“Doof” is “food” backwards and I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do for years. I’ve been trying to automate my relationship with food and that’s the last thing I should have been trying to do. I have often had the conversation, and I’m not the first person to have it, that it’s easier for an alcoholic – they just stop drinking alcohol, but if food is your problem, you can’t just stop eating.
And unfortunately, that’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been trying to make food a periphery to life. When I go on a vegetable juice only diet, or the milkshake ones I did before that, or the beans one I did before those, I always have the same ambition. I want to eliminate food, so I don’t have to think about it ever again. I want to abstain. And just drink vegetable juice and everything will be entirely automated. I think that I’ll never again eat bread or biscuits or cheese or chicken fillet baguettes. I fantasise about being a person who hasn’t eaten pizza or cake for 25 years. Of course diets like that don’t work. I have everything the wrong way around.
Since I started meditating, I’ve been reading a lot around mindfulness, and mindful eating in particular. The aim shouldn’t be to automate my food, so I never have to think about it, so I just never have to cope with pizza or chocolate digestives ever again. That’s not life. That’s not really possible. I should be trying to go the other way. Instead of trying to make my eating even more mindless, I should be making my eating more conscious. I should be trying to learn how to enjoy food, how to taste it again, how to savour it, how not to be afraid of it, and of course, how to respond to hunger and to fullness. And to do this, I need to start appreciating food. I need to stop hating it, which is what I do now. It sounds counter-instinctive to me, but I need to do it. The only way to fix my relationship with food is to normalise it, not to make it even weirder.
I need to eat more slowly, more attentively. I need to not ban foods. I need to learn what hunger is. I need to smell and taste food. I need to think about it and plan it and prepare it and cook it, instead of just buying something ready to eat and then eating it while walking home from the shop.
So that’s my plan. I’m going to learn to love food.
I think this also applies to my body. I went for a swim last week and was really zen-like for two days afterwards. Going to the swimming pool always makes me feel happy and peaceful and I was never sure why. I can’t even swim more than one stroke. I put it down to the relaxation of being in water or being in a sauna, but there’s more to it than that. And I think I know what it is.
Like most people, I have a fairly constant running commentary going on in my mind, chattering away in the background. Like anyone else’s it’s often critical, it’s often worried, but my running commentary has one theme that dominates all others. It shouts “YOU’RE SO FAT” at me all the time. If I’m talking to someone I haven’t met before, especially someone in a position of authority or someone good-looking, it turns into a roar. I literally can’t hear what the other person is saying to me because all I can hear is a voice in my head saying that I’m too fat to talk to beautiful people, or that I’m too fat to talk to someone wearing a suit, or I’m too fat to be in a university, or I’m too fat to have such skinny friends, or I’m too fat to be in a nice shop. This voice shrieks at me in meetings with my supervisor and encounters with hot men, sometimes rendering me entirely mute.
But when I’m at the swimming pool, I lose the self-consciousness about how fat I am. I’m practically naked and everyone can see. There is no way to hide it. And yes, I’m conscious of it, but the voice in my head shuts up. There’s consciousness, but no self-consciousness. When I’m mindful, when I’m aware of my body, I don’t hate it anything as much.
On one level, this is an argument for nudism, which I have no objection to, but really it’s an argument for me to care for and love and get to know my body better. Then maybe I can be better at dealing with everyday life.
None of what I’ve written today is new to me. But recently, all of these thoughts have been coinciding for me and I feel that mindfulness, increased awareness and consciousness may be the way forward for me, both in my relationship with food and my relationship with my body.
I’ll keep you all informed.