What a concept...

Last night, my parents and I went to one of those summer outdoor movie things. The festivities started around dinnertime, and there was catering by a local restaurant. We'd eaten there before and found the food okay but kind of pricey. So we opted for subs instead.

We stopped on our way to the movie, and my mom and I split a gigantic sub (lest anyone worry it wasn't enough, we also brought other snacks to eat). My dad ordered after us, and so he picked out his toppings last as well. Which is when things got interesting. He asked if he ciuld put bacon on his sub; indeed he could.

Then he said (almost to himself): Yeah, bacon. Bacon sounds really good.

Which is when it hit me: that's not at all how I thought about my toppings. It wasn't about taste, not really. It was about adding stuff that wouldn't jack up the calorie count. The idea of ordering just what tastes good is pretty foreign to me anymore. And the idea of adding bacon--bacon!--just because it sounded good was a concept that seemed like it was from another planet.

It's sad to realize just how long I've lived and thought this way. It doesn't even occur to me to ask myself what I like. I just try and find something that's safe and that I won't hate. On the one hand, I know this will be something to work on in recovery. On the other hand, if I can't even figure out what I like, then how am I even going to start on this?

I guess if you asked my dad, he would find my way of ordering off a menu just as baffling. Why not order what you like? Because it's scary. Because what if I start eating and don't stop? If I'm not eating something I really like, I'm much less likely to eat more than I "should."

The obvious answer is to drop the food rules about what I should or shouldn't eat, or how much of it. My problem is that it seems normal now. My default is ordering low-cal. I don't want to deal with the anxiety pushback. I just want to be normal...

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PJ said...

Yep, normal would be nice. Going back in time to childhood and having seconds of icecream just cos mum's not watching would be nice!!
But we are where we are. No point 'what if-ing'.
I'm working on choosing things to eat that I know I should be eating, that will add nutrition to my meal. I know the 'I hope I don't like this too much' feeling, and I'm not going to tackle that just yet.
One step at a time. Get my nutrition right first. And manage that for long enough to know that I'm really doing it - and coping. Then I'll tackle things like what would I actually enjoy?

hm said...

I've found that recovery kills food enjoyment. I actually used to enjoy things quite a bit- on my terms- making up for the enjoyment either beforehand or afterward- I could eat bread and cheese dipped in olive oil with wine, or dark chocolate, or butterscotch schnapps... I could relish every single bite/sip. AS LONG AS I had adequate time to "prepare" for it before- i.e. not eat for all of most of the day beforehand- or to "make up for it" after- i.e.- wait- do I need to specify? I'm sure you get it. Sometimes I'd do both- make up for it before AND after. Usually, actually. Whatever.

But my point is, I DID enjoy the food I ate. Even if I got tortured mentally for it later. I would submit to the torture, pay my dues, and I'd be... fine. Eventually. Sort of.

Now that I'm in recovery and my portions are set, there's no room left for enjoyment. I can't eat anything I like b/c I'm too stressed about fitting in everything in my meal plan. And since I can't make up for the enjoyment by punishing myself for enjoying something, now I can't enjoy anything, ever. Wah.

And even if I COULD get past the "guilt" factor, there's the I'm-so-full-I-feel-sick-and-bloated factor. Who can enjoy ANYTHING when feeling like THAT???

Recovery sucks. But I guess it's the price I'm paying to stay alive. I wonder if someday I'll learn how to enjoy things again, on healthier terms.

azhe'n said...

holy wow. yes. i am certainly not so good at recovery BUT i hear this and feel it. i haven't ever been capable of purging so A.N. has measured every taste with some counter as hm said. i now pretty much eat or drink to fulfill a requirement just so that i'm sort of stable. i could not do diary cards because i am already hyperaware of every single bite, calorie, feeling and i found this just aggravated things. i have begun to ask, when in the safety of trusted allies, for things i want when i'm out. things i have some vague memory of liking or at least wanting and denying. i thought for a long time if i could think of food as only fuel that THAT would fix things but alas it just took the human principle of any pleasure and threw it out as well. it would seem a sort of relearning of enjoyment is necessary in order to quiet the chatter of hate that says one doesn't deserve. for now, in the company of friends, every now and again, i'm doing this but man the mental gymnastics over it, the guilt and heaviness and fear are so hard to hurdle just to eat. i don't know what normal is but it does help to watch other people even if while seeming surreal.

PJ said...

actually hm is right! I hadn't realised that before. Now there are such consequences to everything I eat because I can't just go for a bazzlion km run or restrict for however long to compensate. Recovery has sucked a bit of the fun out of food. BUT ONLY FOR NOW! Short term pain for long term gain. When I talk to my recovery support officer who is fully recovered I can see the future. She is slim and fit. So I don't have to obsess over that my-gp-is-going-to-make-me-fat thing. But she is also calm and happy. She can eat and still smile. She can exercise and still breathe. She has a life. That's where we're heading ladies. Just a long road to get there that's all :)

BJ said...

its funny how when you live with an ed for so long, you do start to forget what "normal" really feels like. I've been maintaining recovery for about 6 months now, although I still have some residual thoughts. Most of the time these residual behaviors are things I've done for so long I dont even notice until I stop, like automatically ordering whats "healthy" over what I really want. All I can say is that over time I have begun to unlearn everything anorexia had taught me. After devoting months to counting calories I have only now forgotten the caloric values I had once asssigned to every bite. So while this doesn't mean that I wasn't recovered before, I think it means that I am "more recovered" now. I think that everyday I grow farther away from ana ( and all the time I devoted to "getting good" at ana)and closer having a normal relationship with food. The sub-concious need to choose low-cal over taste is something I am learing to forget, I think it will come only with time :)

Melissa said...

I know exactly where you've coming from. Definitely been there! But now, later in my recovery, I've actually been able to get that back, at least some of the time. It felt very foreign at first--like when my body first started giving me signals like "You're full," "you could use some protein," "fruit would be nice," etc. and it felt like a superpower! Anyway...at least for some people, it comes back.

Incredible Eating Anorexics said...

i felt the same thing this weekend when my parents decided to have a scone with cream....in the middle of the day...pretty close to tea time, and i was like, why? because they wanted to. why not? i just thought....but you don't need it? its not food time? if your hungry have a drink and some fruit! then i realised i was the one thinking oddly, not them.

Katie said...

I remember what that's like too. When you're ill, food can be a necessary but extremely limited evil, and/or an obsession, but it's not enjoyable in the healthy sense of the word. In recovery food is one or several of a novelty, functional and/or resented. You can find yourself blaming it for all the fuss the eating disorders kicking up, when really food hasn't done anything wrong, it's the eating disorder causing all the stress (I hope that made sense, it was a tricky sentence to phrase, but I don't have enough brain power left to get it right!).

For me, in recovery, my physical health came first. Once I was weight restored and maintaining I started trying to teach myself intuitive eating, and that's when I started really enjoying food and feeling freer around it. Now I am like your dad. A couple of years ago when I cooked a meal I would have made sure it was balanced, with the "correct" portions of carbs, protein, fats and veg in it. This morning when I made my lunch for work I cooked pasta without weighing/measuring it, chopped up some tomatoes, basil leaves and avocado, chucked in half a can of beans, added some olives just because I love olives, then covered it in lemon juice and avocado oil. I have no idea how many calories were in it, it wasn't obsessively balanced (three sources of fat in one lunch! Teh horrorz!), and it was lovely. I make all my meals like that now. I'm not saying this to be all like "whoo, look how recovered and awesome I am", I just want you to know that it's possible to have a severe and enduring eating disorder and to recover to the extent that you CAN enjoy food, without all those rules :)

Tamara said...

thanks for being honest about this! I totally, totally relate. I have found freedom through my relationship with Jesus Christ; He is still teaching me and transforming me every day. Thanks again for your post!

Anonymous said...

in response to Katie's comment, I thought what you said was totally inspiring! It's nice to hear that complete recovery really is possible and that one day I might be able to live that way too!

meg said...

Normal is possible. I am doing it. I am living it. It is. Recovery has heightened food enjoyment (for me) as it has heightened my enjoyment of discovering who I am outside of hospitals, doctor offices and scales. Give yourself time. It will happen. Patience m'dear.

scottrecovered said...

I would love to live like that... It is like now, even without thinking, I immediately rule out anything "unhealthy" from my choices. Cream pasta? nope. Bacon? Nope. But they sound good! Gosh, Stupid ED!

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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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