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Adventure in Food: How I turned from Anorexia to Art

In 1974 "food is the enemy" was my mantra.  In true anorexic mode, I was starving. When I ended up in the hospital, crazy as a March hare, my doctor said: "Miss Goin, you can either eat or die." For several days, I pondered the thought.   Dying was not an option.  I was in my early thirties and there was lots to do and places to see.   But as a flight attendant, eating meals was a new experience.  My hours at work made regular eating difficult.  And, I had it drummed into me that I needed to be reed thin to keep my job.  So I smoked to keep my hunger at bay, lightly grazed the salad bars, and binged occasionally when I was desperate.  Like Karen Carpenter, the singer who had recently died from not eating, I slowly disappeared.  If I'd been taller, at some point I looked like the model below - all skin, bones with a few more cloths. But when I started to eat again, the world changed dramatically.  I became attuned to what was really wrong.
Just like me, Betsy, but 12 inches taller!
Once I was back at home and gaining weight, food provided new energy and entertainment: something to look forward to.  I was on a mission to live.  But, as it happened, not being a cook, my meals were prepared by my mother, a woman who had grown up believing rich and fried foods were both tasty and good for you.  And I was oblivious to the fact that her own eating habits had likely caused her to become overweight and affected by high blood pressure, cancer, gout, eye issues, and arthritis.  I was eating back then but not in a way that could possibly serve me for life. Learning how to do that was my next adventure in food.
The first thing I needed to do was to learn to cook.  But what?
What was the alternative to the two food traps I had encountered:  "Food is the enemy" and  "Food makes us sick?" I wanted food to help me stay well.  I had been crazy with schizophrenia, had almost died from thinking eating was bad, and didn't want to be sick any more.  Food, I thought, should be as important as art: fun, beautiful, and deeply restorative.  So, I started cooking and eating the way I painted ... by color, design, and a wacky sense of humor.  (To be continued next week.  Please stay tuned.)

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