Saying Yes

The word "no" is so fundamental to my eating disorder. No thanks, I've already eaten. No, I think I'll pass. No, I'm busy tonight. It was a lot about avoidance. If whatever it was might interfere with my eating disorder, I said no and backed away. And the eating disorder itself was a house of cards built on the concept of no: no food, no rest, no flesh, nothing.

As I work more in the bakery, I am being asked about how certain things taste or which items I prefer. Sometimes I'm honest and say "I haven't tried that," but sometimes I spin fairy tale stories about how good a particular item is. Part of it is my Inner Writer coming out, and after 10 years of anorexia, I have gotten pretty good at imagining what things must taste like (okay, the little descriptions on the back of the signs don't hurt, either). The irony is this: I can imagine what many of these things must taste like, but I have much greater difficulty imagining myself eating them. It's not the decadent items themselves that cause anxiety, it's the idea of saying yes to them.

So why does saying "yes" cause me anxiety? If I distill the question down long enough, I get this answer: shame. Shame of eating these things, shame of spending so much money on them, shame (and this is the kicker) of wanting them. It is hard for me to want things- it triggers all sorts of feelings that I'm greedy and selfish. I've more or less accepted that I need to eat, but it's hard for me to accept wanting to eat.

I am, by nature, a rather avoidant person. Much of the avoidance is rooted in fear. This fear, combined with a pervasive sense of shame, led to my decade of "no." It's a habit at this point, though not a good one, and I know that this mindset (the "No, don't" mindset) needs some work. Working in the bakery, there are often samples around, samples that we can try- as long as the customers don't see us. I've steered clear of those, with only one or two exceptions. My co-workers will help themselves and see nothing wrong with it. I have a hard time imagining myself actually just shrugging my shoulders and taking a bite.

I challenged this a bit the other day when I had the equivalent of a small slice of cake as part of my evening snack. I challenged it a bit more today when I bought a four pack of red velvet cupcakes for my parents and me to try. Whether I'll ever start my own personal "quality control" efforts for all the items in the bakery (as one of my co-workers puts it) remains to be seen. I doubt it. But I'm trying to start saying yes just a little bit more often. Yes to food, yes to something new, yes to life.

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Cathy (UK) said...

It is often said that 'anorexia nervosa is all about wanting to be thin, or fear of getting fat.'

Yet, your recent posts, which I have very much enjoyed and identified with, have emphasised that AN is about so much more than that, and if anything, not so much about 'weight' or 'fat' at all. (But please tell me if my interpretation is inaccurate...)

Even if what triggers food restriction at the outset is a desire to lose a bit of weight, what traps the person in that restriction is a mixture of anxiety avoidance, compulsive behaviour, obsessional thinking, defining oneself, competition with oneself or others, sticking to self created rules etc.

I also struggle with the 'cake thing' (and eating out of the norm). I know that tasting a morsel of a food that is outside of my usual repetoire won't make me fat, or give me the desire to eat (e.g.) 10 cakes all at once, but I am frightened of breaking my rules - because of the accompanying anxiety.

So what I am scared of, and running away from, is my emotions. I am avoidant in practice - because I am trying to avoid difficult emotions.

I hope you and your parents enjoyed the cupcakes :)

Cathy (UK) said...

Oops, I just found (to my horror) that accidentally typed my youtube webpage incorrectly in the above post. The correct link is on this post.

mariposai said...

For some reason this made me think of the film Yes Man...I found that the eating disorder seemed to give me unlimited usage of the word no, and recovery has helped me discover how to say yes and embrace all the new opportunities that this brings :-) Yes is a nice word.

Sarah x

James Clayton said...

Very true and it isn't just about food at all. The rules and overpowering 'no! no ! no!' is there all the time casting doubt over everything - I'm trying to say 'yes' or 'why not?' more and more and ultimately that does bring more exciting opportunitis and enjoyment to life.

Yes is indeed a very nice word.

Amy said...

"It is hard for me to want things- it triggers all sorts of feelings that I'm greedy and selfish."


Abby said...

Very easy for me to relate to, as I've written about this many times myself. It's not just a food restriction, but rather a restriction on enjoying just about everything--food, social activity, happiness, sex, professional satisfaction, etc. I think I somehow felt virtuous being able to say "no" to things when others obviously couldn't control themselves by indulging (sarcasm here).

I think I slowly have to learn that I'm no different from anyone else in that I deserve to want pleasurable things without "earning" them or compensating for indulging. There is nothing virtuous about being deprived...of anything.

Amanda said...

I completely agree. Saying "no" to food led to saying "no" to so many other things. Obviously my health, but also my friends, my family, my academic career, my job, my enjoyment of life. It's time to start saying "yes" to all those things, and allow myself to embrace them without any guilt. It's not about the food or the weight... it is so, so much more.

Thanks for your posts. I identify with them so much. You are incredible... keep up the hard work. It's so worth it.

Maddi said...

I love your insight! :)

Finding Melissa said...

Completely relate to the imagining eating but not imagining yourself eating part of this. Your insight is so astute.

Maybe the first step is imagining yourself eating them, or it's certainly something that I'm going to try!

I also agree with the notion of saying Yes and, co-incidentally blogged on Yes Man film a few weeks ago. Not normally a big movie fan, but maybe there's something in watching it?!!

Angela said...

I've written about this same topic on my blog, and the theme over and over again, is about needing too much, wanting too much, all in all being too much. I too am constantly saying no, especially at work. Yesterday there was a buffet in the teacher's lounge for lunch, and everyone kept asking me to come and eat, but I had already had my boost for lunch. I'm afraid for people to see me eat, exactly for the reasons you mentioned...being too greedy. I hope to, that one day we will be able to shrug our shoulders and say yes:)

Take care<3

Telstaar said...

Oooh for me "wanting" something is a big deal... if I choose it and I have a moderate control over my desire for something that is fine, but if I really really WANT it... oh boy not good. I also really struggle with spending money on me, on food on anything for me that isn't for someone else... I often feel like I waste things, time, energy, money, body.. that I must make the best investment of my resources and given that I can't know the outcomes of things, I usually end up saying "no" and trying to decide at a later time.

Very interesting idea I think, very relevant to me :)

Kim said...

I've seen that one of the biggest parts of recovery is daring to say "yes" (and, it does feel like it's "daring," for sure). Like you, my anorexia is all about "no." I avoid food, invitations, anything. Now, I find myself saying "yes" with more frequency. It's a general embracing of life, which anorexia combats directly. I also have a hard time wanting anything. I've always been baffled by people who say they "can't resist" something. I can resist anything. My problem has never been denying myself, unfortunately. I think the first thing is to start saying "yes" more. That probably leads to genuine wanting.

Alley Cat said...

I've been in recovery for a while and now that I'm kind of reacclimating I've been trying to think of how to explain the disease when it comes up in conversation. I think avoidance may have been the biggest part of it for me, as having to reacclimate proves! I used it to have this tunnel-vision focus to shrink my world down from overwhelming as I was avoiding grieving the most traumatic event of my life. I was even avoiding reacclimating afterward! I appreciate the helpful realizations that your blog inspires for me (not surprisingly, I've also tended to avoid getting in touch with my own feelings) so thanks for the inspiration, and keep at it! I have to remind myself that it's usually worth it to say yes to more than just what's comfortable! This reminded me of the movie "Yes Man" too haha :)

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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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