Life with the Girls

Table for One

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Food writer Karla Walsh has never been interested in settling for the first menu option. So despite all her friends pairing off around her, right now she’s toasting to her own companionship. Find out what it took to get there in this month’s “Life with the Girls.”

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Author Karla Walsh.

As a ‘retired’ restaurant reviewer, I often find myself relating aspects of my life to the world of food.

Take relationships. The metaphor I give friends who have already reached #couplegoals status is that the best partnerships are akin to a bag of Starburst. You and your plus-one shouldn’t be identical (a duo of Kit-Kat or Twix), nor should you come from opposite ends of the candy aisle (say, a Sour Patch Kid with a Peppermint Patty). Ideally, you have the same essential make-up, but maybe your partner is a yellow, and you’re a red. You complement each other. (Just try a red and yellow Starburst in one mouthful and convince me that combo isn’t magical.)

Author Karla Walsh.

At 32 and single in Iowa, where nearly everyone pairs off and settles down within a few years post-college, I appear to some as an ice cream cone melting in the scorching summer heat. In fact, Iowa ranks 5th out of 50 for states with the most marrieds.

“Your clock is ticking, Karla!” I hear on occasion.

“What are you, an ice queen or something?” I imagine others thinking when I show up solo once again at a couples’ outing.

But my relationship with myself has been such a priority over the last 15 years that a partnership with another person simply hasn’t been possible. At 16, I decided that my 180-pound body, DD breasts and size 12 clothes simply wouldn’t do. A year later, I had whittled myself down to 94 pounds, AA breasts and 00 (or smaller) apparel. I spent the next decade conquering an up-and-down battle with anorexia, making peace with myself, learning to love me for—not in spite of—my quirks, my sass, my well-endowed chest, my stretch marks.

Finally, after some major self-work and shifting from a fitness-writing career to a food one, I was able to find the serenity to be had in balance, grace and acceptance of the far more than 50 shades of gray in life. Just because you eat a slice of cake at your BFF’s birthday party doesn’t mean you’re unlovable.

“Just because you eat a slice of cake at your BFF’s birthday party doesn’t mean you’re unlovable”

During my recovery from anorexia, I dove deep into what I’m willing to stand for and what I’m not. I realized that joy is possible when you follow your heart toward what really makes it tick. Happiness and self-acceptance start to bubble to the surface when you find the right fit: a community that supports you; hobbies and work that fuel your internal flame.

I’ve long since thrown away my scale, and most days, I wake up ecstatic about the person I see smiling back at me in the bathroom mirror. Now that I’ve found that right fit for myself, I know what I want in a relationship with someone else.

I’m at an age where I have witnessed friends struggling to maintain marriages as they fizzle out, battling over custody or even having kids to try to save a marriage, and I can see that I’m not willing to settle until I feel that perfect fit with another person. We all know trying to squeeze a C into an A-cup is not a comfortable proposition, nor is it tenable for very long.

“Trying to squeeze a C into an A-cup is not a comfortable proposition”

I’m dating and open to the prospect of finding a life partner, but I guess you could say that my relationship status is as complicated as a Chopped mystery basket. Sometimes it’s messy. A key ingredient is usually missing. At a certain point, you just have to say, “Time’s up.”

Until my significant other rounds out my recipe in a way that makes me feel more whole than I do on my own, I’ll opt for a table for one, even if others think it’s sad. On days when I’m feeling a tinge of loneliness, I go back to one of those soul-feeding hobbies and flip on Lizzo’s “Juice” to upend my mood and remind me that I’m pretty sweet solo: “No, I’m not a snack at all / Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal.”

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Karla Walsh

Karla Walsh

A Des Moines, Iowa-based freelance writer, Karla Walsh is also an SEO and social media consultant, restaurant brand manager and level one sommelier who balances her love of food and drink with her passion for fitness. (Or tries to, at least.) She has been published in Runner’s World, Better Homes & Gardens and Fitness. You can also find her work on Shape.com, WomensHealthMag.com, CookingLight.com, BHG.com, Uber Eats and more.
Karla Walsh

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