A Father of Food

My dad loves food. Like, loves it. He has encouraged this same love for food in our family by cooking us meals and taking us out to fancy, unique, and cultural restaurants. Thus, going on my raw diet and eventually telling him about my eating disorder probably wasn’t his idea of a fun relationship with food with his daughter.
But, my dad has prevailed. Our relationship is still strong, if not stronger–and it is thanks to him and his support. I have every reason to celebrate this wonder Father’s Day with him, but since he is out of town today, the blog will have to do–as well as a nice phone call this afternoon.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Our relationship is a great one. No wait, it’s fantastic. But the eating disorder stuff? He doesn’t get it. He tries, I’ll give you that—he certainly tries. But it is no easy task. I had a long conversation with him about it last summer, in fact, which didn’t particularly get us much anywhere, but it was a good effort on his part and a good way for me to practice being more open with him about it.
Eating disorders are just simply tricky if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Before I even had an eating disorder I viewed it as a selfish, self-absorbed act. I even thought people with eating disorders were just lazy and were going the “easy” way out by purging or just being “stupid” for not eating enough. Why couldn’t they just eat healthy food and exercise?
My dad has a good sense of humor.

Eating the bed? My dad has a good sense of humor.

My dad has always encouraged our family to eat heartily growing up. He encouraged us to eat slowly and enjoy our food, had us sit together as a family for dinner each night, and never said no to going out to eat. He made it something of a contest between my sister and I to see who would choose to try the “new” food at the table—and whoever did, received praise. He also encouraged us to help him cook dinner, cooking up dishes like pasta with tomato and cheese sauce, angel-hair pasta with chicken, broccoli, and carrots, or chicken with vegetables and biscuits.
“Is this a good food or bad food?” my sister and I would ask our parents.
“Anything is bad if you eat too much of it,” they’d say. “Everything in moderation.”
Ah, everything in moderation—my dad’s life quote. Even as I dove into my fruit diet later on, my dad continued to preach moderation. “Cafeteria style,” he calls it—a little bit of this and a little bit of that to enjoy life. This, I feel, has made him a healthy man. While he may not eat all of the healthiest foods, his healthy mindset, healthy portions, and love for food keeps him healthier than anyone with the “purest” diet. This, I believe, shows the importance of having a healthy mentality with food that I never understood or believed in until now.
My dad means the world to me—and I hope he knows and understands that even through the struggle these past few years. It has been difficult to connect with him and help him to understand the eating disorder, but at the same time he makes an effort to understand and that’s all that matters to me. He has always been there to support and love me, and sometimes that’s just all I need.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.
This entry was posted in Relationships, Support. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Father of Food

  1. Tesla Knott says:

    Hi Rachael!
    I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now, and words can’t express the amount of insight and clarity it has brought to me on my journey. I have been at every spectrum on the E.D. scale, from an 85 pound thirteen year old girl (orthorexic/anorexic, vegan, practically raw, running for the wrong reasons) to now battling binge eating disorder at 14… It is very weird, going from a stunted anorexic to having a hard time controlling my food intake, with the occasional appearance of purge exercising and restriction. Every day when I was at my thinnest, my mom would rail on me about being too thin, and we would have arguments about it. But she never considered the emotional aspects of WHY I was too thin… so now with eating way-larger-than-needed amounts of food, she never, ever questions it and still thinks I don’t eat enough. And because of the nature of these disorders, I have never told anyone so… *deep breath* this is a MAJOR release for me. Thank you for this blog Rachael. You have taught me so much. But I do have a question… even though I am technically a healthy 5’3″ 125 pounds (well I still have problems with binging so….), the eating disordered part of my mind tells me I am too fat, that I NEED to lose weight before I can be social or do things with my life. I have been overwhelmed with self-hatred and severe depression these days, and I did read your post about Naysayers to the Body Image Movement and I know its a lack of self love and a resistance to feeling emotions but…. where do I start??? How can I learn to unconditionally love and accept myself ? I have been indoctrinated with the false truth that human beings ought to be valued on their body image alone, from my sister who I know has had her own secret flings with E.D.s (but even with the small clues I have given my family, no one is supportive or understands. My sisters would rather flaunt their bodies in front of me, happy that now THEY are the thin ones and Tes is the filled-out junk food eater (both, not being non-eating disordered, are losing weight and eating healthier, while I am the opposite.) I know they used to be jealous of my anorexic body, which further adds further confusion to my eating disordered mind…..
    Oh my gosh, sorry for the rant, but this is the first time ANY of this has come out of me. Thank you to infinity, Rachael! I’m feeling better already, I feel so good knowing I can tell someone who understands this stuff.
    <3 ~ Tesla

    • Tesla Knott says:

      * whoops , I meant my sisters are NOW non-eating disordered

    • rachael says:

      Wow Tesla, thank you so much for reading! And thank you for taking the step to fight for YOURSELF and release your pain. It takes a lot of work and courage to do that, you should be proud! I’m glad my blog has been helpful.
      “It is very weird, going from a stunted anorexic to having a hard time controlling my food intake” — Goodness, do I know how this goes! It feels like you have a completely different personality or something, doesn’t it? This is your body’s way to avoid starvation again. As frustrating as it can be, it’s amazing to see our bodies take charge again.
      “the eating disordered part of my mind tells me I am too fat, that I NEED to lose weight before I can be social or do things with my life.” — I know how this goes. I would recommend going to see a eating disorder therapist and also a sports/eating disorder dietician. These two things were IMMENSELY helpful in my journey. I tried to get on on my own for a while, but I felt more alone than ever, and I just couldn’t move forward. I kept thinking a certain diet would fix things for me, but it never did. One thing my therapist has told me is that acceptance of our bodies may be the last thing to happen. Even now–four years into the eating disorder–I do not love my body but I am slowly coming to accept and appreciate parts of it here and there. It takes time and patience with yourself. I definitely couldn’t force it.
      When you mentioned your sisters losing weight and you looking heavier than them–wow, I can totally relate with my own sister. This is definitely uncomfortable and not fun, but one thing I’ve learned to think about is that my journey is my OWN, and even though I still find myself comparing, I also remember that I got to where I am today because of my struggles and also because of what I’ve learned. No one has lived the same life as me, so I cannot compare my body to anyone else’s life. I see my body as something that has MADE IT through so much, and I have begun to feel proud of it even though it is not at a weight I would like it to be. It might not be the easiest or simplest answer, but I hope you understand a little.
      Thank you so much for “ranting”! ;) Seriously! Please get it out because I am happy to help and support!

  2. Tesla Knott says:

    Yes, I am understanding more every day! And by the way, I found your blog when I was browsing the Runners’ World online forums. It’s amazing how just your small act of answering a question and leaving a link to this site has lead to an expanded perception of my eating disorders. Honestly, I didn’t even think it was possible that anyone could be so open about an issue of this nature! So thank you for that… even if the girl you wrote the answer in response to didn’t benefit from it (I believe she denied she had a “fear of fat” eating disorder and just didn’t want to be a slower runner), you never know who else will see it. :-)

    • rachael says:

      Thank you Tesla, it does help to know how people get to the blog! I’m glad to be of some help. It definitely took a long time to be this revealing, but once you do it, you feel like you can do anything! It has freed me in so many ways; I am a better, stronger person for it.

  3. Gillian Hurley says:

    Rachel,
    “Why couldn’t they just eat healthy food and exercise?”

    I’m sure you are pretty over hearing that. Anytime someone suffers from something, it is the natural inclination of many to just wonder, “why can’t she/he just not struggle from that?” Like, if someone is depressed, “why can’t you just be happy and optimistic?”

    Because it doesn’t work like that. All of us have wildly different brains, experiences, genes, and predispositions, so how can we expect to all be alike? People who simplify diseases and disorders like this need a little education and awareness, so good for you for taking a step in this direction :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.