I was staying with George* when I was first inspired to create Mashblox®.
He was even there grocery shopping when I saw that two year old boy dropping and chasing his apple, and we just sat in silence on the bench in the sun while I nutted out how one would make a more convenient, practical, hygienic solution for kids’ tendencies to play with their food and explore the world through their mouths.
It was only when I prototyped the concept that I realised the side effect of allowing children full, playful control of their intake, and started researching benefits of this.
Now George in his early 30s and all he eats is meat, and bread, and cheese. Because I love him dearly, I asked him an honest question why? And because he loves me too, he gave me an open answer: he doesn’t like the texture of anything else.
I went further to ask how long has this been the case, and he told me it’s been for as long as he can remember. I imagine that it would have started with what we call “fussy eating” about that little boy’s age. I’ve recently pointed out that vegetables aren’t optional - but I let the subject drop, because we’ve all got our foibles and it’s obviously a sensitive subject.
As I write this, I’m staying with him to open Mashblox UK and we’re working on our diet together:
He’s moving on to diet versions of his favourite foods - I’m careful to warn him that often this just means more sugar and that maybe we should look at each more closely, but I’m delighted that he’s interested to make steps. He promises me he’ll be eating veggies before he’s 40, and I’m pleased that he’ll occasionally overcome his textural aversions to brave a sample of what I cook. But what prompted me to write this was my sudden realisation that he doesn’t even own a toothbrush - also because of his earliest traumatic memories of having foods or anything forced into his mouth.
I’m concentrating on portion control and only eating when I’m hungry. It’s easier said than done, for reasons I get into below... One first step is bringing takeaway containers to any restaurant outings and packing away half before I start, and we’ve got a strip of duct tape holding the fridge door closed which is just enough to make me think about whether I’m actually eating for any good reason.
I talk openly about this because it serves a purpose, but it bothers me as deeply as his habits do for him.
Frankly, it’s traumatic and it makes me angry as I start churning blame for what I should have never had forced from my control. I should not have such a severe emotional reaction to this. I should not even have to deal with it. Eating is natural, and critical to our survival so why does every single thing I eat feel like guilt and hatred. I wish I was exaggerating.
[Here I break to cry a bit, calm down over 100 sit-ups and an episode of Rick & Morty]
Thing is that I know that for as long as I’m feeling out of control with my consumption, I’m missing out on a lot of joy in my life. I don’t think I’m even overweight, but I’m not happy with my size and never have been (that’s something else I had forced on me before I had a self-concept). I guess my feelings on the matter might be a bit extreme, but statistically speaking the problem is not unusual either for the Western hemisphere, or for women’s self-esteem in particular.
So I chew gum ravenously, I’ve taken to chewing on carrots because slower consumption and lower calories, and I have an agreement with my dear host that he’ll tap me on the shoulder whenever he sees me considering an ill-timed meal or snack to ask me “Are you really hungry?”
But the trouble is that I really don’t know. Those signals are awfully subtle now, and I do a better job of measuring my sustenance requirements by my mental health: I hit a wall quite suddenly and get cranky as hell when I need food, and when I’ve had enough it slowly ebbs, I guess? But if I overdo it then I start getting paranoid, anxious, itchy or simply sleepy, depending on what I’ve eaten. (I largely avoid the first three with a plant based, carb free diet, but a year of being sugar, carb and processed food free hasn’t been enough to lose weight while I still overeat)
I also compensate by drinking an ungodly amount of tea, and I just realised that this will have the same effect to stretch my stomach as food does, just inputting lower calories & more caffeine. So I walk away from every sitting unsatisfied.
I’m telling myself that it only takes 3 weeks to make a habit (breaking one is harder but doable); I’m telling myself that one day hunger and satiation instincts will come back online -
[and here’s where I start tearing up again because I still remember feeling full as a child when I was forced to finish far more than I’d have needed as an adult - but I’ve never felt that sensation since]
I do feel bloody lucky that I’ve got the sort of bond with someone that we can help each other with this - but I’m still working out how I can help him.
And the whole time, I’m just thinking that this could have all been so easily prevented for both of us, if our instincts were just supported to take their natural course, without some adult force feeding us.
This is why I’m doing what I’m doing with Mashblox.
This shouldn’t be a battle our kids need to face for their health and self-esteem some day because the adults of the time insisted that food must be eaten in the quantities they thought appropriate, and whenever they decided we should.
~~~ I strongly recommend that no one else in the world ever asks me this.
To put the pic in context: George would only eat the chips and maybe some of the dip unless it’s avocado based. I could eat the lot (including the stuff not in frame) if I wasn’t thinking about it.
* No friendships were harmed in the making of this blog. This is posted with permission.