Sometimes I think my tastebuds have failed me. That in the midst of the everyday I have failed to savor. That the rush and appetites of my life have more to do with frantic filling than with letting the aroma of the good things settle on my tongue and linger.
I bulge at the seams of this overstuffed pace. The frantic tyranny of what must be done. I have never found balance. I have lived a lopsided existence tilting full scale into whatever I’m passionate about at the moment, or halting the screeching pace and trailing off into depression. And when I was diagnosed with bipolar a few years ago, it all made so much more sense. This imbalance of moods. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe balance in some sense is a myth, and it’s just more obvious in my case.
I think of slowing and savoring. I think of my past, the times I’ve been out of control, the parking lots with fast food bags and binges and shame in the greasy fingered stains on my soul, empty containers of ice cream dripping down the sides of the carton onto my night table and the ache that never fills. I think of secrecy and shame every time I think of the glorious pleasure of food. Because you see, I am a fat woman.
When a thin woman speaks of her love of bread and wine, chocolate, and the heady scent of basil and tomatoes mixed into a good pasta, she is a foodie. Cultured and sophisticated, with tastes and appreciation for the good things in life. When she jokes about her love of fast food and junk food, she’s charming and relatable. A down to earth girl who is approachable, the girl next door who loves a big steak off the grill or a late night run to Taco Bell. When a fat women speaks of food, and most of us have learned not to, she is weak and sinful. A glutton. Entangled by her appetites and flesh, too much flesh. She’s a warning story about portion size and self control, health and bad habits.
This relationship with food is long and complicated. Because there is a point when celebration around food turns into slavery. Where I cannot fathom a sunny day at the pool without the ice cream cones and sticky fingers of summer. When a night out with my husband isn’t complete without appetizers and dessert, when I am filled too full to be graceful or loving, leaving empty spaces between us. When every reward for my children comes with calories, a show of love. Because what is more loving than fresh blueberry pancakes and sizzling bacon on a Saturday morning, or an early morning stop in at the donut shop as the yeasty dough is pulled from the oil hot and steaming, glaze slathered like an offering?
I speak love in the filling of bellies and the dancing tastebuds of special treats. And then I ache when I have to buy new clothes because the old ones no longer fit. I ache when I know what’s ahead for kids if they are not skinny and lithe, athletic or sporty. We live in this world where fat is the only acceptable prejudice because you bring it on yourself, deserve the treatment you get because you haven’t tried hard enough.
How do I hold in healthy respect the gift of food and celebration with the need for temperance and self-control? How do I let the childhood thrill of chasing the melodic hymn of the ice-cream truck not be mixed with apprehension that every anthem of food will be like the pied piper leading us all astray?
I don’t know. But I do know that when I am lost and can’t see, clearing hindrances is often the only way. So I’m slowing down to savor once again. I decided to do a Whole 30 again, to clear the decks of old habits and excess. Only it turned into a Whole 90 with one moderation day in between. I decided to reframe my appetites, to season my feasts with fasting and to open my table and my heart to the good things God has set before me.
I don’t believe a diet is a fix all. It’s not a remodel of the house but it will help clean some of the clutter. Because of some of my bipolar meds and others I have to take, I doubt I’ll ever lose much weight no matter what I eat, as these past 3 months have proven. But I’m ok with that. We’re all doing the best we can and for those who’ve looked at my body and then clucked their tongue at me in the grocery aisle back when all we could afford was top ramen, boxed macaroni, and tortilla chips, I have this to say, food has no morality. It is not good or bad and the consumption of food does not make you good or bad. It doesn’t make up the value of someone. It simply is.
We’ve added so much baggage to our grocery sacks and filled our jaws with pride or shame depending on what we’re eating. I’m learning freedom in Christ and freedom with food doesn’t mean green leafy veggies are holy and hot pockets are little chambers of cheese filled evil. It means I get my sustenance from God. I look to Jesus to fill the ache and in all things and for all things I give thanks.
I stumble in the grocery aisles, my hand poised over the eggplant that will be chopped up and stewed with red curry. I will wake in the morning and drink in the taste of freedom and temperance. But I will also spread the Indian tapestry of oranges and reds, burnt sienna blaze over my table, and let the curry simmer. And I will give thanks, and I will taste and celebrate the spicy incense of curry on my tongue and remember what was never meant to fill.