Haven’t had much to write about lately. Drawing a blank. Writer’s block?
My daughter is taking a writing course. Apparently she finished the first chapter of her book today. Maybe she’ll let me read it she said.
I have been reading The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron. I originally borrowed it from the library and then after a couple of chapters I figured I liked it enough to buy it. But I might have made a mistake there. I’m now through the first section of the book where she explains a set of tools to use. Some of them, like the morning pages, are great. But some of what she says seems to reflect a strange relationship with food. For example, there’s a chapter on the four questions she recommends asking before you eat.
Am I hungry?
Do I feel like eating this?
Do I feel like eating this now?
Is there something else I could eat instead?
So yeah. The software developer in me wants to break this down into a case statement or something. But I won’t go that far. Let’s first take scenario where the answer to the first 3 questions is yes. What’s the point in the fourth question if the answer to the first 3 is yes? Like somehow if I’m hungry and if I feel like eating cheesecake and I feel like eating it right now, I should ask myself if there’s something I could eat instead? Isn’t the answer to that question always yes? Unless the food I have in my hand is the only food in my house, and I have no transportation and the stores are all closed, there is ALWAYS something I could eat instead. Yes, I’m sure the point of that is to make you think about perhaps replacing your choice with something healthier. Like I’m really hungry, I want to eat cheesecake, I want to eat it now, but I’ll have carrots instead. Or an apple. I don’t think so.
What bugs me about these questions is that they focus entirely on the food, and not at all on the person.
Let’s start with the first question “Am I hungry?” That’s a reasonable question. It’s probably a good idea not to eat if we’re not hungry. But we all know that we eat for many reasons beyond hungry. So let’s say I’m reaching for food and I stop and say, “wait, am I hungry?” And the answer is no. According to the questions above, I should just not eat, apparently. She doesn’t give any advice about what to do when the answer to question number one is no, other than to say sometimes we want to eat when we’re bored or frustrated. Yeah. So here’s what I think. If the answer is no, I’m not hungry, there should be another question. “What am I feeling then?” Because if we’re not hungry, but reaching for food, wouldn’t it be useful to identify the feeling? Maybe it’s boredom, anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion, elation, joy. And then, when the feeling is identified, we ask another question. “What do I need?” Maybe I could lie down for 15 minutes, write in a journal, talk to a friend, snuggle with my cat, read a book, wrap myself in a blanket, watch a TV show, take a bath, turn up the music and dance around in my kitchen. No matter what I end up doing, I think it’s really important to be aware of what’s going on with me and what I really need, if food is not the thing I really need.
There are more things in that chapter that disturb me, like how she calls the baked goods the person she lives with makes “delectable enemies”, or when she says “Chocolate, after all, is chocolate, the devil’s food, and I know better than to indulge.” It’s entirely possible that she was trying to be funny, but if so, the humour was lost on me. Statements like that are the seeds of eating disorders. Food is not the enemy. Chocolate has nothing to do with the devil.
In the next chapter, where she talks about culinary artist dates, I start to like the book again. A weekly date where you go to a restaurant and focus on really enjoying your food, or go to a cooking store and look around at great tools sounds like a fun thing to do. But then she progresses into saying that restaurant food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Eat the fillings of the sandwich and skip the bread. Order this instead of that. Except that if I’m making a point of taking myself out on a date, wouldn’t it be better to order what I really want, focus on enjoying it, and stopping when I’m satisfied? Why should I compromise what I really want when I’m treating myself. Like anybody who has ever struggled with their weight hasn’t already tried ordering the salad they don’t really want instead of the pasta they really do at a restaurant. But not many of us have tried ordering the pasta, eating it without judgement or guilt and stopping at the first sign that we’re satisfied.
So far, it’s been a strange, contradictory journey with this book. On one hand, she says “Food itself is not the enemy. Our use and abuse of food is the issue.” In the middle of advice about avoiding bread. And then the next chapter, about HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) talks about how we need to treat ourselves like precious objects and express our feelings. Which is great. Then I read the first page of the Body Buddy chapter and wanted to scream again, because I read this about selecting a body buddy: “You do not want an enabler, someone who tells you you don’t need to lose weight, that your inner beauty shines forth.” Maybe your inner beauty does shine forth. Whether you need/want to lose weight or not.
And overall, there are too many references to Christ and prayer for me. Not that there are a ton of them, but knowing that Christ lost his temper at times doesn’t help me one little bit in any context, and certainly not at all when it comes to how I relate to food. Although I recognize that might be enormously helpful to some people.
Not sure whether I’ll read more of the book or not. It might end up making me angry. Which might lead me to eating chocolate. Which is a sure path into the devil’s arms. 🙂