“Next day he found me in a pinafore with my cherry pies cooking in the window. One taste of my pie — WELL — !!! So in the kitchen in broad daylight — I said, “Yes!” See how powerful pie is? When’s the last time you saw anyone become a war bride because of a cake, huh??
The price of cake has gone up this year. Not in the monetary sense, mind, but rather in the emotional sense. We should start here: I don’t like cake. Growing up I was always on Team Pie (key lime please!). My whole family was, actually. So as a child when confronted with the standard birthday/graduation/wedding sheet cake covered with what my mother derogatorily referred to as “slick fifty frosting”, it was easy for me to refuse. I didn’t like it so why eat it?
It was all so simple then! Other than being confused by the term “slick fifty” – what does that even mean? – food made sense to me. I knew what I wanted and I ate it. But somewhere between my pie-filled childhood and my eating-disordered young adulthood I lost that ability. Years of restricting everything from fat to carbs to GMO soy products left me with an insatiable appetite. The problem was that after starving myself, I was hungry for everything. Anything!
I remember the first time I overspent on cake. It was half of a Funfetti box cake with the nasty frosting of the same name that had been sitting on the kitchen counter for two days since my son’s birthday party. It was not good, even in the low-standard realm of kids’ birthday cakes. Plus I’m pretty sure he snotted all over it when he blew out the candles. (Nothing says “make a wish” like “I wish that none of the party guests will get hepatitis!”) But I’d been subsisting on a self-imposed diet of very minimal calories for long enough that I was starting to dream of food. Something cracked in me that day and I ate a bite of cake. Then another. And another. Pretty soon I’d dropped the fork altogether and was shoveling it in by the handful. End of day came and the cake was gone. I felt sick.
Unfortunately I did not then recognize the restrict/binge cycle that is familiar to so many eating disordered girls. The next decade or so found me careening in and out of various disordered eating behaviors and over the years I’d find myself stuffing myself full of foods that I don’t even like. Little Debbie Honey Buns, circus peanuts, Tootsie rolls, an entire bag of sugar-free jelly beans that I chewed-and-spit in the parking lot of the drugstore where I bought them and of course cake. Because I wouldn’t allow myself to have what I really wanted – do you know how many calories are in a slice of French Silk pie? – I ended up eating twice the calories of something I didn’t want. And I still felt deprived.
Fast forward several more years (for those of you counting I spent more than half my life being eating disordered) and after several stints of therapy and some brutal bouts of involuntary self-awareness, I finally discovered Intuitive Eating. The basic premise, as explained by Geneen Roth, is simple: Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. And eat what you really want. It was just like I’d done as a child before I learned to put more stock in what other people thought of my food and my body than what I did.
I spent an intense six months re-teaching myself how to eat like a toddler. There were even a few bouts of food throwing, I’ll admit it. Thankfully being the mom of four kids means I had plenty of good examples. But it worked! It was nothing short of a miracle in my life. I honestly never thought I’d be able to eat without anxiety and yet here I was eating pretty much whatever I wanted and still maintaining a stable, healthy weight. Unbelievable!
It’s been sorta smooth sailing ever since. That is, until my most recent Cake Incident. Having thought that cake binges were a thing of the past for me I was ultra horrified to find myself eating handfuls (what is it with the no-utensils thing? Cake makes me forget I have opposable thumbs?) of a store-bought birthday cake leftover from my son’s birthday party last weekend. I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t really want it, I knew as I was eating it that I was going to be terribly sorry about it later. Plus, I also knew that that thanks to all the dairy in it I’d also likely get a wicked tummy ache and possibly a panic attack. And yet I didn’t stop. I broke all the Intuitive Eating rules and then some.
Crawling into bed with my bloated belly I lay there with tears streaming down my face. I was a fraud and a failure! I was supposed to be past all this! My brain raced to my usual punishments: I will run 6 miles on top of my usual workout tomorrow! I’ll only eat 500 calories tomorrow to make up for it! I’ll force myself to look at my body in the mirror and see how fat my stomach has gotten! But then, there was a stillness. All of that was craziness. It was the first stop of the self-hatred train on a one-way trip to crazytown.
Placing one hand on my stomach, I asked it quietly how it felt. Not good, it answered. I waited and listened. My body answered me Too much sugar makes me feel sick, tired, and headache-y. I cried with regret but then my body added I still love you anyhow. I realized listening to my body that I had been ignoring it all day; it was exhausted, stressed out, overworked, underappreciated. I’d been feeling badly about some personal drama and was just coming off the hormone hell that is my monthly cycle. So I ate the cake. And I realized that I learned something hugely important: I’m not going to be perfect, even in recovery. Intuitive Eating means listening to my body in all aspects, not just when it comes to what I put into my mouth, so that I can take gentle care of myself.
Oh, and I learned I still don’t like cake.
Have you ever eaten too much of something you don’t even like? What do you do after you binge to help yourself recover physically and emotionally? And which are you: Team Pie or Team Cake??