The joy of eating

How one woman learned that an all-you-can-eat appetite for food doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure

The guilty years

Then came puberty, the Big Mac years. The food kept coming as copiously as ever but so did some new comments. “Uh-oh,” Mom said pointing at me, covering her mouth and giggling. “Someone’s getting a little big in the behind.” I looked at her, then at my behind—which had grown from the size of an eight-year-old boy’s to a 12-year-old girl’s—and didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t really thought about my eating before or what it could possibly have to do with my butt. But by this time, I had gotten used to the sour smell in our bathroom at night, where my mother often disappeared after dinner. And after having witnessed her sobbing on our bathroom scale, I learned that whatever “big” was, it was so terrifying that it prompted her to starve herself or push a grizzled toothbrush down her throat over our toilet. I felt ashamed. My passion for food had suddenly become something I feared. In a sick way, I had to protect myself from me. I wanted to run to food and away from my own body.

So began the war; not me against my Chicken McNuggets, mind you, but against myself for wanting more than just a handful. It was tough. After my parents’ divorce, my sister, brother and I lived with our father, and portion control in the house was pretty much left up to the good people at Swanson. I attempted to eat healthy the only way I knew how, but the iceberg salad and fish sticks I prepared were unsatisfying. Once in a while, I sought out a few minutes of escape with a large order of fries and gravy in my high-school cafeteria, followed by hours of regret. I wanted to go back to the days where I could simply enjoy food.

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