Our bodies are our homes. And yet we can be subject to so much temptation day-to-day about what to eat. In this post I want to write about my experience with being healthy in an unhealthy home. I’ve found that it is possible, but it’s difficult, and it might manifest as akin to an obsession when it’s really a strong front (but a proportionately strong front) against the powerful temptation of junk food.
Junk food is tempting. It’s salty, fatty, carby and it numbs out your boredom or disinterest so you’re essentially riding a degrading wave of bliss until it’s gone, and then many people do it again: they eat fatty, salty food again.
When I lived on my own, I didn’t consider what exactly was bringing me the utter and utterly palpable sense of peace I felt each day. Was it the quiet? Was it the self-reliance and knowing things would be exactly as I had left them when I walked out the door as when I came home? Was it not having a roommate who listened to hardcore metal starting at 11:30 p.m.? Yes to all those things, but I found there was more.
When I moved back with family, I didn’t realize food would be one of the things I would struggle with the most. In my apartment, I was in utter and blissful control of everything that made its way past the door. I bought vegetables, pulses, fruits, smoothies, frozen fruits, gluten-free breads (though rarely), and when I ate animal products, organic animal products.
I cooked and ate healthy food, with salad being one of my go-to options. I didn’t buy anything I thought I shouldn’t eat.
My home became a sanctuary not just because it was free from psychological rubble of dysfunctional relationships or rote disagreements, but because I was free from all temptation when it came to food. I couldn’t get tempted to eat candy or chips or fried food because there was never any around.
And I only realized how freeing this was when I was back to my family’s home and their kitchen. Theirs is stocked with salt and fat-laden animal products, junk foods like chips and chocolate and sometimes cookies and candy, ice cream, and microwavable frozen foods. In the beginning I coped with this by purging because I felt I had no control over actually making different choices.
But soon realized I wasn’t willing to trade my sanity for a number on the scale or an empty/cleansed stomach. I didn’t see it as letting myself go but as realizing that nothing is worth crouching down beside a toilet for to throw up what you just ate several times a week or sometimes day. There is no dignity, point, or logic in that. And it’s not who I wanted to be.
So I stopped. But I still felt out of control. The stopping itself didn’t drive me to change.
At first I justified it as a temporary position. Soon, I would be able to get to my own kitchen where I would once again have complete control over what types of food “crossed” the border. But as the weight slowly crept on (about five pounds, to be fair), I decided to reevaluate whether it was actually impossible to eat healthy in an unhealthy home.
Was it? Could I derail myself from the temptation and instead choose something healthy and good each time?
The answer has been yes to the latter: it’s possible to make good choices. The lines have been firmer than they would be if I were on my own because they need to hold the weight of the temptation on the other side, the calories waiting to break a dam and overtake me.
So I’ve been eating and drinking lots of smoothies, green juices, soups, salads, and occasionally elaborate cooked recipes (from Vegan Richa, for example). In the kitchen, it often looks like opening a bag of Doritos, picking up a chip, and then stopping midway and peeling and juicing carrots instead because my body deserves better than chips.
It’s dipping something in hummus before realizing it’s full of oil and instead cutting up vegetables and topping them with lemon juice to enjoy raw. It’s intercepting automatic behaviour and it’s not easy. But it has been possible, and I feel healthier and more in control than I have felt in a long time.
There is such dignity in being able to have a say over this most basic thing in my life: what goes inside of my body. There is such peace that can come from at the very least having the ability to place healthy barriers and boundaries there. But it’s more than that. It’s about the peace of trying my very best.
I am working on gaining that peace in other areas as well, but I do feel very proud of myself for overcoming an obstacle I didn’t think was surmountable. It’s given me the confidence and hope that if I can do this, I can also do my very best in school and in work.
I think people are so afraid of eating disorders because of what happens to some with a crisis that involves food and health that the transformative power of real health is lost in the discussion. Being truly healthy can make you feel so empowered and worthy and capable. Taking care of your body and being your own best mate in that sense can give you the push you need to do better in relationships, work, education, to follow your dreams, etc.
I see people who are so afraid of “extremes” that they are stuck living a mundane sort of unhealthy, but not the worst type of unhealthy. Why is that? Why give your body less than the best fuel if it costs the same OR LESS (often much less here in Canada)? Why aren’t you the healthiest person you know or have ever even heard of? These are some of the questions I considered and there were no good justifications.
I have found that it’s possible to be healthy in an unhealthy home if one realizes that good food choices are an act of self love, and if one commits to allowing only love to pass through the boundaries of one’s body. I may no longer have a whole home as a sanctuary, but I’ve found that I have a better sanctuary in my own body. One no person or circumstance can corrupt without my own permission.
And here’s a relevant verse from the bible that speaks to me:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” 1 Corinthians 6:19