Comfort Food (Essay, Part 1)
When I turned 50 I jumped into Payette Lake with my swimsuit on and then beneath the screen of green-black lake water, I took it off. It was a two-piece so as I tread water I fumbled first with the bottom half, trying to curl it off over my hips, and then the top, which was stretched like a tight rubber band across my chest. I didn’t care that there were three or four people staring at me on the dock where I slung the two parts of my swimsuit; or that a few male swimmers seem to be circling nearby like sharks. I was celebrating a half century of living. I wanted to feel free and alive. Still, as I slid my hand underwater over the skin of my cold belly and thighs, the image of a slick round dolphin came to mind and I sighed inwardly: if I want to live another fifty years, I needed to lose weight.
That somber thought seemed to trigger others as I dog-paddled farther and farther away from the dock. What would life be like the next fifty years should I live so long? No doubt I’d experience an increasing number of losses, my youth leading the list of greatest hits. And how would I cope? I was never great with drugs or alcohol, but food, the very thing I needed to restrict, has always been my go-to pain killer. Advil works for a back ache, but oven-fresh chocolate chip cookies can turn a bad mood good. And food is cheap. It’s the least expensive fun you can have. Cheaper than an amusement park, an ocean cruise, or a hot date. Oprah, I’m sorry. I just don’t think emotional eating is all bad.