The Shaky Future of Overeating

The Shaky Future of Overeating

I have this nightmare: I am out in the cold, with the smokers, clutching my donut…

By Heleen Woest

Recently I saw this add of Kaiser Permanente that really spoke to me. I pondered over it for days. It’s the one where the highways are full of cyclists instead of cars, the vending machines have apples instead of candy bars and people stare in amazement at a cigarette stump that is now displayed in a glass case in the museum. It speaks of a time in the future where something like smoking would be beyond comprehension.

Imagine such a world… Now imagine such a world if you are someone with an eating disorder such as binge eating or compulsive overeating.

I strongly believe that the winds of change are blowing when it comes to eating. People are tired of being overweight, yes, but they are also tired of the emphasis on thinness instead of health. Children are obese, and parents are very worried. Doctors are warning against the dangers of being overweight, but we know that there are just as many dangers related to under eating, starving your body or purging in order to be thin. Diets have been the thing to do and have been a billion dollar industry for many decades, but people are getting fed-up: Diets are not working, on the contrary, obesity and eating disorders are at an all time high.

Something needs to change, but what?
The thing is, all this attention on having to eat less, finding the right diet, and hitting the gym can make things worse. People become angry and more obsessed. They don’t want to give up the things they love, they are used to and many of them (including my generation) grew up with rich food and plenty of it.

It definitely reminds me of smoking: A few decades ago smoking was something people did because it was cool and romantic. It made you look more mature and independent. We all bought into it, and even though I didn’t smoke myself, I also thought a man who smoked had a certain rugged aura, and a woman who smoked made a statement. Smoking was widely promoted in the media and nobody cared much about the hazards and medical consequences.

The same thing is going on with food: We see what it does to our bodies, our children and our lives, and yet we keep on buying some special “treats”. We keep on having social gatherings that is all about the delicious, fat and sugar laden food. We keep seeing thin people eating unhealthy food on TV, and we keep elevating food to the place of comforter, stress reliever and special reward for a job well done. Just think about a Friday night, or taking a vacation. It basically comes down to: “Out with the salads and fruit, I am treating myself!”

Now, listen, don’t get mad. Maybe you are one of those awesome people who have already pulled in the reigns and turned your life around to truly live healthy. If so, I honestly applaud you.
Or maybe you are still reluctant to change, and I’m hitting a nerve right now. The fact is, you have my sympathy. I am still in the midst of the journey. I have made some changes, but overall I am still in need of a great deal of change. I love to entertain, and I plan the menus around “special food” and make “special dishes” when people come over. One problem: Those dishes are not the ones I would make for myself to stick to my healthy eating plan. This happens partly because I want to impress with my cooking skills (even though most health conscious people are not even impressed) and partly because I think that it’s expected. There are for sure some people who come over to my house, expecting to eat all the rich foods and delicious deserts they have been craving all year long. Here’s the catch: They look wonderful because they don’t live like that anymore. I, on the other hand, have extra weight, dull hair and bad skin, because I still entertain and eat like this way too often.

Maybe it’s time for me to get with the “salad times”, jump on the “subway-wagon”, and give in to the “fruit salad” pressure on a permanent basis. Part of me really wants to, and part of me already mourns the three layer chocolate cakes and corn chowder that will have to go. This is probably why I’m only a “half-health-freak” and not a whole one.

My generation and I might have to adjust our thinking. I see my son’s generation: They’re still having their mocha’s and cake, but they share a piece and they ask for dark chocolate. I see so many young people walking around with Jamba juice, and when you want to buy a Sub-way sandwich at a food court in the mall, you have to be prepared to stand in a long line of texting, talking and laughing teenagers.

I’m afraid if I don’t change, I’m also going to be caught, holding my doughnut, out on the front deck, while everyone else are inside, socializing around fish kebabs. Our society has pushed out the smokers, and I feel truly sorry for them. It’s not easy being hooked, and dealing with people who are prejudice against you and your habit. I’m afraid the same prejudice and pressure is coming our way, if we persist in our overindulgence. We hate those people who push and pry, but we know that they’re right. We know that we’re shortening our lives and that we’re taking others with us

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not easy! Actually, to change, can be excruciating. If you have been eating like this all your life, loosing your comfort food can be compared to loosing a loved-one. If “comfort food” was there through your difficult childhood, your lonely teenage years, your late nights studying for finals, your celebrations, your painful divorce, your losses and your joys, then you don’t say good-bye in a day, a month or even a year. It takes time, but it has to be done. Yes, for your children, your husband, your marriage, your health but most of all for you… to be okay as a human being, to know that you’ve changed with the times and that you can live in this hour, free, without having to hide your way of living.

I am walking the journey, away from overeating. I am doing it daily, and I’ve made some great strides. I’ve left bulimia far behind and I picked up healing and freedom. You can join me if you like…

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