVE. I'm tired of thinking about food, so I've changed my focus to living, and it's helping! And just today I got the idea (prompted by a convo with a friend) to start a journal of letters for the hurts I've been nursing for so many years. Just for me, nothing to share, and I do like to write! But just to tell them how I am feeling.

I can't wait to get started...

timothy said...

i would suggest getting the sm containers of fresh peanut butter from a health food store. much healthier and very yummy too!

Ellie said...

I love that you left yourself a little note on the jar. I do this sometimes too, that way I can try to remind myself to be strong, even if I am feeling weak.

I think you will be able to use it without abusing it!