Hi! My name is Gaby Redner. Thank you for visiting my blog.
This is my food story. Everybody’s got one.
“Somehow, around this time, I developed a theory... If you have a tangible, sensory relationship with food, then you will have a healthy psychological relationship with food.”
At the age of twelve, I found out that I weighed one hundred pounds, and I freaked out on the inside. None of my friends weighed that much, and it didn’t matter to me that I was a whole head taller than many of them. The number mattered. I don’t know where I got that fear of a number, or of fat, in my mind. I was barely allowed to watch TV, and no magazines whatsoever. My mom thought Clueless had too many bad messages in it for us so I didn’t even see that. By the way, my mom had died three years earlier, a victim of a terrible disease called Breast Cancer.
So, while away at summer camp, with no one watching over me, I mean, no one really paying attention to me, inner me or my feelings, I decided to stop eating. It was easy, somehow. I lost tons of weight, and the boys voted me the best all around girl in their age-group, which included looks. After trying to swim across the lake with a group, I couldn’t warm up, I got sick, and spent days in the infirmary.
Camp ended, and the no eating continued. Family life was in disarray. No one was emotionally stable, after the loss of my mom, a change in my father’s career, and the loss of yet another relationship between him and a woman I had grown quite fond of. And, we moved into a new house, nothing like the childhood home where I grew up.
I had to be weighed every week by my doctor at the Children’s hospital, and she would always say, by next week, I want to see more of you on this planet. I hated that! I didn’t want more of me. I wanted less of me. But she also threatened to send me to the hospital, where I’d have to stay for who knows how long, and I was scared.
I still remember the fear that caused me to break the fast. The fear of being in a hospital and being misunderstood by my friends was greater than the fear of not being skinny, temporarily. I binged on oreos and peanut butter, what a sick delight it was. Then, maybe I could gain just a pound for the next weigh-in, and stay out of the hospital like a normal seventh-grader.
One day, my dad showed up at school. He said I had a weigh-in at the doctor’s office. It was a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t ready. My big sister came with us. I stuffed my shorts pockets with coins and metal jewelry, anything to make the scale go up. But that was it. It felt like a scheme. I was going to the hospital, the doctor said. I cried and cried and cried. Thinking only that my friends would think I was weird. (As if they did not already know something was wrong, when I came back from summer break all skin and bones!).
But when I got to the hospital, and lay down in the bed, and was told to choose my meal from a menu, with my sister and dad at my side, I felt a tremendous relief. I felt happy. I felt excited for my chicken noodle soup. For being able to choose food! I had to, I was being told to, I was being nourished, because people cared about my health and well-being. It brings tears to my eyes to think of this now.
I was in the hospital for a month, but unfortunately, the struggle with food didn’t end there. For many people who suffer with eating disorders, it is a long, even life long, psychological battle with food.
This story is already long, so I will try to abbreviate a little. I went through high school, an all girls boarding school, where the competition to be the thinnest, eat the least, was silent but pervasive. I binged, I fasted, binged and fasted, trying to eat only what came in a package, with a calorie content on it (diet coke, power bars, splenda, cold cuts, salad, but never hot, nourishing food cooked with love).
Then, I moved to Italy. Yes, I spent eight months there, in Florence, studying Italian. Very fortunate, I know. I was really studying a culture where delicious food was a fact of life. I had a friend (OK, a boyfriend), whose mom cooked and everyone sat down for dinner and ate together. I met other friends, non-American friends, who ate, and cooked, and had dinner parties, and were not afraid of food. I learned that three meals a day, I mean real, hot, cooked meals, is normal, healthy, delicious. I learned that it is not normal or healthy or delicious to trick yourself into eating as little as possible, with hunger pangs all day long.
Somehow, around this time, I developed a theory. People who cook food are not afraid of food. They like to eat food. They are not fat. They are healthy and happy. I was 19, at the time, and did not know how to cook. I started to learn by asking questions of those who cooked, and by trying.
The theory became something like this: If you have a tangible, sensory relationship with food, then you will have a healthy psychological relationship with food.
Buying food in packages with nutrition labels was not the key, as I thought it was for so long. Cooking was the key!
Et voila. I went to college, worked in restaurants, as a private chef, for a food magazine, at a farm. And all along, the most important piece remained. Nourishment through cooking. And it continues to evolve, because there is so much to learn. I find nutrition and herbalism fascinating and am just beginning to learn more through classes and self-study. I find yoga to be a great tool to get to know the body, and get in touch with what it is asking for, and have a regular practice. I continue to cook, every day, and to learn. This website is a continuation of my learning, and a place where I hope to connect to others, and ideally, for this would be wonderful, be of some help, use or inspiration. Because so many others have and do inspire me, on the internet, the radio, in books and in life.