Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Food is not medicine


Food as a source of pleasure

Food as a source of pleasure

There’s a phrase out there right now, made popular by supporters of the Maudsley Method and frequenters of F.E.A.S.T. and it’s forum, Around the Dinner Table .  “Food Is Medicine.”  Every time I see or hear that phrase, I want to scream.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, noun “medicine” is defined as a substance or preparation used in the treatment of illness as an effective remedy or cure and is known colloquially as a remedy that is necessary but disagreeable or unwanted.

We’ve all heard the analogies: You have to put fuel in the car if you want it to run.  If you were a diabetic, you wouldn’t stop taking your insulin now would you?  And yes, Think of food as medicine, what your body needs.

Yes, our bodies need food.  They also need air and water.  And our spirits need healing and peace and our minds need freedom from despair and hopeless that come with an eating disorder.  Some of us need freedom from the past that led us to the eating disorder in the first place.

If food was indeed a medicine, then why didn’t I get better the first time I was hospitalized and went through the weight restoration process?  Or the second or third or fourth time?  Why did I only begin to get better while I was at the last hospital?  Sure, there was weight restoration to be done.  But two things were different (well, there was also the fact that I was more motivated) about this hospital: A) the meals were normal sized meals, equal to the average number of calories necessary for a given day.  The rest of the weight restoration was accomplished through supplements, and B) there were groups every day in which we explored the real, underlying reasons behind the eating disorder symptoms and learned how to cope when urges to use those symptoms arose.

Why was A so important to me?  Because I learned that eating normal amounts of food–the amount of food that other members of my family would eat at dinner, or my friends when we went out to eat–was not going to harm me.  In fact, after I was weight restored, and tapered off the supplements, my  meal plan needed only minor adjustments for me to maintain a healthy weight.  I learned that food can be enjoyed. That it should be enjoyed.  Food is often a communal experience, and if you regard food as medicine (negative), how can you approach the communal experience with any joy?

When I was in my early twenties, struggling to get to a place where I could maintain and hold on but still very much attached to the eating disorder, I often had dinner with my chaplain from college, his wife, and their two kids, whom I had babysat for.  At the time, their daughter was only around seven years old and finally one day she asked her mom what an eating disorder was.  Her mom looked at me, considered the age of her daughter, and said, “You know, Lexie needs to learn how to relax and have fun while eating dinner with people.”  And one of the next times I went over to dinner, the daughter had gone to a friend’s house, and the mom told me that she hadn’t wanted to go because “Lexie needs me here to learn that she can have fun.”

There is so much more to an eating disorder than learning to enjoy food, but food is an essential part of life.  And so many social events take place around food.  In the early stages of recovery, I know I didn’t like food, or, rather, I was still afraid that I would eat too much somehow.  And I had always denied myself pleasure, so admitting I liked something seemed almost sinful.  But now, I know that I enjoy salt when I am stressed, chocolate when I am sad, and chinese food when I am sitting down with my friend for a talk late into the night.  I will admit that I still get nervous when I know I’m going to be eating with a large group of people I don’t know, but once I sit down and start talking to people, the anxiety goes away.  And I love the sunday pot-luck/themed dinners my friends and I have.  We share food and wine or kick ass tea and laugh and play cards and board games and have fun–all with food at a nearby table.

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October 5, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, health, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. YOU are awesome.

    Comment by janie | October 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. Only this past month have i been able to answer “what kind of food do you like?” or “what’s your favorite food?”
    I’ve always felt ashamed that I would *gasp* like food enough to have a preference or even a favorite. It still feels weird to even admit here that I do.

    I’m glad you mentioned this. I never thought of it from this angle before.

    Comment by Andi | October 5, 2009 | Reply


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