Today I ate three-quarters of a sleeve of saltine crackers. With Nutella.
I had 80 percent of my stomach removed and I still have food issues.
But the issue isn’t really that I ate three-quarters of a sleeve of saltine crackers with fake Nutella. It’s that I feel guilty about it. That at least have of those I didn’t even want. That I ate them in my room because Zach and Adrienne and my husband and I are all having a 100 day My Fitness Pal challenge and I was embarassed.
The problem is that I was embarrassed to eat. And being embarrassed led me to eat something I didn’t even want to eat and then feel icky about it.
The thing is, I can’t eat much at one time. Maybe half a cup of the kind of food I’m supposed to have. Like protein. Any more than that hurts. A lot. Even one more bite than that hurts.
Imagine eating a belly-creaking Thanksgiving diner. Then going back for seconds and eating all that, too. That full.
It doesn’t last long. Ten minutes later the full feeling has passed and I feel okay again. An hour after that and I could eat again. An hour after that and I’m hungry.
Only it’s not a stomach growling, light-headed hunger. Those are hormonal things and the part of my stomach that makes that hormone is gone. It’s just — a very not full feeling. I don’t know how else to explain it.
It happens because I ate a quarter of a sandwich for dinner. Or a single egg and a piece of toast for breakfast. And that isn’t enough to sustain me until the next three-squares meal time.
The problem isn’t the crackers and fake Nutella. I want to eat healthier, but whatever. That’s a different thing. I was hungry and I ate. I logged it into My Fitness Pal, which means that I met my goal today.
The problem is the guilt.
I wonder if food will ever not make me feel guilty.
My brain associates hunger with poverty, with fear, with not having enough. It doesn’t matter that my kitchen and pantry are full, that I can afford to go to a restaurant, that I can grocery shop anytime I want to.
When I was fourteen, my family took a sudden shift from solidly middle-class to desperate poverty. Food scarcity-level poverty. The kind of poverty where when I needed a job, and I was offered one at the library and one at Kentucky Fried Chicken, with a free meal every shift — I took the chicken.
Maybe I’d be a librarian today, if I hadn’t been so hungry.
I stayed there for a log time. Through a very intense early marriage that ended in heartbreak. Through being a single mom with an autistic kid that made work impossible. All the way through until I got married again and another adult, another income, changed things.
Weight loss surgery has made it so that I can’t really binge anymore. It keeps the consequences of my food issues from showing on my body as much as they once did. It’s given me a stable weight for the first time in my life.
I have this internal gauge. Weight loss surgery hasn’t made it so that I don’t panic when the amount of food in my house falls to my gauge’s red zone. When that happens, nothing else can happen until I’ve made a Winco run.
And it hasn’t stopped me from eating saltines and fake Nutella in semi-secret. Even if I do log it into My Fitness Pal.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer. You can be a Ninja Writer, too.