Beautiful Olive Oyl, Ugly Me, Part 1

As I have frequently pointed out, “It’s important to change not only what we eat, (clean, single-ingredient foods including grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild, organic, local, in season, gluten-free), how we eat, (in the Relaxation Mode, non-distracted, slowed down, observing bio-circadian-nutrition rhythm), but also to address and enhance our relationship with food, eating, appetite, body-image, and ourselves.

In today’s article, I share my own experiences and relationship with eating, body-image, and myself in my younger years. In Part 2 of this series I focus on the evolution of my relationship with eating, food, appetite, my body, and my spirit.

My Background

Once upon a time…I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and as much as I wanted.

As a very young child though, I was skinny and a very picky eater. I ate small portions and I didn’t like most foods. I almost never finished what was only my plate. I complained frequently that I was, “full,” and I didn’t want any more to eat. Back in those days, the only food my mother could count on me to eat with gusto was her spaghetti and meatballs. I also remember loving sweets and chocolate ice cream. Somehow, my belly always had room for Carvel and Pied Piper.

Growing up in an Italian-American household meant we had pasta for dinner, with “gravy meat” – meatballs, sausage, beef, and whatever other type of meat was cooked in the sauce, between 3-4 times a week without fail. Bread was always nearby to wipe up any remaining sauce on the dish. Homemade chicken soup was always served on Monday evenings, which was great, but also included a bowl filled with broken-up spaghetti into which the soup was poured.

Of course, being American, I loved to snack. In childhood, coming home from school, I’d be greeted with varying treats including a large round black-and-white cookie, Hostess Pink Snowballs, Drake’s chocolate cupcakes, and other delectables. In fact, for breakfast day-in and day-out, I’d eat Entenmann’s coffee cheesecake, cinnamon danish, crullers, and whatever else was on the table. Lunch was something hot at school, though not necessarily nutritious, or I’d bring a sandwich filled with processed luncheon meats on white bread.

Things of course, didn’t get better in my later teen years. Now having the freedom to go out at night, my friends and I would meet, and one of our favorite ways to spend a Friday or Saturday evening together was to blast the music, drink some beer, and eat 2 large pieces of Sicilian pizza, (the square-shaped, heavier pizza.)

Self-Starvation for Love

You can imagine how as a skinny kid started I started putting on the pounds once I entered puberty. More than one person shared their unsolicited opinion with me that my hips and thighs were getting, “fat.” In college, I reversed everything fairly quickly by simply cutting my food calorie intake drastically. I went from 152 lbs. to 113 lbs. I did this all while playing on the college softball team. Imagine trying to perform athletically, attend classes, write papers, and study for exams, all while existing on a super low, quasi-anorexic calorie count.

 I ate very little, and I started having strong cravings to chew. Eating yogurt every morning for breakfast caused me to miss chewing.  I switched from yogurt to eating a dry, plain bagel in the mornings. I also enjoyed chewing on a piece of baked chicken or something similar for dinner. Nothing else. At least I had some chewing satisfaction. It never dawned on me that I was extremely deprived nutritionally.

Not very glamorous, healthy, logical, or sexy I’d say. I was miserable, but I kept it up because I continued to get positive praise from those around me. “You look great!” “How’d you do it?” “Keep it up!” The comments on one hand made me feel good about my body. On the other hand, they made me feel worse about how I must have looked to people before I started to starve myself. I felt friends, classmates, and even some family members, not only preferred my thin-as-a-rail look, but that they also liked me more. I became an Olive Oyl look alike and somehow that made me much more lovable.

Considering my Options

As you may have guessed, this lack of eating didn’t last forever. Thankfully. At least I can say, “thankfully,” now 40 years later. But, back then, it was a dilemma and I perceived my options as limited, and saw them accordingly:

Scenario 1: Don’t eat, lose weight, feel tired, sluggish, down, but get a rush from the positive attention and feedback of others. I could even feel somewhat attractive.

Scenario 2: Eat, overeat, love what I was eating, but feel overly full and uncomfortable in my body. Plus, suffer from a sense of rejection, and thereby, renewed low self-esteem. Never feeling good enough.

Ugh! It’s hard and painful even to look back on how things used to be. In hindsight, it’s amazing that in the mental/emotional states I was in, and how I perceived things in my life and in the world-at -large, I would ever have been able to change my relationship with food, eating, and myself. Time went on however, and with touch-and-go efforts, authentic healing eventually started to tip-toe in my direction.

Please tune in next month to read about how I dealt with the above dilemmas and more as life progressed.

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