Friday, September 4, 2009

BBB: Russian Black Bread


This is a difficult post to write. I just thought I'd get that point out there, as soon as I could. Because I'm not all sweetness and light, sarcasm and snark. Because Shanna and Jess showed me what baring your most uncomfortable secrets in this arena can be like - wonderful, life-affirming, and encouraging. Because it's an every day thing for me, even if it isn't caused by something outside my control as it is for Shanna and Jess. Because it scares me; it scares me that this won't be received well, that people won't understand where I'm coming from. Because facing fear is hopefully the best solution.

You see this bread that I made? I've been making bread every weekend this year, refusing to buy storebought because it tastes like sawdust and packing peanuts. And this one was a must-bake - it was Gorel's choice for this month's Bread Baking Babes, with whom I've baked for the past year or so. It was chock full of goodness - shallot and coffee and fennel and sourdough and rye.


But here's the problem. When I find myself sitting in my apartment without much to do besides read or watch TV, I want to eat the bread I've baked for the week. Too much of it. To the point of fullness, at which point I scoot into my kitchen and hunt for something sweet to balance out the bread for my taste buds. Then I move on to fruit, or crackers, or storebought (crappy) chocolate and sweets. I cycle through various snacks, certain that something there will satisfy whatever it is I think I want to eat. Raisins. More bread. Ice cream. Cheese. I end up uncomfortably full, guilty, and depressed. Near tears.

How is it that I, a person who bakes and cooks and posts about good food (or so I'd like to think), end up binging on terrible food until I reach that state? How is it that I, a person who enjoys good food, end up then restricting myself to the tiniest portions for the next few days, taking all the joy out of that food? I'm always amazed at the goodies that get churned out by all of you in the food bloggy world - is it really possible to surround yourself with sugar and spice and everything nice while still maintaining a reasonable relationship with food? And if so, why for you and not for me?


I think I could write about this for pages. My thoughts about mindful eating, about balanced eating, about my probable "addiction" to sugar. My confession that many times, I have to physically throw out the food that I'm eating in order to stop eating it. My desire to exercise as much as possible to make up for the weaknesses. My confusion as to why this happened to me, someone from a food-loving family, one unafraid of butter and cream and sugar (and, of course, the rest of the food pyramid too). My questioning of how I managed to train for three different half marathons while swinging from ridiculous caloric highs to 600 cal/day lows.

I'm not sure if getting this down in writing will help. People who know me in person might laugh at me - yes, I'm at a very healthy weight for my height, and yes, I exercise - what more could I want? Again, those wishes could go on for pages. But really, I'm just thankful if you've made it this far with me. And I'll breathe, and try to hold the tears back, and try to stop worrying about what putting this in writing means. It is what it is.

22 comments:

Julia @Mélanger said...

I understand exactly where you are coming from! No question. When reading your post, I could only shake my head as I recognised parts of me in your story. It did hit close to home many times. I have an incredible sweet tooth. My baking obsession plays havoc with my weight. Though, like you, I'm a normal weight - but I do feel like sometimes it's all bigger than me. But funnily, since I started my blog a few months back, I've controlled those impulses. You see, instead of diving into a batch of cookies or a slice of cake, I must get my camera out, snap off a few shots. Then I have to play around with those shots, make sure I'm happy with them. Then I have to write about what I've done. By the end of it all, I've forgotten about wanting to eat myself crazy. I actually thought my blog would careen me into the next dress size, but it hasn't. I think I've been more excited about sharing my baking with people that love the same. But in saying that, I certainly do try to exercise as backup! Hence that recent 10km run! (Must do a few more.) I'm so happy to hear, though, that other people - who seemingly have it together - can get a little overwhelmed at times. But sharing your thoughts is amazing. And sometimes, as my mum likes to say, a problem shared is a problem halved. I've only been reading your blog for a while, but quickly come to love your wit and stories. I think you may be surprised how many people are the same. You're not alone! :)

Bridget said...

I wonder how common that perfect relationship with food really is. I know I don't have it, and I wish I did. But I also know that there's more to eating than being at a healthy weight - if people wonder what more you could want than that, well, you want to enjoy eating for all it's worth, without guilt or self-loathing. I don't have an answer or any advice for you; all I can say is that I understand and I've been there too.

Shannalee said...

Caitlin. Reading your post made me think about how important it is that there be honest times like these, when we just say what is actually going on, without fear, without pretending to be perfect. Life is not neat and packaged with a bow, but when everyone pretends that it is, it's hard not to do the same, even when in reality that's the opposite of what I most want to do.

The issues of how much to eat, how much to work out, how to be balanced I genuinely believe are things we all wrestle with (or should at least a little) and some of us (maybe the more sensitive or the more introspective or the deeper types) will wrestle with it acutely. You are doing what you should - thinking about it and admitting it and looking to grow, and I think that's what you should do.

Day by day, I have faith it will start to either (a) be easier or (b) be something that makes you stronger. I mean that.

Big hugs through the Internet.

Y said...

What does it mean? It means that you're a real person. Not someone looking to win the blog popularity game with ridiculous quantities of baked goods or exhausting numbers of posts. I think balance is possible - I often give away the things I make, mostly because I like to see it eaten while it's at it's best. But I also think we've all been-there-done-that, with what you're experiencing (I blame mine on hormones :P) and wish I could give you more emotional support than just words.

görel said...

I think that we are many people (mostly women, but also men) that experience the same thing. I have, and always had, days when I can't seem to get enough, my eating is almost compulsive and not really enjoyable at all. I can make a very delicious, elaborate pie or cake and eat it all myself. Other days I'm very healthy and eat exactly what I think I should eat.

I believe it's as if our brain gets hijacked, or it commits mutiny -- either way, we lose control over it. I think we need to force it to take the road we want and to teach it a new behaviour.

I really hate it when I give in to those impulses. Like now, I lost 14 pounds during the summer, but now I've gained 4 of them again. One thing that helps me is to keep my hands busy all the time -- I knit a lot and have many projects ongoing at any given time. I also drink gallons of green tea -- I don't think you can really overdose on that??

Anyway, thank you for bringing this up! And be sure that you're definitely not alone!

And thanks for baking with us this month! (Almost forgot!)

Cucinista said...

Thing is, I don't know anyone who doesn't have moments like this. I have been there many times, and I think -- worse than how I actually feel after doing the crave-binge-guilt-crave-binge cycle over and over -- is how angry I get at myself for it. A supposedly rational, balanced person with a healthy relationship with cooking and food. But actually, it's the getting mad at ourselves that's the worst part: holding ourselves up to impossibly high standards of looks/eating/behavior. What's the solution? I have no idea. But I think we probably all have no idea together, and there's some comfort in that.

natalia said...

Oh Caitlin ! I'm so sorry you feel so bad !! The bad part, I think, is not what you do but the way you feel about it ! And, of course I perfectly understand it !!! I don't even exercise at all,and weight much more than I should ! So maybe I should hide under soil !!! What I do is try not to buy 'those' foods and to give away all (mostly) the baking . My husband is very different : he jogs, bikes, doesn't eat sweets ...he is perfect ! But still loves me (why?). So I'm constantly seeing in him what I should be doing.
Caitlin, I know what a wonderful person you are, nobody needs a perfect friend but we all like you ! A super big hug, love

Madam Chow said...

That must have been so hard for you to write. You are a brave young lady, and your struggles with food resonate with me. Here's a big hug going your way.

TeaLady said...

Welcome to the world of eating binges. I do the same thing and then feel guilty and starve for a couple of days and then get bored, lonely, etc. and so it begins again. I agree with Julia at the top having to 'blog' it helps in not eating it. ANd my sweet tooth is deminishing, but not the bread tooth. Hang in Caitlin.

BTW great looking bread.

Di said...

Oh, Caitlin, hang in there! *hugs* I think we all have days when we struggle with things, be it food or something else. Heck, I felt kind of like that yesterday after eating fast food for lunch. Part of me really wanted it, but then afterwards I wondered why I ate it.

Good for you for writing this down. I'm sure it wasn't easy. And it's even harder to stop beating yourself up about the issues that you're having. I understand that all too well. I hope it helps to know that there are lots of us who think that you're awesome. And lots of us willing to listen and empathize.

Megan@Feasting on Art said...

I feel your pain! It is a very precarious balance and I try to find ways to make my dishes a bit more healthy. If I make anything sweet I eat only the portion I take a photograph of for my blog and give the rest away to my colleagues at work. It also helps to freeze portions of whatever you make so that it is not readily available to binge.

Lien said...

I think this is a burden with lots of people. Unfortunately I know this problem all to well myself. Sometimes I think I should make other recipes for my blog in stead of sweet things.... but that wouldn't help I'm afraid. I know what to do and what not to, but knowing and doing just isn't always the same I'm afraid. You're not alone girl... we suffer with you trying to accept/love ourselves even when we do the wrong things. Maybe you can console yourself with the fact that you're at least not overweight and exercising, so you're already doing lot. Take care.

veron said...

Caitlin, this is like reading my own thoughts. I've been working out good and eating reasonably for the past two weeks. And then this weekend was double binge and I felt like all my good intentions went out the window. This is normal and thanks for putting it in writing.

Natalie said...

Hey Caitlin! Wow, ok, first off I wanna say you're amazing for being a successful female chemical engineer- i'm at carnegie mellon right now studying that, and its about a 75: 25 guy to girl ratio. And a balanced one at that! Running, engineering, and baking. So hopefully you realize just how amazing you are! I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the binge eating/ sugar/starch addiction... I think that it's actually pretty common. I literally fight with myself in the supermarket to not buy sweets or junk food, because I know that if it's at home, I will eat it. I know you will find a balance, for me it's occasional weeks where I will cut myself off starch and sugar entirely, and instead let myself eat as much uncooked fruit and veggies as i want. its super filling, and yummy. : ) ( tho now I'm kinda addicted to watermelon). But that's just what I do. Hopefully you can find what works for you, best of luck and wishes. I'm sure you will come to what will make you happy and balanced!
~Natalie

Nancy/n.o.e said...

I couldn't comment earlier because I was headed out of town. I've got a few minutes now, so wanted to let you know that you are definitely not alone. Ever since I started baking and blogging - and reading baking blogs - I've suspected that there's a lot of disordered relationships among food bloggers. I can't believe the extent that I think about food now that I'm blogging about it!

Thanks so much for the amazing amount of strength that it took for you to publish this post. Your honesty is undoubtedly touching dozens of people, and I have no doubt that there are people reading your blog that really needed to hear what you had to say here and realize that they are not alone. And neither are you!!

Jamie said...

See, just reading through the comments I see that we are all alike. The joy of good food and good eating, the grabbing and going from bread to sweet, salty to sugary, then the guilt. Oh well, I realize that these days I eat with much less guilt, try and at least well-balanced meals and exercise a lot. I'll never get over this obsession with food nor do I ever want to have to restrict myself and not enjoy it all. It's a constant battle but one that we must live with. So watch what you buy and bring into the house, then don't worry so much. Enjoy.

Kayte said...

Kudos on exercising! You know, you don't have to feel guilty about throwing it out so much...cooking/baking with these various venues is sort of like a class...any class you take...you go to learn and experience and you don't eat the books and paper/notecards/notebooks, etc., you toss them out once you have learned and experienced. Or you get yourself a couple of teenage boys with lots of friends and you let them do the dirty work...LOL. Where would we all be without your insightful comments, your brave experimentation, your willingness to take on something you have never done before...and you do it all in moderation for yourself.

Tartelette said...

I just want to give you a big hug right now. I can imagine this was hard for you to post. I was an overweight kid, and teenager...up until I was 16 I struggled with food. My mom always try to help with diets but it was always too much food or too little. One day though, it fell all into place when I stopped listening and putting the pressure on myself. No one can help but you. That click will come from inside of ou in its own time. When you are ready to say "screw it". That's what it took for me. Once I stopped presuring myself with all sorts of crap that were dragging me down. I don't read female mags, fitness mags and others. It's such bull to make us think we are not normal for not working out 2 hrs a day, having perfect kids, perfect teeth, and perfect abs. I am not the body I dream to be but the older I get, the less I give a hoot because Bill loves me. With my cellulite, my lack of boobage, etc...and you know what, he ain't no super washboard abs either :) and that's very cool by me. More than cool. That means we can indulge once in a while and tighten the grip the next day. That's living! That prevents obsession. That is good for the soul. Girl, it's been a tough year for you. Your relationship to food is a way to cope with it. When I stress out, I need to chew on something crunchy. I could devour the house but I stick to lollipops sticks! Please: No more pressure on you!!
Let's make sure we get you all relaxed in SF and we'll chat!

And for the record: I firmly believe that bloggers do not develop more of a food obsession after starting blogging. That's like saying that because we have better cameras, we take better pictures. Not everyone.

**hugs**

Baking Soda said...

Yes. Yes to you, yes for recognizing what you write, yes to all the above and adding to the hugs. Very wise -and sweet- words from the ladies here.

breadchick said...

Caitlin, I think anyone who has such a love of food that you (and all of us food bloggers) have often feels the same and often. I saw myself in much of your post and thank you for putting in words what I often think to myself when I'm standing in the kitchen looking around for the ying to the yang I just ate. You are brave and brilliant to put into words I think many of us feel. I applaud you every month for the BBB breads you bake with us but this month I want to stand up and applaud you for the courage you possess and a hug from one babe to another.

lulu said...

Love your loaf of bread. I started a bread contest. You should submit one of your beautiful recipes. The winner gets a $179 Super Bread bread knife from New West Knifeworks. You can get more info here:
http://www.phamfatale.com/id_570/title_18-More-Days-until-the-End-of-the-Bread-Contest/

NatureWriter said...

I love this post. Thank you for being so honest. My ex-boyfriend used to call me a fat girl in a skinny girl's body (in a very loving way...we were both foodies and our dates often revolved around food shopping together). As to your question of how other food bloggers deal with the issue, I think I channel my food compulsions into local and organic, so I'm saved the sugar cravings. I compulsively eat healthy foods. But I still compulsively eat. Popcorn is my major weakness. It is my ultimate comfort food and I will make it and eat it even when I'm not interested in it, just because I associate it with comfort. And I don't feel bad about it, I just observe it when it happens and then ask myself, "Hey, what kind of needs are you really trying to meet here?" If I have an answer, I try to meet the need. If I'm not ready to answer, I keep eating popcorn and forgive myself for not being perfect. Or, for being perfectly human, as you are.