Looking back, I notice that food has been a big part of what I’ve written about since joining this project. I feel like I should explain, as I realize I’ve put off writing about this particular detail.

I am fat.

And before you pinch an inch on your own hips, please let me specify: I am morbidly obese. At my last doctor’s appointment they had finally bought a new scale for the office: One that was capable of measuring weights over 350 pounds. So I found out that I have, in fact, gained back every ounce of the 84 pounds I managed to lose 2 years ago.

But you’ll forgive me if I hold back on the actual numbers. I seem to be chickening out right now.

Regardless, I have recently started changing my eating habits. Drastically. Now that I am officially past the most trying portion of quitting smoking and am (today) nine weeks completely smoke-free I have, for the last two weeks, been making significant changes in how and what I eat.

I’m finding great joy in working for my food. I’m eschewing pre-packaged and ready-to-eat for down-home and made-it-myself. I am not counting calories or fat grams or carbs. But I am trying to make sure that the ingredients listed on a label have three or fewer syllables.

This means, a lot of days, I have egg salad and fruit smoothies all day long. Others, like today, I really get a bug up my butt and commit a few hours to a treat.

I have just made – for the first time – a batch of organic whole-wheat tortillas and I have a skillet full of mashed-em-by-hand refried beans simmering on the stove. My arms and back ache from kneading, rolling, and mashing and I have a small burn on my left thumb but I’m obscenely excited. Isn’t that strange? I’ve made myself happy by working for the last two-and-a-half hours for a refried bean burrito. Something I could have picked up for $1.99 in the refrigerated case at any gas station and warmed up for 2 minutes in a microwave.

I think what I’m doing is embracing the idea that I’m worth the work. I’m not cooking for my family or friends. I’m cooking for me. I’m going out of my way to make nutritional and delicious food for myself because it’s good for me, and I think just maybe I deserve the attention.

This is Shelley, 35 and worth the work in Iowa.