Someday, I Will Be Able To Write About Food

Michelle Riddell Body Image

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Someday, I’ll write about food. Someday, when food is not my best friend and worst enemy, my punishment and reward, my drug, my escape, my prison, I will write about it. When bread is just flour, yeast, and water and not my sense of well-being sliced end to end. When meals are shared pleasures, not panic-inducing charades of me pretending I’m not hungry or that I ate a late lunch.

Someday, I will be able to write about the nourishing properties of food instead of how it can sabotage my mood. I will eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I will write reassuring affirmations reminding other young women that food has no intrinsic moral value; it is neither inherently good nor bad. I will write a handbook of all the rules—a lifetime of rules—governing what, when, and how I can eat. And then I will burn it.

Someday, I will write volumes exposing my personal food lore as bunk. I’ll admit without shame to superstitiously using the same plate, bowl, and fork; I’ll testify to the dangerous seduction of secrecy; I’ll go public with my aversion to white foods. I’ll renounce my sacred rituals, which I’ve clung to for so long, as an unhealthy need to ascribe meaning to randomness. I’ll vow to leave be the things I can’t change.

Someday, I’ll write a wistful list of what I could have accomplished in the time I spent obsessing about food, time spent hating myself for needing food, ignoring the screams of my stomach digesting itself, standing up slowly to ward off lightheadedness, watching the clock because no meals before 4 pm. Months and years of time spent alive without living, kneeling at a vain and vicious altar. Recover, relapse, recover, relapse: unlike other vices, one can’t simply abstain from eating.

Someday, I won’t use food as emotional currency to trade away pain. I’ll force myself to stew in boiling hurt till my skin grows thick and impervious. I’ll relive the exponential humiliation of adolescence—when body image is so tender and easily damaged—but this time, I’ll deflect the thoughtless slights of parents, brothers, coaches, and boyfriends who unwittingly uphold a deadly ideal. I’ll take up space—as much as I need—this time, without apology. I’ll be loud. I’ll be seen. I’ll be heard.

Someday soon, I will write about food. I will write a eulogy to its power and allure. I will write honestly, blamelessly, albeit self-consciously.

But sooner still, I will write of my daughter. I will write of her not being the boy I always imagined; how I have a visceral surge to protect her small body, and how her very femaleness reflects my own. I will write of the muddled and irrefutable truth that what I do to myself, I also do to her. If we are so indistinguishable, how can I ever be sure which one of us I am punishing? Could I ever be disgusted by her thighs, her belly, her breasts? Would I make her go to bed hungry? It is this image—this profound slap—that inoculates me from self-harm. It is her image and mine, an assimilated overlay, which saves me.


About the Author

Michelle Riddell

Michelle Riddell lives with her husband, daughter, and poodles in rural mid-Michigan where traffic stops for turtles, tractors, and threshers. She is a free-lance writer and an editor at Mothers Always Write. She substitute teaches at the local elementary school and is continually surprised by how much she loves it.

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February 2016 – Food
Nourish yourself – mamanomnom
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