...when regular really isn't...

Today, I went with my mom to the grocery store. A relatively mundane task, as most tasks tend to be. My mom wanted more salad dressing. There was some stuff on sale, and I was browsing while my mom made up her mind. Then I saw it: Creamy Garlic Ranch.
I tossed it into the cart.

(My mom is so freaking happy I'm eating I think she might spring for caviar and champagne if I'd asked. Fortunately for her, I like neither of those and am content scarfing down ice cream sandwiches).

I realized, in the microseconds between when the dressing left my hand and when it went ker-thunk in the cart, that holy leaping lizards, Scooby! I didn't check the calorie/fat content before I selected it.

I didn't want to jinx myself and mention it to my mom, so I didn't. Yes, Mom, this blog counts as the mention.

So of course this thought occurs to me, and my mom still hasn't finished selecting from the astonishing wide array of salad dressings. I look at the varieties: organic, low cal, low carb, low fat, no fat, low sodium, etc, etc. I love different flavors of salad dressings because they make good dips and/or good marinades for chicken. Gimme a bottle of dressing and some chicken breasts, and dinner will be on the table in about 30 minutes (though a marinating time of several hours is optimum. Yeah right- like I have time for that.)

The question I'm wondering is this: how many of us buy "regular" anything anymore? Even marshmallows are advertised as "fat free." Which they are, but only because they're basically um, sugar, and more sugar. Companies want to make more and more low fat and low cal foods. And I understand the consumer pressure because of the (in my opinion) almost totally manufactured dangers of the "obesity epidemic." Yet if you read the ingredients, they replace naturally occurring fats and sugars with chemicals. Ick. Give me the real thing any day.

Somehow you're a glutton if you don't choose the "low fat" product. At least that's how I used to judge myself. Ed's rule was: thou shalt order the lowest calorie and/or lowest fat version of any product out there. Why buy full fat sour cream when you could get low fat? Or fat free?


My body needs fat. Fat can taste good. And it's just a bunch of hydrogens, carbons, and oxygens.

That's it.

I still have a hard time with this subject. When I realized that I had picked the "regular" salad dressing and saw the low fat options, I wanted to yank it out and put one of those into the cart. What's the difference? And maybe to someone without an eating disorder, it wouldn't be a whole lot of difference. Some people might not even know. I might not have known, based purely on taste. Then again, I might have.

It's not even so much about the specific fat content. It's about breaking free from rigid rules and regulations. It's about honoring what I want. It's about letting myself want, period. When anorexia and OCD, you don't have wants. You have rules. It's easy (in a sense) and it's secure. I don't have to think, I just act.

I developed these rituals to help soothe the anxiety that was within me, formed by my brain's crossed and frayed wires. An imbalance of neurochemicals that sizzled and frothed. So what really blows my mind (no pun intended) is that I feel less anxious when I let go of those rules. I am trying to accept that I will be anxious and no, it won't kill me and yes, it will be easier in the long run if I don't listen to the nasty little beast in my head who tells me to wash or restrict or exercise or arrange things.

That is the moral of the story. Ranch dressing isn't just ranch. It's a symbol of freedom. From anorexia. From OCD. From the mental illnesses that imprisoned me for so many years.


Lindsey said...

Dude. ROCK. ON. Like, TOTALLY. ;-)

And Gahhhhhlic. Gahhhhta love it. :)

RioIriri said...

I picked up a full-fat can of Pringles the other day, after having eaten the "low fat" ones for years and years.

I was astonished at how GOOD it tasted, the crispy texture was perfect...it made the low fat ones taste stale.

I enjoyed them so immensely, that I was satisfied with eating fewer of them. I'm not saying that eating fewer is better, but it did remind me that getting a taste of what you really want often prevents you from bingeing on "second best" because each bite is not quite satisfying. Enjoyment of your food is real health, I think :)

Laura Collins said...

Low-fat sour cream is, without a doubt, a terrorist plot to kill our spirits.

Long live Garlic Ranch!

mary said...

I am very impressed! You are healing!
This calls for a celebration. I'll bring the chips you can bring the dip.
Ice cream sandwiches are divine.

carrie said...


OMG! I'm so glad to hear from you! And that you're doing okay. Could you put me on the names of people who can read your blog? Thanks. ;)


Mmmm...Pringles. I just got a can of their spicy guacamole. Yum! It's the same way with cottage cheese. I'm not a huge fan, but the low fat or fat free is simply disgusting. And you're right- when you're eating something you truly enjoy, when you savor it, savor each bite, that is the antithesis to a binge.


My blessedly, completely normal eater friend from high school (and a dancer to boot) said she doesn't understand the concept of low fat sour cream and cream cheese because "they're *supposed* to have fat. That's why 'cream' is in the name." Gotta love her.


I do have to say this- let's just not dip the ice cream sandwiches in the ranch. I have to draw the line somewhere. ;) /*****

Thomas said...

Oh, how I love garlic! An excellent choice, I say :)

I sometimes read food labels out of curiosity, but almost never in the store. I buy what tastes best and is most enjoyable for me. Real butter, real sour cream. I make my own guacamole, and you just can't buy a low fat fresh fruit (I think an avocado is a fruit). I've even been known to buy lard for frying, or for doctoring up an inexpensive cut of beef (larding is a pain to do, but oh the flavor it adds).

bron said...

Dear Carrie

I've been reading your blog for a few months, but haven't posted a comment until now. I'm also recovering from an ED, and it's really heartening to hear about your experiences. I remember the first time I picked something up and didn't look at the label - like you, it wasn't a conscious thing and it was a little scary when I realised. But as some of the other commenters have said, full fat versions often do taste so much nicer. And the idea of living is to enjoy life, and food, and everything else. Well done for getting to this point!
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Take *that*, ED!

Your taste buds are thanking you. :)

Ryanryan said...

that was totally encouraging! =) i realized how long have it been since i had been able to do groceries without checking the calories!

Sarah said...

great post! I was eating some fat free cheese the other day and it actually took me a while to figure out that it was nasty. it is really amazing what we can get ourselves to believe/buy in to.

Msempower (aka Em) said...

Woo hoo! Rock on, soul sista in breaking up with that b*tch anorexia.

I'll take the real stuff anytime and everytime!

carrie said...


You know, I'm not sure whether avocado is a fruit. I think it is, but the whole reason I wasn't a strict bio major in college was that I had to take botany.

So which one of us should bring the mints? ;)


Thanks for the comments.




Good for you for seeking treatment, and I'm glad I could be of help.


It is quite amazing what we can get ourselves to believe. Or rather, what we can allow Ed to let us believe. You're right on- low fat cheese is pretty nasty.


Let's bring out that can of whoop ass. The can of full-fat whoop ass, that is. Hee hee

Msempower (aka Em) said...

i'm sending you a virtual cupcake since you don't live close enough to join in my bday fiesta.

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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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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

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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