Growin’ up, how many of us heard an Adult say, “You don’t know what you’re missin’?”Not sure why they were sayin’ it to you but when my Mother hit me with that note, she wasn’t really concerned with me “missin’” out on anything news worthy. It was usually said in order to deliver unto me a truckload of horrendous guilt…guilt for not eatin’ what she wanted me to. Now that I’m older, I realize it was her own guilt she was dealin’ with. Guilty for a good many things she lacked. By the time that life-changin’ Ah-Ha moment slapped me upside the head, though, the damage was done. I was, excuse my bluntness, just flat out fat. Eating Disorder implanted. Damage unknowingly done.
I wasn’t a fat kid. If anything, I was malnourished. When my mother hit her glorious alcoholic years, food was far and hardly seen. Lookin’ back, I know at times it started to eat away at her especially when she and my Step-Father would stumble upon .99 cent Whopper coupons. They scored six or seven of those things as a ‘special’ treat, knowin’ full well I’d never touch one. I was a kid. Things like onions and mayonnaise grossed me out. While I loved a good garden tomato, eattin’ one on a Burger was like sucking snot out of another kid’s nose. Yeah, to a kid, it was that gross! lol Back then, cheeseburgers were .39 cent but that was too much to spend on me. No, might have made a dent in their Whopper money. This, after, they made sure to throw a couple of cases of beer in the car. See, that was their main diet. Beer and Cigarettes.
And as I said, lookin’ back, I know there were times it started to claw into my Mom’s conscious. That was usually when she’d bring it up to my Grandma.
“Momma,” she’d say, “I just can’t get her to eat. All she wants is Oodles of Noodles or that Mac & Cheese in a box. I worry she isn’t getting’ enough nutrition.” I think my Grandma knew my mother was as full of it as she was three sheets in the wind. Grandma would just say in that stern tone, “Let her eat it then.” Grandma had just played God, easin’ my Mother’s guilt as she popped the top on her next beer. At least she ensured there would be one of two things always in the cabinet, though—Ooodles of Noodles. Not mac and cheese. That was about 3 cents more a box. *eye roll*
Yet, my Step-Father, who most of the time seemed rather annoyed that I was even breathin’, began to “lock up” the Oodles of Noodles in the bottom of his gun-cabinet. For some off the wall reason, he got it into his head that I was makin’ a hog of myself and eating to damn many in one day. He wasn’t concerned that I might get fat. It was pissin’ him off because I was costin’ him money. He wasn’t, after all, made of the stuff.
The idea was to ration them out – before they took off, leavin’ me behind all day and most of the night while they rode the back roads and drank. Every mornin’ they were supposed to throw me a pack on the kitchen counter like throwin a dog a bone. Didn’t happen.
Shoot, even I understood that was a lot of responsibility since they had to focus and keep their minds on their own business – couldn’t take off and forget the damn beer after all. That’s why I didn’t get mad when they kept forgettin’ to throw me out my ration. Lucky for me, I was a girl growin’ into all kinds of much-needed survival skills. These were the days when a kid could run the woods and neighborhoods all day until nightfall. (Which is what I always did.) So, how did I not starve? I took it upon myself to learn how to pick a lock. And that’s what I did. I picked the locks. I ate. I ate one pack a day—didn’t want them to know I was hittin’ the stash—and I lived like that growin’ up until I went to live with my biological father for a few years. I lived off of Oodles and Noodles, School lunches – when I had school, any snack I could grab once in a blue moon at a friend’s house and, I learned early on, Churches often had picnics and Dinners. Those were great. While the Churches and such wasn’t an everyday thing, it was, however, a break from the norm. And yet when I did get my hands on “real” food, I didn’t realize how a “real” eating disorder was hookin’ it’s claws in me. For example, if I went to a picnic and there was Cake, I hoarded it. I stuffed as much in me as I could before anyone else could take it away. It was the same with all the food, really. I was like a Hamster—shove as much in my mouth as possible. I didn’t start with sweets, Id go right for the good stuff—vegetables, potatoes—some meat. I loved healthy food more than junk. Id take a jar of pickles over a piece of cake any ol’ day.
Strangely, I didn’t get fat when I went to live with my biological father, either. Even though, he had food in the house and my Step-Mother cooked supper every night. Now, I was never big on meats and her’s kind of sealed the deal. She’d boil steak. No joke. But she did make these amazing salads and that’s what I would pig out on unless one of my brothers or Dad bought a pizza. Then, I’d gorge—again, having no self-control. And at the schools, they served things like Bagels. (This was up North). That was heaven, but again, I didn’t get fat. I guess because I never stopped moving.
Once I was out on my own, I still didn’t jump the food-wagon like I was almost destined to do later in life. I ripped and ran—work, party, hanging out with friends, river, swimmin’—that sort of thing. When I started dating the man who I would marry, he was famous for always having a soft drink beside him. He’d buy me one and Id take a few sips, but I usually ended up wasting the rest. When he moved in with me, he started keeping a case of drinks in the fridge. One day, out of the blue, I grabbed one. It occurred to me just then, “Wow, I can get a drink anytime I want.” And unfortunately, that’s what happened. In the evenings, over ice, every evening, I’d drink two – three can drinks. And this continued on as I got pregnant with our second and third child. A little after, I started cookin’ homecooked meals. A lot of mashed potatoes, fried chicken and tenderloin, vegetables, etc. Eventually, the weight piled on. I guess my body wasn’t raised to process eating. Honestly, I look at a slice of bread and gain 30 pounds. Aside from the fried foods, though, I wasn’t real big on bread – thank god! I was big on food—real food—was this what I was missin’ my whole life?
I cook a lot healthier now than I did then. During winter months, around Holidays, I slip right back into those bad Southern habits, but the rest of the time, everything is grilled or sautéed. No bread. No flour. We don’t bring soda and a lot of sweets in the house but I could devour a bag of apples without even trying—something else I lacked growin’ up—fruit. So, I guess fruit is now one of my eating disorder – triggers.
They say they put a lot of a bad stuff in food now days, things that make us more addicted than what we should be. I don’t know about that. I just know if given the chance, I will eat something I’m not used to having, like there is no tomorrow. Doesn’t matter if its Shrimp or Sautéed Green Beans and Mushrooms. And while I’m not crazy for sweets, I know better than to go near a chocolate cake. Food is the hardest habit I’ve had to break. I have a good life compared to the one I had growin’ up. I have a good husband and great kids. I don’t eat out of self-pity or depression—I’m not a depressed person. Cookin’ makes me happy. It takes my mind off my troubles. It’s a way to bring people together. Everyone fightin’? Sit em all down to a good meal.
I eat because I have a deep fear of starvin’. One of the reasons I liked my husband was because he was a good ol’ boy. A hunter. I knew no matter how tough times got, me and the kids would NEVER go hungry. EVER. And we haven’t. I often wonder how many other people had an eating disorder and what exactly caused it. If our stories aren’t exactly text-book material.
So what’s the answer? I honestly, don’t know but I am gettin’ the idea.
Eating cleaner seems to help me. Staying away from breads, pastas and anything processed. Growin’ our own food, raisin’ our own or huntin’ for it—for some reason, even if I cook these things in a “bad way”, I eat less of them. Except a big pot of Green Beans and Taters, now, for some reason, I could eat a whole pot of them! (Thanks Grandma!)
I make it a point not to repeat my past. My children will never know the road I walked. My husband said once, and maybe I caught myself saying it, “You don’t know what your missin’.” in reguards to one of our kids tryin’ somethin’ new. I make a mental note not to say that. because I had a Mom who would say, “You don’t know what you’re missin’.” And now, I reflect back on that and think, she was right. But now, more than ever, I wish I still didn’t.