Discomfort Food

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food.

It started when I was around 5 years old.  Up until then I was a fairly normal sized, although perhaps a bit pudy-faced, blonde child with blue eyes.  I don’t remember this but there is photographic evidence.  At around 5, I apparently pissed off the Universe somehow and almost overnight I became a fat, brown-haired, brown-eyed schlump.

Every school has the fat kid… that one kid that is so obese that they suffer through a life of derision, bullying, shame, and finding creative ways to avoid the showers after gym class.  That was me in my school in Iowa.  Well, there was one other kid who was fatter than I was, but he was kind of a stoner outcast, which gave him the 1970′s Iowa version of street cred.  I was fat and a tenor in choir.  My fate was sealed.

Yes, I was large.  Portly.  Big boned.  Husky.  Fat.  Obese.  Huge.  Practically a land mass.  I provided more shade than an oak tree.  I once made the owner of the local all-you-can-eat buffet cry.  I wasn’t allowed to go near the airport because I showed up on radar.  My parents considered building a housing development on my ass but weren’t sure they could get the necessary permits.  I’ve got lots more but you get the picture.

If you were a fat child then you know of which I speak.  You understand what it can do to you.  How badly it can screw with your mind and self-image forever.  How horribly other children treat you.  How desperately lonely you can become.

If you weren’t a fat child, then go to hell, I hate you.

My senior year in high school I finally got fed up with it (no pun intended) and lost a bunch of weight through a combination of not eating and, well, we’ll call them “diet pills” and just leave it at that.  (Although I do have a story about the “diet pills” making me think that a stapler on a teacher’s desk was a frog, but we’ll leave that for another time).

But that complicated relationship with food continued and I got fat again and skinny again and fat again and skinny again and… it’s amazing how much I have in common with Oprah.  I am what she might call an “emotional eater.”  I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m stressed, I eat when I’m bored.  I just eat.  I have tried nearly ever illicit drug known to man in my life but none of them ever gave me the “high” that a really good cheeseburger gives me.

I think the heartburn started when I was in my twenties.  I don’t really remember because it just became such a regular part of my life.  I’d eat, I’d get heart burn.  Bad heart burn.  Like, need to sleep sitting up in a chair heartburn.  But this was the late 80s and acid reflux wasn’t a “thing” yet and as the TV commercials would have you believe, if you get heartburn you take a Tums or a swig of Maalox.  That’s what you did.  And even when acid reflux and the “little purple pill” became a “thing,” well, I had the Maalox.  It was fine.

Then in 2005, when I was in my late 30s, I realized something: I wasn’t getting heartburn anymore.  I hadn’t really noticed that it had gone away or how long it had been gone, I just one day sort of said, “Hey.. I haven’t had heartburn in awhile!”  I was happy about that on many levels but I thought it was weird, so I set out on the Interwebs to research the phenomenon.  That’s how I found out about Barrett’s Esophagus.  More on that in another post.

But food begat heartburn, which begat Barrett’s, which begat cancer.  So that’s how food is trying to kill me.  And believe me, the irony is not lost on me.