On not feeling afraid (of food)

This morning, as I prepared my breakfast -- a simple parfait of yogurt, blueberries, cereal, and honey -- I noticed that it is becoming harder and harder for me to identify foods that I "can't" or "won't" eat. 

Meat. Milk. Sugar. Chocolate. Wheat. Butter. Eggs. Slowly, these foods have come back into my diet, until my meals are no longer intricate dances around what I can't have. I have known that these changes were occurring, with every meal I have prepared for myself, or every restaurant excursion that didn't scare the daylights out of me, but it is interesting to stop here, in September 2008, and realize that there isn't anything that I am avoiding. 

A part of me feels sad to let these restrictions go, as if I were a bit naked without them. On the one hand, checking for restricted items in my diet was a way to reflect on what I was eating. I couldn't wantonly shove food into my mouth if I had to be concerned about whether or not it contained gluten, and might give me a massive stomach ache afterwards. On the other hand, food restrictions had become such a chore lately, especially in Italy, where I scrupulously avoided wheat pasta and morning brioche

Today, I can eat everything. Can is the operational word here, for while I can eat everything, I won't eat it all at once, nor will I eat it every day. But I still feel a little at awe to realize that, for perhaps the first time in six or seven years, I am not leaving anything out of my diet. Now, the foods that I avoid, if any, are the ones that I never liked in the first place -- hamburgers, canned olives, thousand-year-old eggs -- but I am more likely than ever to occasionally give these foods a try, too.

This experiment is somewhat frightening -- I am sure that some of you know all too well the comforts of sticking to a particular diet -- but I am trying to concentrate on the feeling of liberation instead of fear. Liberated from food fears, I can attend parties without worrying that I will scarf down every object in sight or eat something that will give me stomach pains. I can read restaurant menus and nod "Yes, yes, yes," to any number of items, instead of heading beeline to the low-fat, no-wheat options (and there are only so many raw salads that my digestive system can take before it rebels).  I can cook bread and biscuits and cakes for myself, make butter and mayo and salad dressing from scratch, prepare roasts and eat well. If this isn't recovery and happiness and eager fun, than I don't know what could be better.

And what of an expanding waistline? And what of the health consequences of so much cholesterol and fat? And what about simple sugars and -- and -- and -- ? 

There is only so much fear-mongering that I can take right now (we're in election season, after all). As for all of the rest, I will believe it when I see it. All I know is that by eating more, and by eating more widely, I am healthier and happier than I have been in years. 

So take that, diet gods!

P.S. See the new poll to the left -- which foods frighten you?


Gaining Back My Life said...

LOVED this post - and freedom is exactly what we get when we stop tying ourselves down to all these diet rules and restrictions.

I wish you well on your recovery - you sould like you are doing amazing things, both internally and externally.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

Hooray! This is something we can all aspire to. Pepcid once ran ads with the slogan "Fear No Food." Sounds like a t-shirt to me.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Ai Lu. Wonderful progress. -- FSD

TheElementary said...

I too love this post- it brought me to your blog.
"take that, diet gods!"- what a simply perfect line. I love food, and writing, so I'm going to enjoy this blog very much.

Maddie said...

That's beautiful, Ai Lu. I know that one of the side effects of my eating problems is that I don't enjoy food the way it should be enjoyed because I'm too busy ignoring it. Hopefully the enjoyment you're gaining is something I will soon be learning too.

Emily Jolie said...

Oh, that is such a great post, Ai Lu! I hope to be where you are now before too long! I have been getting a lot more slack with my dietary restrictions myself lately. During my trip to Germany, I ventured out and ate a bunch of foods that were previously on my list of 'can't-eat-foods,' and I did fine! Among other things, I had (lots of!) my favorite chocolate yogurt that I loved when I was growing up. Hmmm-hmmm-hmmm!

I loved reading your post on Asian food, too! I hope you can continue to put the time and effort into your food that you desire as you move into the busy lifestyle of graduate school! I know what it's like. And, especially when life is busy, it is so important to nourish yourself well!

sending loving thoughts your way!

with care,