I worked at the Business Library for two years in college. TBH, it was one of the easiest jobs I’ve had, in terms of workload and responsibilities. I spent a lot of time at that desk feeling hungry, feeding a food obsession, and searching for recipes. Pinterest wasn’t a thing, but if it were, I would have had ALL THE FOOD BOARDS filled with “inspiration.” I brought food magazines to work, looked at food blogs during work, browsed diet websites for “low calorie” recipes, and then maybe did some homework. But it was hard for me to get a lot of homework done, because, if you haven’t caught on yet, I was hungry. Most of the time, all I could really focus on, was food. Or at least the idea of it.
I thought I loved reading about food.
The truth: My body was starved, so it developed a food obsession. The other truth was that I didn’t cook very often. In fact, most of what I created in our college apartment was never going to make it on a recipe blog (that I didn’t have) or an Instagram account (that didn’t exist yet, either). It certainly wasn’t “inspired by” the food I spent hours staring at online or in magazines. It met a certain calorie count, or was a meal with friends when I let the guards down, or it was a bowl of cereal because hi, I was in college. (OK, probably microwaved oatmeal. I didn’t eat much cereal then.)
The only real food obsession I had was with eating “healthy,” all the time. (Otherwise known as Orthorexia.)
In the first few years of my recovery, I did cook more often.
I was still very interested in food. I even blogged about it! I posted semi-decent recipes with terrible photos. My recipes were even on Pinterest, when the time came, and did pretty well in terms of website referrals. (So, sure, I stand by those terrible photos.) I looked up recipes to host friends for dinner, experimented with things I saw on food blogs, and opened my mind to new things, sans calorie restrictions. It was a good time, a better time, for me. But a food obsession lingered. It came and went.
Now, I cook a lot of the same things.
I rarely look up a recipe, or get excited by reading about food. I love that other people are passionate about cooking and recipe development. We need those people! They make dinner parties, family meals, and holidays much more interesting. But what I love more is that, now, I’m honest with myself about my own interests.
I don’t have a strong desire to spend hours cooking, or recipe searching, or recipe developing. I don’t subscribe to food magazines anymore, or browse food sites. I hardly think about food until it’s time to eat. Then, I’m grateful for leftovers, or whatever seasonal things we have on-hand to make whatever else sounds good in that exact moment. Not the hours that preceded that moment.
I love going to some of our favorite restaurants, and finding new ones when we’re traveling. I loved our Friday night tradition of nachos and wine at a local wine bar, because 1) the nachos are incredible, and 2) it required no thought or planning. We looked forward to it because it became a date-night routine, and because we had nachos and wine every Friday. What’s not to love (if you love nachos and wine)? Then, I stopped drinking and nachos sounded horrible for a few weeks (agony!) and we haven’t really picked the tradition back up yet.
I don’t spend hours fantasizing about food anymore.
I did, for a long time. It wasn’t a fascination, it was a daydream that my deprived body and brain couldn’t resist. It was a coping mechanism during a time of restriction.
I thought about what I needed. I obsessed over what I knew I probably wouldn’t eat. I spent hours staring at recipes I didn’t have the capacity—mentally or emotionally—to make. Because those recipes require effort, and attention to detail, and a passion for food, and an appetite that gave permission to variety, spontaneity, and open-mindedness. I had no energy for any of the above.
Now, I don’t think about food until it’s time to think about food.
When I feel a hunger pang, or plan a meal out with friends, or need to plan out what foods we need for the week, I’ll think about food.
I love watching passionate cooks in the kitchen, and I love benefiting from those passions, fork to mouth. I love that there are dietitians who carry this passion into their work, so we can all have places to refer clients when they want some inspiration.
And now I know my scope. It doesn’t include bringing you elaborate meals with mediocre photos. Instead, I took the path of sharing my meals for the sake of talking about intuitive eating and not talking so much about how “amazing!” everything tastes, but how sometimes it just is—it tasted good, and satisfied what I needed or wanted in that moment.
FWIW, I want to give you permission to not be THRILLED about food all the time.
It’s okay to not be interested in creating a Pinterest board for recipe inspiration. It’s okay to need a break from the onslaught of Instagram food porn. It’s okay to have a sandwich for lunch that doesn’t have eight layers of vegetables and gourmet cheeses and perfectly green avocado slices, drizzled with a sauce that’s to die for. It’s okay if it’s a peanut butter sandwich and you happened to love it, or a grilled panini from your favorite sandwich shop that you also happened to love. It’s okay if it’s a bowl of cereal, because that was practical for you in that moment.
It’s okay if you don’t get excited about meal planning. It’s okay if you choose to eat out when that feels like what you need. It’s okay if your partner does the cooking, or the grocery store hot bar does the cooking. It’s okay if your meals aren’t always perfectly balanced, or Instagrammable. It’s also okay to switch gears and get really pumped about a recipe you DO want to try the next. (I have my moments.) You do you.
It’s okay to not love food all the time.
It’s okay to meet you needs in the moment, then move on.
If you feel a sense of food obsession within yourself, browsing recipe sites for days only to salivate over meals and desserts you feel you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have, please take a second to think about what your body and brain are trying to tell you. Food obsession born of restriction and starvation isn’t okay, it’s a cry for help. I’ve heard it before. I know the sounds well, and I want you to know there are ways to clear that space in your mind for other things that actually do excite and nourish you.
If you notice a feeling that you “should” love food, because you’re a dietitian or because your friends consider you a foodie, or whatever, it’s okay to sit back and say, “Actually, I just love to eat but I don’t LOVE to cook.” Sometimes food is food is food. I get you.