Someone once asked me what I eat for fun. She was concerned because I eat a plant-based diet and thus was passing over several of the options at the buffet. I was 25 pounds overweight at the time (nowhere near my top weight), experiencing a lot of negative physical ramifications, and determined to get back to normal as fast as possible. Eating for fun was what got me into this mess, and I knew it!
Being 25 pounds overweight qualifies as thin now. Not just normal, average, fine, or unremarkable, but thin. (I was once described as “willowy” at this size, unless it was a typo and she meant “pillowy”…). People will say, “You don’t need to lose any weight.” They will try to talk you out of it. I’ve been told to “be careful.” (That one seems to be specific to women, as though men who want to lose weight will already know to wear a hard hat, ear protection, safety glasses, and a back safety belt). I was once asked, “Are you anorexic?” because I turned down a slice of office birthday cake. I said, “Do I look anorexic to you?” I was in my largest clothing size at the time and would see black spots when I walked upstairs. But a woman who isn’t using her cake hole for eating cake clearly has some kind of diagnosable mental illness. It’s like… walking past a shoe sale!
Recreational eating is a funny concept. I have a friend who used blown-up photos of See’s candies as weight loss motivation. We often talk about treating and rewarding ourselves for our accomplishments and hard work, and more often than not, those treats and rewards are… food. Special dinners. Drinks. Coffee. Desserts. We talk about “cheat day,” as though eating a bunch of junk is like having a GameGenie and we’re just gonna skip a few levels. (Who are we cheating?) (Should it really be called “eat day”?) Our holidays and celebrations revolve around ritual food items.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Eat to live, and not live to eat.” I do and don’t agree. I’ve always felt that if we need to eat meals every day in order to survive, we may as well enjoy them. It’s an opportunity to pause and feel pleasure and gratitude multiple times a day. What are we supposed to do, begrudgingly choke down flavorless kibble and rush back to our desks? Order a lifetime supply of Soylent? While the young Franklin cut back on food so he could buy more books, he seems to have become pretty well-upholstered in his more prosperous later years. Books versus food is a false dilemma for most of us.
“Eat to live” versus “live to eat” is also a false dilemma. We can set rational limits and still eat all our favorite foods – just not in the same quantity and not at the same frequency. We can treat and reward ourselves in other ways; thinking of a ‘cookie’ as a ‘treat’ makes me think of my dog rolling over, sitting up, begging, and dancing on his hind legs for a biscuit. If the answer to a happy life was hidden under a smear of frosting, believe me, I would have found it by now. The idea that tasting a piece of chocolate or a French fry is the pinnacle of life experience is… well, it’s the saddest thing I can imagine. “What do you do for fun?” is a much more interesting question that should have much more interesting answers.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.