Monday, July 19, 2010

weight and money.

Friday’s post about my surprise debt wasn’t about weight loss, but I wanted to talk about it as a precursor to today’s post. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about weight and money and the weird and complex relationship between them.

For me, my weight issues don’t stem from any one particular event. I was never abused, unloved, abandoned, or mistreated as a child. I had a really wonderful and loving family. But the one thing that sticks out is that we didn’t have a lot of money. Actually, if you want to get down to brass tacks about it, we were poor.

We lived in a small town where jobs were hard to come by. My mom supported our family of four on a sales clerk’s salary – of less than $18,000 a year. I KNOW. To this day I don’t know how she did it. But obviously a salary that small meant lots of doing without, and lots of stress. My parents didn’t talk about financial stuff in front of us, at least not specifically, but it was obvious that we didn’t get as much new stuff as other kids, that we shopped at different stores, and that we could never even think about school trips or summer camp or family vacations or anything like that.

And of course – OF COURSE – it affected what we ate.

Our meals were relatively normal, I think, especially considering the time and place I grew up in. It was different then, as I’m sure you all know / remember. There was no push on local (or even fresh!) produce, and the idea of a vegetarian meal was practically insane. So we ate a lot of meat (although cheaper meats, like ground hamburger, whole chickens, and inexpensive cuts of pork or beef). We had mashed potatoes at almost every meal. And canned vegetables. (Which to this day I still despise.)

But the kicker was junk food. (Isn’t it always?) Junk food in our house was both highly coveted and highly rationed. It was the reward, it was the compensation, it was what we relaxed into. It was our sweet relief. I think, in a way, it was how our parents treated us. It was how they let us be kids. Sure they couldn’t take us to Disney World, but they could buy 4L tubs of ice cream. We couldn’t get the toys we wanted, but we could get a bag of gummy bears. We may not have cable, but we could have pop to drink while we watched movies.

And so on.

Food was an inexpensive way to feel like we weren’t deprived. It was an easy comfort.

I think so many of our (or at least my) weight problems are wrapped up in this idea of not being able to have certain things. Food is a thing you can always HAVE. When you don’t have love, you can always have food. When you don’t have respect, you can have FOOD. When you don’t have money, you can probably still afford food. When you feel powerless, hopeless, loveless, aimless -- you can always have food. Copious, bountiful, beautiful amounts of food.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my weight loss success almost directly coincided with securing a job that doubled my salary and allowed me to, for the first time ever my life, live more than paycheck to paycheck. I don’t think it’s surprising that my mother had her greatest weight loss success immediately after some financial things got straightened out for her and my dad, a few years after I’d left for university. I don’t think it’s surprising that even today, with everything I have, I still struggle with those weird feelings, that I might not get or have enough. That I need to eat and eat and eat, to make up for what I still don’t have.

These past two weeks have brought those feelings up again -- realizing I can’t buy a condo, I can’t move out of this apartment, I can’t make a life for Shaun and I -- it’s been rough. I have wanted to eat. I have gone to bed, tossed and turned, and gotten up and eaten toast. I have picked out chocolate bars with my groceries. I have had cocktails while making my budget. I am falling back on those easy comforts, the things I know I can have.

I wish I had a neat resolution to this post. I wish I could tell you the lesson that I learned, how I figured out what was enough. But I have no answer. I live in constant fear that when the money runs out (which is entirely possible, given that I work on contact and am not permanent), that the weight will come back. That as soon as I’m threatened with not having enough, I will want again to have it all. I live in constant fear.

Does that sound crazy? Do you notice a weird relationship between food and money in your own life?