punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

One of the things I recently learned from takayla vicariously from someone who taught her was someone somewhere who said something like, "Fat people often don't look at food the same way as thin people. Like at the office. Someone is handing around cookies and you take some and eat them. Your thin coworker takes some cookies, and 'saves them for later.' And you think, 'Are you INSANE??? WHAT IF YOU DIE BEFORE YOU GET TO EAT THOSE COOKIES??? GAAAAH!!!'"

All kidding aside, it brings up a very good point, and the longer that little story runs in my head, the deeper the thread goes.

My relationship with food has always been unhealthy. It started out with good intentions, but the first time I got fat was around age 12, when I was diagnosed with a serious ulcer, and the medication started a severe imbalance in how my body digested food at a critical growing period of my life. Two symptoms lasted the rest of my life. One symptom of the medication I took killed the feeling of being hungry and being full. The other made it so I couldn't eat 2-3 hours after I took it, which is when I woke up, and to this day I can't eat until about 1-2 hours after I wake up. This meant I stopped eating breakfast, which was fine with me, because that meant I didn't have to go to the bathroom during school, where it was a game of Russian Roulette whether your teacher would allow you to go at all, and if you got to go, bullies sometimes hung out in the bathrooms, laying in wait for victims like me (although, you know, when I look back, all I got was verbally harassed in the toilets).

Bullies in junior high, notably Robbie Robertson, also stole my lunch almost daily. I forgave Robbie, because it was explained to me by some teachers he wasn't fed at home, and thus his aggressive behavior was like a starving dog, which fit his persona pretty well. He was also really fat, something I think came from his feeding binges at school, which were part from hunger, part from the need to dominate the other kids and show them who the alpha male was. Like how the top tomcat in the alley is always fat.

My mother also started drinking very heavily during this time. She was the main food source of the house; she controlled the finances and shopping. While her drinking had started to become "an issue" when I was 8, by age 12, it was pretty chronic. She was drunk at least half the time (counting from tipsy => sobbing => stumbling violently => passed out), and usually she got drunk right after a food run, so food was plentiful at first, and then it became pretty desperate towards the end, with the cycle being anywhere from 2-3 weeks on 2 weeks of food. The effects this had on my diet were twofold: one, the whole "gotta eat now while food is here" and two, my mother felt so guilty while sober, she overfed me almost to the point of bursting. I had meals consisting of steak, spaghetti, and mashed potatoes... on the same heaping plate. And if I didn't finish it, I got the guilt of "Don't you like my cooking? Boo hoo hoo..." along with the warning that when she was growing up, food was real scarce because her family was poor and it was wartime.

By the beginning of 8th grade, I was pretty huge. Around 300 lbs on a 5'2" frame. So I sort of became anorexic, although not the same way you see on TV. I started to avoid food. It was pretty easy to start, because already I didn't eat lunch or breakfast, and the ulcer medication. I just stopped eating dinner as well. First for a day. That was hard, but I was under the influence of a lot of new-age junk literature at the time, so I was all about fasting and meditation and endurance. I began to wonder, "How long can I go without eating?" Then after doing one day wasn't so bad, I started doing two. Soon, I began to do three, which seemed to be my limit, although I did four days once in a while due to bad planning with the whole "food in the house" thing. After a while of this, I was pretty light-headed at school. My mother was often too drunk to notice, and my father didn't give a rat's ass whether I ate or not. All he cared about was grades. On top of that, he often had this habit of hoarding food or eating more than his share because, it was explained, "He is bigger than you." I know that was meant to mean bigger people need more food, but it reminded me so much of the bullies who stole my lunch.

Of course, now looking back on it, I bet half my school problems with spacing out came from my poor diet. But I did start to lose pounds, and by 9th grade, I was 5'11" and down to 190, and I slowly went down to 180 over the next three years. In 1987, I was hospitalized, and dropped to an alarming 130 because of a food error on the hospital's part. I was there for almost 2 months, and when I got out, I was living in a foster situation for a short while, before returning home. No one fed me. But I had a job, so I ate when I was hungry.

When I was out on my own at 18, I had no diet skills at all. I literally did not have a connection with what or how much I ate with anything else that happened to me. I ate when I was hungry, if I had money, which was never a sure thing, either. After I was on my own, I ate the best at the FanTek house, because they had steady meals, and I was part of their "meal plan" where part of your rent goes to your food. I rarely bought any food outside of that, I mean, why should I?

After the FanTek house, I lived with another couple for a while, and they were a bit crazy, and I had to hide food from them, since I couldn't afford to eat out every day. I was also saving up for my wedding, so for a year, I ate only baloney and cheese on white bread, a cup of milk, and some Ritz crackers for every meal, and I only ate out about 3-4 times a week (usually Subway's). I had this goal of only spending $20 on food a week (not including eating out, which was about an extra $20/wk), and since I wasn't allowed to cook where I lived, that limited my options. Sometimes I would skip meals as a "hurrah!" Which also explained, probably, why I spaced out at work, but saved to whatever future I had with a wife who I prayed would not change her mind.

Then I got married to someone who was used to 3 meals a day. The shock to my system never recovered. On top of that, takayla and I were so damn poor all the time. When I was unemployed, I starved so my son could eat. And when I could eat, sugars and carbs were cheap in bulk. So I ballooned. Like mad. I am now 350, almost double my weight when I got married.

When I think about that "what if something happens to you before you get to eat that cookie?" I think of Robbie Robertson, who probably also had that mentality. While he probably came from a poor family (or at least a family who neglected him... I mean, come on, if you last name is Robertson, why would you name your kid Robert?), and I came from a fairly wealthy family... we were both struggling to make it from day to day with our eating habits, driven by that feat-or-famine hunger.

So now I can have food pretty much when I want and how I want. So for the last few years, I ate crap that was easy to cook. Because of our wild schedules at first with retail, and then with my tech career, eating regular meals has always been sporadic. We rarely sit down to eat as a family. This was made worse a few years ago when takayla broke her ankles in 2001. She can't shop on her own still, because sustained walking is too painful. She has to have me with her, or shop by myself while she sits in the car, and with my schedule of being gone for almost 12 hours a day, and being exhausted when I come home, shopping is sporadic. Just like when I was a kid.

At various tech jobs I have had in the last 9 years, it was expected that I eat lunch at my desk, which was often interrupted by whatever calamity happened on the graphs or some meeting that whisked me away from my pod. Because I can't drive, I could never go away to a restaurant like other employees, which made me MORE vulnerable because I was the only one left. So it was stuff stuff, chomp chomp, gulp gulp, work work... hell, just today I scheduled some server backups while I ate my sub. I have often wolfed down food because don't have time to sit and watch a bad problem get even worse because I took off lunch. I am allowed an one-hour lunch break here, and only use like 20 minutes of it.

So sometimes when I eat, it's the feeling of feast or famine. "Food may not be here tomorrow: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die." I didn't realize just how deep that was until recently.
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