Choices, choices, and more choices

A little while ago, I read a rather interesting book called "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz. Unfortunately, I don't have the book with me at the moment, but I've been thinking about it, off and on, for a month or two now, particularly from the standpoint of someone who suffers from OCD and anorexia.

The book is written from a sort of "less is more" standpoint, why the more choices we have, the more dissatisfied we are. It's hard to choose, and when we see all of the other choices out there, we begin to second-guess what we have. The process of actually making a decision is tough for me- I get overwhelmed easily by all of the different options, yet I need to have a decision made. Hanging ends does not bode well for my mental health.

However, with the OCD and a nice strong streak of perfectionism, I feel compelled to make the right choice, the "perfect" choice. That idea is so overwhelming that I get locked into the same old ways of doing things. Some of my routines are purely functional: I get ready the same way in the morning because the fewer decisions for a semi-comatose person, the better. But with the AN, I found myself locked into eating the same foods in the same order every single day. Ditto for exercise. Sometimes, I found myself unable to eat because I literally was so overwhelmed with anxiety that I couldn't choose. Even with my OCD habits, I had to do things a certain number of times so I didn't have to decide whether or not the bathroom was clean. If I scrubbed the counter five times, then I could be pretty damn sure it was clean.

I guess just reading this book helped me understand myself a little better. Why I was so relieved in treatment when I was told what to eat and when. The last time I was in a small residential facility, so there was only one menu choice. I was served my portions and had to eat them. Period. It was such a freaking RELIEF! No more agonizing over the "perfect" granola bar. Here we just had two different flavors of the same bar. Or apple juice vs. orange juice. I was a twenty-five year old young woman who had uber-public health powers at the state level, yet I couldn't decide what I wanted (or Ed would let me have) for dinner. It made no sense. Before, I was so terrified, I didn't choose and thus didn't eat. In treatment, I didn't choose because I didn't have to. And it felt good.

Now I am able to choose, and even now, that includes choosing to eat a sufficient volume of food to produce a weight gain. I hate that part. But I am able to do it- with some trade secrets, such as Coldstone ice cream and jumbo apple turnovers.

The paradox of choice. Sometimes less really is more.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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