If you ask James, he’d say I never actually tasted the food I ate.
He’d say food forcefully tumbled into my stomach through a strong suction of air like the eating mannerisms of Patrick Starr from Spongebob.
“You know, you’re stomach wouldn’t hurt if you stopped overeating.” I threw an eye roll; I figured this much.
Week after week, I’d complain about feeling tired after lunch, eating –what should’ve been– two days worth of a meal;
Today, was no different; I was exhausted before the day even really began.
Why did I always eat like it’s the last meal I’ll ever have?
One thing is for certain; I never worried about starving growing up.
If you grew up with a Southern grandmother, then you the act of not eating was impossible.
Some of the most distinct memories I have are family vacations spent at my grandparents in rural South Carolina wherein a few days time we all packed on a SERIOUS gut.
When we arrived my grandpa already carried back an offering of snacks, cookies, and cakes from the local Piggly Wiggly.
At 3 o’clock on a weekday, the smell of dinner cooking on the old stove–rice, mac & cheese, green beans, stuffing and stewed chicken– permeated through the creaky screen door as we unloaded from the car and made are way up the cement steps.
Grandpas’ pork butt finished on the grill shortly after; cooked low and slow with his signature tangy barbecue sauce.
He would’ve slaughtered a whole pig, had it flushed, seasoned and on the grill, lest we starve.
We’d toss our bags in our rooms, and report to the kitchen to sniff around, flinging open the fridge to Wonderland of ready-to-eat foods; it was like Thanksgiving all over again.
Family-sized bags of chips and cereal sat atop the fridge.
The wood-laminated countertops were littered in one corner with cookies, always a fresh-baked cake, and other sweets. In the freezer; butter pecan ice cream was a staple.
In almost every crevice, food sat out for the taking.
When dinner came my grandparents were adamant we eat until our heart’s content.
Calorie consumption was an afterthought, even as young kids. Even if we were only peckish and we ate enough already to hold us over for desserts; we ate anyhow.
It was our grandparent’s “we love you”‘ baked in pies, tarts and weaved in savory, heavy, wobbly paper plates keeping the tradition alive .
Back at home the food we ate maybe a little healthier but how much we ate, well that’s another story.
Fully home-cooked meals sat out for hours simmering on the stove after the first plate.
We all knew we’d go back for more, packing our stomachs like suitcases that might not zip all the way, only to unpack in distress later.
We’d fry up a whole bag of Ore Ida after school, and pan fry a burger or two with a cup of kool-aid on the side.
We’d go out to eat; eat the bread, the appetizers, our entree & sometimes even take dessert t0-go driving back home loosening our seat belt in delight of what we’d just done.
We’d stock up on Chinese food on every-man-for-himself Fridays, with extra chicken wings dipped in mambo sauce to share, leaving scraps for the next day.
During Christmas (the only major holiday spent at home) we’d cook up a bevy of meats–some grilled, some fried, and some baked– along with rich sides, buttery breads and sumptuous desserts; a food coma indeed.
Maybe when we were younger, momma gave us only one plate and then cut us off.
You know, like during the holidays when the young kids were told where to eat and had to ask an Auntie for more food.
But we ate unsupervised.
I’d grown into my teenage years– and into adulthood–to abuse the privilege of having unwarranted access to the kitchen.
In my teenage years, I’d really did a number on myself causing stomach cramps so severe an ambulance was called to the house.
Only propping myself up with pillows at night eased the tension on my chest enough for me to sleep quietly.
Later, at the doctor we found out I was backed up all the way through my intestines i.e. constipation and for weeks my dad joked about how I was full of shit, literally.
James stared in disbelief with a concoction of disgust and genuine concern. I chewed the last piece of my sandwich bit-by-bit, waiting for a burp to clear out the rest.
It’s not that I couldn’t stop eating, I just simply didn’t want to. Once the food hit the table you’d think it almost vanished, as fast as it was gone.
After, I’d stare at my emptied plate in revulsion, not wanting to look at another piece of food.
Why did I continuously succumb to this highly predictable cycle?
Like a child constantly walking into a swarm of bees after already being stung; you’d think I’d learn my lesson.
3-hr food comas after a weekend brunch weighed on my body like a weight too heavy to bench press and the quality of my sleep suffered and the lack thereof fatigued me throughout the week.
My childhood taught me the importance of eating, but left out the discipline needed of eating until I was satisfied.
Only recently, I’ve become an advocate for putting the fork down and becoming more of a slow eater.
Eating a little bit slower, and appreciating food a little bit more has helped me to attack the rest of my day with the ferocity of a gym rat having their pre-workout protein shake.
I realized my problem with overeating was not so much about wanting to enjoy my food, but more about wanting to enjoy the love that went into it.
And in my family, you can never fill up on love quite enough.