Vegetable pizza feeds the body but not the soul

Erika Schwartz, Staff Writer

Vegetable pizza has 100 fewer calories than regular pizza and the fresh greens are supposed to be body fuel. Trust me, I did my research. I always did my research before I ate something.

Except, once a person chooses to eat pizza, (vegetable or otherwise) they might as well give up on healthy choices for a day.

My sister sat across from me in the Hy-Vee dining room and picked apart my puny slice of vegetable pizza and decided I was only going to eat half of that slice. I don’t even care, I told her. I lied. Just like I had lied every day for months, to her and to myself.

At this point, I was phenomenal at pretending that thinking about eating didn’t spin my mind into an anxious whirlwind. Or pretending that I didn’t have to physically force myself to open my mouth, chew, swallow, repeat — eating just wasn’t a part of my routine anymore.

Sometimes, after I ate only half an apple for breakfast or allowed myself only three-fourths of a school lunch and I felt a stab of angry hunger, I would tell myself, the pain means it’s working, the pounds are melting away, this will only last a little while and then I will get used to it!

I did. I did get used to it.

So when I woke up every single day and forgot to greet the sun, but remembered to say hello to the scale, I thought it was normal. When .5 pounds crept back onto the glaring digital numbers that ruled my world and a cloud instantly blackened my day, nothing seemed peculiar. Or the time I literally ran until I collapsed on the front porch of my parents’ home — it was just an honest-to-goodness ordinary day.

No one around me, even those closest to me, noticed how strange my normal had become, either. Great job, they said. You look great, they applauded. Losing weight is so great, they encouraged. Wow, it sure is great people are noticing my progress, I celebrated. Great, great, great.

Great is not depending on an entire pack of Extra gum (but not too much gum, remember, because there are five calories per piece) and bottles of water to get through the day. It’s not checking the calorie count of every item that came close to my fingertips or becoming hyper-aware of every element that entered my stomach, either.

Once my best friend, Alecia, started a diet with her mother. They only drank orange flavored smoothies instead of eating actual meals. That’s not healthy, I warned. You’re not healthy, my scale retorted.

On and on for months and months and years I deprived, skipped, collapsed, destroyed and plundered — until one day I couldn’t remember if the sun came up on the East side of the Earth or the West. I couldn’t remember if vanilla ice cream tasted like summer or if summer tasted like vanilla ice cream. I forgot what my life felt like without numbers and decimal points snapping and snarling at me like an angry bulldog.

So when my sister sat across from me as I fibbed my way through yet another lunch, I realized I was more worried about how many calories I consumed than whether or not she believed my lie.

Today, I’m sorry I didn’t eat the whole damn piece of that vegetable pizza. I’m sorry I forgot to watch the sun set and savor the taste of vanilla ice cream and realize what beauty truly looks like. But I’m mostly sorry I starved the vessel that holds my soul until it wasn’t safe for it to live there anymore.