The other day, Ellyn Satter called me “squirrely.” I was interviewing the dietitian and author for a story, and as we’ve done several times before, we wound up discussing my son’s challenging eating habits. Why, she wondered, did I devote so much mental energy to worrying about what he eats? Clearly he’s getting the nutrition he needs, and clearly my interest (some would say obsession) is driving him to resist new foods even more.
I couldn’t answer. I obfuscated, I equivocated, I tried to suss out what she was getting at. I assumed she had a theory that she just wasn’t going to share until I hit on it myself, most likely connected to my admission that I worry he’ll outgrow his skinniness and wind up a fat kid like me. So yeah, I acted squirrely. I hung up the phone feeling unsettled, as if I’d failed somehow.
And then a few days later, I was doing a final polish on a personal essay that’ll be published later this year, about my path from fat kid to fat adult to hyper-fit adult to mostly relaxed food writer to slightly doughy mom. My mom’s in it. Of course she is—I learned to eat for comfort by mimicking her. Through several drafts, my editor has pushed me (in a good way) to dig deeper, be more specific, examine my motivations more closely. I started to wonder how my son might represent me decades from now, in an essay of his own. Unsettled, meet downright rattled.
There’s a common thread here, about which I’m sure someday I’ll smack my forehead and shout “of course!” But for now I can’t see it. I’ve got one end of the thread in this hand, while the other end threatens to unravel in that hand. Trying to make them meet, to force them together, just makes me nervous. It makes me want to eat.
So I’m calling in the troops, in the form of a therapist with experience treating eating disorders. I was in therapy when I lost my 100 pounds, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done it without someone to talk to—who, like Ellyn Satter, wasn’t shy about calling me on my squirrely behavior.
I don’t imagine I’ll have any major epiphanies right out of the gate, but I’m looking forward to seeing things more clearly. I’m hoping it’ll help me back off on my son’s eating, and also get a little better handle on my own.