The “F” Words

Food, fear, and failure. Those are the “f” words.

These three little words have dictated way too much of my life. A big part of this lifelong I’ve embarked upon is figuring out ways to control the “f” words.

I put them in the order I believed they cause my issues. Food always at the top. Turns out, that isn’t true. Food is the ultimate outcome of not handling fear and failure in a healthy way. Food is the last refuge when I struggle to maintain a healthy balance.

Food has seemed like the issue for over 30 years. Now I’m starting to understand that food is simply like a comfortable couch after a long, stressful day – a refuge from fear and failure.

When I started to reflect on this topic, it didn’t take long for me to realize fear is the driving force of my struggles. Fear of failure, way more than the failure itself, takes me to bad places. Fear of eating the wrong food at the wrong time even took over for a while. Even fear of success is a problem. What if I lose a bunch of weight and must buy all new clothes? How will my family afford that kind of expense?

The other day I was having a discussion on this topic when the person said, “Your fear is irrational.” True. Isn’t most fear? Sure, I can think of exceptions. But in day-to-day life, I think fear is, at its core, irrational. Fearing the scale or a piece of delicious Portillo’s chocolate cake is most certainly not rational. But right now, I fear them both.

Learning to control fear is exhausting. It was easier when I let it dictate my life. Sure, I gained a bunch of weight and couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without thinking I was going to drown in my own sweat, but life seemed easy. I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. I would sit on the couch and watch TV. I would think about how great it would be to do all kinds of things, like run or climb up a mountain. I could coast because I didn’t have any higher expectations of myself and neither did anyone else.

I’m not fully sure what changed to send me on this path other than wanting more out of life. My sedentary lifestyle wasn’t satisfying. And I started to have a fear that I would have to buy all new clothes, just bigger in this case.

What I can tell you is that something clicked. Especially as far as food is concerned. Maybe it is because my wife, Gretchen, decided to do this latest eating plan with me. This is definitely a huge part of it.

I think the biggest part, however, was deciding failure is no longer an option. I decided to embrace failure like I used to embrace a double-double animal style from In-N-Out. I now give failure the same respect as I used to give that beast of a burger. The parallel may seem weird but that is how much power I gave food.

And the battle isn’t over. It wouldn’t take much to slide back into old habits. There is always temptation. The key is to keep the big picture in focus. Sure, that one bite won’t hurt but a thousand one bites will. If you don’t take the first bite, you can’t take the thousandth.

Time to make these “f” words sync up with my life. I’m done battling you, time to accept you are here to stay and we’ll figure out how to live together.