It’s Only Food

by Carol Hess on September 4, 2011

Sitting in my kitchen right now are eight pounds of tomatoes, a bunch of fresh herbs, some veggies waiting to be chopped, and a dozen brand-new glass jars with lids.   

I am going to join most of my neighbors shortly.  I am going to preserve my harvest for good eating come the winter.  (Full disclosure:  I didn’t grow the tomatoes.  But I did buy them from the nice man on the corner, and that counts as harvesting, right?) 

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to share my recipe for tomato sauce.  Unless you want me to of course.  But what I am going to share with you is how my relationship with food has changed.  Correction.  How my relationship with food is changing.  Because it’s an event — not a process. 

To hear my mother tell it, I loved my food from the get go.  And maybe way back then, as a baby feeding at my mother’s breast, I did love food.  But that love affair went south in a hurry.  It usually does when you are a compulsive overeater. 

Food stops being something you enjoy and becomes something you use to navigate life.  You lean on it, rely on it, depend on it.  Dependence is just another word for addiction. 

Then comes the day when the food stops working.  It stops calming you down after your boss yells at you.  It stops making you feel less alone when your marriage ends.  It stops comforting you after your mother dies.  It stops doing what it used to do for you. 

Food has become the enemy.  Because it still calls to you when you least want to hear it.  It still has you load up your grocery cart with way too much food.  It still has you stand in front of the open fridge, looking for just the right thing to eat. 

But in your heart of hearts, you know the siren call of the food is luring you to a premature death.  You know there is nothing you can load into a grocery cart to make you happy.  You know there is nothing in the fridge that will fill your emptiness. 

Eventually, if you are really lucky, you stop listening to the food.  You stop loading up on it in the grocery store.  You stop romancing it in front of the fridge.  Instead, you start writing in your journal, meditating, hitting your knees and praying.

Then one day you wake up, and you are excited about food again.  Excited in a good way because it’s good food you want to eat.  Healthy, self-loving, self-nurturing food. 

Buying the tomatoes from the nice guy on the corner, making sauce out of them, freezing the sauce for the winter – those become the acts of a person who uses food to take loving care of herself.  Those become the acts of a person who is changing her relationship with food. 

The nice guy on the corner knows.  After you’ve paid, he slips a huge, funny-looking tomato into your bag.  And he smiles.  “Here, this is for you.  It’s an heirloom tomato.  Don’t sauce it.  Eat it.  You’re gonna love it.”

You’re driving home, looking forward to eating a fresh heirloom tomato.  You’re driving right by the fast food place and the ice cream place and the pizza place and the donut place.  You don’t even notice them.  Because you’re thinking about an heirloom tomato with fresh organic basil. 

And the nice guy on the corner was right.  You do love it . . . . . but not too much.  After all, it’s only food.

by Carol Hess


Categories Healthy Lifestyle, Relationship with Food, Self Care, The Mind Game

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sonja Gwosdezki September 5, 2011 at 12:40 am

I really love this piece. The use of food as a substitute for happiness begins so early in life. How many times do we soothe little ones with a hurt knee, or upset, with some yummy food?
The other difficulty with food dependence is that unlike alcohol, drugs or gambling, food is not something that we can avoid. We need to consume each day to survive, so the hard part can be learning to make peace with food. AS you say, Its just food! Enjoy those heirloom tomatoes and the sauce making. Cheers Sonja


avatar Carol Hess September 5, 2011 at 7:08 am

Yes, Sonja, you are so right. The seeds for emotional eating and overeating are sown early. The other day, I had to sit on my hands and bite my tongue not to offer food to a child who was upset. It’s such an instinctive thing to do, or at least it is to this overeater. I once heard it said that alcoholics put the tiger in the cage, lock the door, and walk away but that food addicts have to let the tiger out of the cage and take it for a walk three times a day (or the tiger takes them for a walk, as the case may be). So good to hear from you, Sonja.


avatar Paula Lee Bright September 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

Carol, I don’t know how I stayed away so long! Reading you is like a splash of fresh water right in my face—I like that, by the way—and it inspires me to do better on my personal divil da food love. I’ve missed you. 😀

You’re so right, yet I haven’t yet gotten to the place where you are. This summer, I felt so weighed down by things to do that I didn’t even get my ever-annual tomatoes and green peppers planted. What is it with me?

My tiger is still a-walkin’ me, but I’m going to go read a bunch more YOU and work on it. I really mean that. But then the day wears away at me, and…

Shoot. You know! I want to change now, though. I don’t feel good. I’m worried about my health. It seems like this is the prime time to change, if I’m ever going to. I don’t want to be this not-quite-well person. Thanks!


avatar Carol Hess September 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Just so long as you LIKE getting water in the face! :) Hey there, Paula. Great to see you here at Star Polisher. This food thing isn’t easy, is it? I’m discovering I had to change my relationship with myself before I could ever hope to change my relationship to food. You hang in there, Paula. You’re telling yourself the truth and you want to change. Those are some pretty huge steps in the right direction, don’t you think?


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