Dear Food: I love you, I hate you.

Food, I’m calling you out, bitch.  I’m sick of your necessity for survival providing an excuse for you to endlessly frustrate and antagonize me.

There’s a cliche about how you can’t have anything good, fast, and cheap– you have to sacrifice one property to obtain the other two.  But you have to make it more complicated than that, of course.  With you, the difficulty is how to combine tasty, healthy, fast, and cheap.  And as a poor person without much time and energy to spare, who needs good nutrition to maintain my precarious mental and physical well-being, and who admittedly wouldn’t eat ramen or a peanut butter sandwich unless it was the last desperate option to prevent my imminent demise, and then possibly still not– I really need all four of those characteristics in you.

Then add on the fact that I’m strictly vegetarian, and trying to go (mostly) vegan.  Even when I sacrifice my taste buds’ fondness for the fatty scrumptiousness that is all forms of cheese, and face up to the extra time it takes to manufacture decent dairy substitutes, the kicker is the grocery receipt.  Cashews, faux milk, nutritional yeast and tofu, you guys are extortionate and I will say again, I am poor.  Oh, sure, tell me it’s my fault: things would be so much simpler if I lived on hot dogs, 60% lean chopped cow, and processed cheese-like product.  Well, some of us have a little self-respect and know what’s in those things and also don’t like feeling like a balloon with a brick in it.  Who are you to tell me I have to suffer through your sodium- and lipid-laden travesties for the sake of my bank account?

Oh, you say that then there are bulk dry goods full of non-animal protein and vitamins.  Of course I am not against the rice and lentils that my sweet Person so kindly boils up when the refrigerator’s empty or I am grumping about on the couch refusing to move.  But sometimes after a stupid long hard day I want some hot gooey strongly-seasoned comfort food, which brings us back to square one of having to either 1) pay a nice restaurant more than I can afford to make me something yummy and nutritious; 2) get something cheap but satisfying that I’ll later regret because it makes me feel like said balloon-with-brick-in; or 3) put in time and effort from my non-existent reserves to create something that fits the bill, literally and figuratively.  So what am I supposed to do, food?  Huh?

Sometimes I think the problem is really that I love you too much.  There is absolutely a codependency at play here.  If I was able to look coldly at you as a source of balanced nutrition, all would be solved.  Instead, I turn to you for comfort, entertainment and pleasure, even when I know it’s wrong.  You were there for me when I stopped drinking and then stopped smoking.  When I’m feeling miserable, I look to you for distraction, indulgence and solace.  When happy times arrive, you are my go-to prop for celebrating and, again, indulging.

In addition to the quadrangle of doom decried above, there is also the way you cling to me.  It’s so easy to take you in and so hard to convince you to leave.  Yes, I know that I am within a healthy weight range for my height, toward the low end in fact, and that the media is selling me on unrealistic, unhealthy and abnormal models of attractiveness and sexuality.  I know I’m supposed to learn to love myself as I am and accept that “this is how a woman is supposed to look,” and all that.  I wear a size 0 in pants, or sometimes kids’ sizes.  But it doesn’t matter, because when I look at myself, all I see is you all over me.  Short, stocky legs developing cellulite.  Soft bulgy belly.  Dangly flabby arms.

Almost every day, when I look at that evidence of our unhealthy trysts, I swear I’ll stop enabling you and put myself back in control.  I switched to skim.  I started drinking my tea unsweetened.  I swore off keeping chips and sweets at home.  But you always seem to find ways to come crawling back and get under my skin.  I’m worried you’ve been here for so long that we’re inseparable, and I don’t want to have to accept the way you weigh me down.  I want to feel skinny.  I want to not have to stare glumly down at my waist and thighs and berate myself every time we meet.  I want to not feel ashamed when I walk around in my underwear and am incessantly conscious of my flaws.  Why do you do this to me?  Why are you, like all the best substances, so addictive and yet so toxic?

Food, your silence irks me.  I am trying to place the blame on you here, but instead I end up talking to myself.

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