MY DANGEROUS KITCHEN: Taking A Week’s Vacation (Confessions of a former bulimic going off her self-imposed diet) by Marcia Singer, MSW

Drawing by Marcia Singer

Everywhere I turn, I run into a forbidden food on my dietary list; it’s gotten intolerable. Can you relate?

I can scarcely recall a time in my life when I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and felt free, easy and safe about it. To be sure, I was well enough fed as a kid. We were not a food insecure family, for which I am terribly grateful. And we took groceries, sometimes, to families who were in need, opening my eyes to the struggles of others less fortunate. Still, now at age seventy-six, when I reflect on eating habits, I run smack into memories of limitations: on what I had access to (mostly up to my parents, and school), what items I thought were acceptable (pork was off limits), or how food had to taste or be prepared (cok veggies to death, except in salads.)

Not unusual that we’re influenced in these ways, it’s a commo9n experience. Except I really took in the admonition parts; they operated either as uncomfortable superstitions, or rules that might make a vigilant God mad at me, or make me sick. Or maybe just make me feel less a part of my family, bucking tradition.

Once off to college, things eased up, though I don’t remember specifics so much. I had allowance money (didn’t stretch far with food choices), and school cafeteria choices (bleccchhh?). At U.C.Berekely grad school, I made a few bucks singing at restaurants, cutting hair at the dorm, things like that to pay for daily needs. I graduated and became a night club entertainer! With my restrictive dietary choices still running the show — whether as a result of my “poor starving artist” mentality (what a horrid meme!) as to what I could afford, or what was OK as per our family and religious dictates –or what was simply accessible.

I also exercised every day –sometimes more than once, to ward off looking overweight. I was insecure about my looks and love-ability, but I maintained a svelte figure. My famous singing coach praised my midriff: “like Cher’s,” she cooed. Which strengthened my resolve to defy foody temptations…

Then came my year of performing in Hong Kong –long story, 1979. What’s relevant here is that seeing thousands of petite Chinese every day, I felt fat, too big. My Inner Ugly Duckling began to peck at me to eat less, or differently, or something! Which led to discovering a secret weapon: purging. Often preceded by binging on forbidden foods, mostly sweets and fried foods. I became bulimic, hiding it for eleven long years –even from a live in lover, and two close girlfriends who had confessed to having the same eating disorder as me. I was so ashamed…

Scoot that movie up to today. And the actual dietary regimen I began twenty-six months ago that put the fear of Mother Nature in me about “lectins.” Teensy proteins found in plant skins and seeds there to protect plants from being eaten by creatures like me. Teensy particles that pierce gut walls, leading to leaky gut and inflammations anywhere in the body. And the admonition to avoid getting fattened on corn or corn-fed beasties. I gave up –in organic fashion — peanut butter, cashews, sunflower seed s and sprouts, pumpkin seeds, whole grains like brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, oats, barley. I also eschewed popcorn, pea protein, and eating beans and lentils unless thoroughly pressure cooked. The list goes on: A1 dairy products (Holstein cows), squash including zucchs, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, most fruit if not in season –well, you get the idea. Rad! But the science presented was voluminous, convincing. And the doctor recommending it (and more) was on PBS, and had many famous clients.

I girded my loins and prepared for battle with my kitchen.

For the first few months, I felt energized, and lost some abdominal fat I had acquired a couple of years ago. I didn’t mind so much working around the “no” foods, concentrating on the “yes” groups. But lately, I just feel like I’m in eating prison. Again. Grocery stores, farmer’s markets — and my own kitchen — seem like dangerous places, tempting me to indulge foods that I agreed to make unacceptable.

There’s hope though. I’m recalling, years back, having an “aha!” moment about eating: that feeling appreciation, or gratitude, while eating, produced a higher vibration in me than eating with hesitation, wariness, doubt. That Love overrides Fear… That accepting food offered, whether organic or not, or on my preferred list or not — or rejecting that offering — was best done with kindness and appreciation. That would get me off the diet fence; really feeling free to choose, without fear of screwing everything up for the rest of your life. I also found that giving myself permission to eat whatever I want –means that mostly I choose wisely; that forbidding something made me more apt to indulge unwisely.

I have to get back to that Truth. Find the safety and joy in eating what I want, when I want, as I can afford and find available. And when I do hesitate, or feel disgruntled, or ashamed –give myself and my inner kid a big hug. Breathe, choose, eat. Eat Happy. Eat from appreciation, no matter what I am putting into my mouth and body. Eat with trust, faith, Presence. That’s my new goal, my new food warrior cry. My kitchen is now my friend, a cooperative partner. I am no longer going to let fear ruin my meals or snacks. Or the old fear of not looking attractive enough precede my actions… Surely there must be an easier, more delicious way to be a woman, an elder woman, still wanting to be in love with her life?!

Again, love trumps fear. Kind presence encourages a natural immunity to anything we might otherwise feel insecure about. It’s time to be brave and try a week of shame-less eating. Care to join me?

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Marcia Singer, LoveArts Foundation

Seven decades of exploring the Inner Life, writing down the bones. Careers: singer-entertainer, tantric-shamanic healing artist; mindfulness/shakti educator