My relationship with food is not of the healthiest or of the easiest, but then, whose is? All sorts of disorders are out there – from just plain over-eating to bulimia, from monophagy to anorexia, orthorexia, pregnorexia, anything -rexia it would seem, and who knows what we will come up with next. Our food industry has pushed the limits to the point that eating with a conscience nowadays means going gluten free, lactose free, sweeteners free, carbs free, pesticides free, herbicides free, GMO free, CO2 free, caffeine free, alcohol free, palm oil free… Oh, and did I mention you also have to free yourself from all those foods whose mass consumption is starving populations or depleting water resources?
In the end, we have become so free that we spend our whole entire day saying "no" – no to products in supermarkets, no to plastic-wrapped lunch box meals, no to 99.9% of restaurant menus, no at joining in the drinks with friends, no to home-cooked meals other than your own, and no to whatever they are serving at your colleague's birthday party. The media joyfully feeds into the contradictions, creating freedom one day to better take it away the next. That is how free we are.
My personal experience in the matter goes way back. My older sister is, among many other destructive things, anorexic/bulimic and I have spent my high school years coming home to the smell of undercooked Bolognese pasta and vomit. Since no one stands alone in a system, I have on my end developed the equally damaging illness of candidosis, a stubborn parasite that has eaten away at my digestive system to the point of generating both a leaky gut and a spastic colon, a stomach that has lost the ability to digest and a bunch of allergies.
Next to stand, my food profile is of the garden variety better known as yoyo dieter. In my early teens, I started trying out just about every diet out there: the calorie-counting, the fat-reducing, the disassociated, the protein, the blood type/food group, the raw, the anti-candidosis, the fasting… Always in the hopes of solving my digestive problems. None really helped. Eventually, the Cookie Monster always came back and with it, the stomach aches. And while it is true I no longer crave fatty, sugary foods – thank you energy therapies – I still eat too much of what I should eat less of. And as the saying goes: too much of a good thing is still a bad thing.
The problem is, there are just too many good reasons to eat: anxiety, sadness, frustration, loneliness, self-disgust… And my all-time favorite: shame. Shame is about feeling mocked, left out, an outsider. Typically, you just want to distance yourself from the crowd, hide, crawl into a cave and never come out. You want to hang around in long and baggy clothes and/or cover yourself in layers of fat. Like any negative emotion, shame is debilitating, immobilizing, hindering and thwarting.
But recently it hit me that shame was about much more than just hiding or protecting myself. Think about that sentence that so often comes back in those moments of awkwardness: 'I just want to die'. Could shame in fact be about the secret urge to kill myself? In other words, when I over-eat, could I actually be on a subconscious suicide mission? It does make sense when you think about it. After all, I am time and time again using food to repress, anesthetize, suffocate and make my body sick, weak and heavy. It is just like any other drug really.
But what part of me exactly is doing this? What layer of my being 'just wants to die'? What is it inside of me that is addicted to food? The answer is so obvious, it took a while to fully hit me. Throughout the centuries men have treated women much like we treat our planet: we have plowed it, exploited it, exhausted its resources, drilled holes into it, pushed it to change shape, hidden all our mess deep down inside its belly. We have built ourselves an increasingly square, sterile, castrated, hollow world, stripped of any integer spirituality and washed dry of any genuine femininity.
Even the way we measure the feminine is very masculine: we do it based on weight, appearance, material possessions such as the latest jeans, the right brand of earrings, the highest heels, the style of hair… these are all externally imposed gender norms that have absolutely nothing to do with being connected to one's sex and libido (in the original sense of the word: life drive).
This system is so deeply rooted that while I feel humiliated by what men have projected onto my body, I feel just as hurt by women. The envy, the comparing, the competing, and the judging are just as violent. You almost feel like you have to apologize for being a woman. And the more disconnected or insecure we are, the more we feel threatened, the more we find reassurance in the stereotypes, and the more we feel the urge to dominate one another with them. We all buy into it at some point (admitting it might be a different thing).
What I came to realize is that this situation weighs very heavily on me, it lays on my stomach like a ton of bricks – impossible to accept. And so there you have it: overeating for me is about recreating in the material world what the abuses on the feminine have produced in my emotional world. In other words, it is my feminine who eats too much, it is my feminine who cannot digest, it is my feminine who gains weight, it is my feminine who feels chained, under-valorized, and it is my feminine who wants to hide, who refuses to live… who wants to die.
Now, many of you will probably tell me that the notion of how gender struggles impact the psyche is not very original. And of course, you are right. You need only look at Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time for an example of how gender behaviors can lead to insanity. But what is new – to me at least – is the realization that this human struggle, this "war of the sexes", does not crystallize itself only in the psyche, but that it can go much deeper, down to the core of the body. It can pollute the soul to the point of generating a battle between physical health and illness, between energy and depression, and ultimately between life and death. It can seep into a being so deep that it can materialize a parasite, reprogram cells, weaken an immune system, and prevent the flow of life.
And the answer was there all along, staring me in the face, written black on white in all those illness dictionaries I have consulted over the years that explain the emotional/psychological causes of illnesses. But understanding it, deep down, really getting it, at the emotional level, gives it an entirely new and unanticipated meaning. That is what makes the whole difference – between grasping something at the intellectual level or actually living it as a certainty at the cellular level. Where I go from here is unclear. Will the realization break the vicious food circle? Will this haha moment make me overcome my food addiction? Will it stop me from sabotaging my femininity? Time will tell. But I have a feeling it can only help. So, what is your food profile?