This Sunday, after my runger finally stopped raging and I had not been the nicest person to be around for a few hours in the afternoon, I got to thinking about my relationship to food a year ago, or two or five or ten, as compared to what it currently is. There’s a huge difference between now and then, and I’m grateful for it, but change didn’t happen overnight. It was gradual over time, so that sometimes I’m still surprised when I realize how far I’ve come.
I struggled with an eating disorder for nearly a decade, something I shared here on the blog during NEDA Week last February and this one. Food was not something to be enjoyed. It was something to be fought and feared. Hunger was an enemy, and giving into it a weakness that I thankfully could not suppress enough to do lifelong harm. I used to count the calories in every morsel that passed my lips, foregoing any food that I could not accurately estimate. I’d go to my favorite childhood ice cream spot and only order the fat free, sugar free “yogurt” weighed in ounces I could tally. My beloved sprinkles were near forbidden fruit unless I knew exactly how many teaspoons were heaped on top.
While I consider my second year of college to be the lowest point, recovery wasn’t a steady process. There were peaks and there were valleys, and the valley in my second year of law school was nearly as low. Even a year ago, when I was firmly on an upward trajectory, this kind of day would have been impossible. Now look at me. After Sunday’s race, I essentially ate all day except for when I was walking or otherwise moving. Even then, I was eating some of the time (see ice cream jaunts one, two and three). French fries went uncounted. Spoonfuls of sunflower and peanut butter went down the hatchet without a second thought.
The old me could never have had such a day. She would have imagined it, wanting to be able to let go so desperately that it drove her to tears. She would have stared longingly at the canelles in the pastry case, unable to eat one because she had not even the slightest idea of what dessert most resembled the French treat and thus could not accurately estimate the calories. She certainly would not have been able to share French fries with her boyfriend. In fact, she rarely ate in front of others at all, preferring to consume what little she was allowed prior to dinner with friends.
Can I say that I didn’t experience even one disordered thought on Sunday? No, I can’t, and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for all the time wasted on memorizing calorie counts, the energy and brain space it took to control every aspect of food in my life, the way it affected my relationships with family and friends, and most importantly, how it made me feel like I didn’t deserve a day like Sunday. I can’t go back. I can only look forward, and be grateful to the friends who helped me get to where I am now, and to my boyfriend who lets me eat more than my fair share of the sweet potato fries every time and who reminds me of all I am and everything I have in this life when the thought loop turns negative and threatens to drag me down.
Four Sundays ago, I ate peanut butter out of the jar on a New York City subway. Yes, that is pretty revolting. Yes, my inner clean freak wanted to sanitize my intestinal tract afterwards. No, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret anything Sunday, or the other ice cream sprees that have happened since, or one too many spoonfuls of anything else. Life is long, but it’s also far too short for that.
How have your feelings about food changed over time?
Do you eat in a way now that is different to when you were younger?
If you’ve recovered from an ED, what is the one thing you’d like to tell others who are struggling?
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