Good morning, Wednesday readers! I’m linking up with Peas and Crayons to share a day’s worth of eats with you today, but this post is kind of a doozy. Feel free to stand and stretch as needed.
As of late, I have become acutely aware of the ways in which I have not been honest with myself about recovery. This has become glaringly apparent since I gave up exercise and realized just how much I was exercising out of a need to earn food, or to burn calories. Those were still my motivations, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself. Coming clean about why I was exercising was a significant step in my recovery, and I decided to try to tackle another major recovery hurdle this week: giving myself permission to eat.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I simply gave myself permission to eat. As far back as I can remember, there have been implications present with food choices. Foods were good or bad, and I was good or bad. I have lived as many do, believing that my body is shamefully incapable of telling me its needs and wants, and that I would have to diet for the rest of my life because of my body’s shortcomings. Throughout recovery, as I have touted permission to eat as important for everybody else in recovery, I have denied myself that same permission. I have continued to believe way, way back in my brain that I have to try to recover while simultaneously dieting, and that I am an exception who cannot achieve the same full recovery as others. I was so used to this lifestyle of following food rules and choosing distraction over food that I was not even entirely aware of its problematic nature.
After doing some reflection, I decided to challenge that belief head-on this week. I know that fear of trying something new prevents change, and I am beyond ready for a change. So, I did some reading about how to truly give yourself permission to eat what you want, when you want it. I set out with the goal of responding to my hunger each and every time that I got hungry, and to choose foods that sounded good to me, not just the ones that felt safe and familiar. This intention may sound simple, but it was not something that I had fully and honestly committed to doing before. I have continued living much of my life in a state of low-level hunger carefully punctuated by meals, and that is no way to live. I decided that it was time to really dive in, taking charge of my recovery and my life. On Sunday, I set about my day with the best of intentions. I was going to respond to hunger perfectly. I would not chew a single piece of gum or drink a single diet soda. Surely, I would be magically recovered in a day’s time!
Unsurprisingly, Sunday did not go that way. I still struggled to feed myself adequately and frequently enough, but I was much more aware of my body’s needs than usual. Because I was not trying to distract myself from hunger as I often am, I was able to pick up on hunger cues and take note of them much more easily. When I woke up Monday, I was disappointed in myself. Sunday hadn’t been perfect. I wasn’t magically recovered. What the fuck? After giving it some though, I realized, that Sunday was practice. Monday did not have to go back to business-as-usual eating disorder, I could keep practicing. So, on Monday, I made yet another effort to listen to my body every single time it asked me for food. And do you know what? Monday wasn’t perfect, either. But it was a little easier than Sunday. Yesterday, I went about my day with an attitude similar to Monday’s. I didn’t expect perfection, I expected progress. And now, I am sharing my food from yesterday, the day in which I tried harder than I ever have before to trust my body and show it that I will give it what it needs.
Breakfast started normally and wonderfully, with oatmeal and coffee. After I finished breakfast, I had a FaceTime date with one of my lovely college roommates. We chit-chatted for quite some time, and then I left to run some errands before work.
When I got back home, I was getting a bit hungry. It was nearly noon, but because I would be the last shift to arrive for the day, and because we take turns for lunch breaks based on arrival time, I knew that I would not be eating lunch for quite a while. I remembered the promise that I made to myself, to respond to my hunger, and I toasted part of a peanut butter and chocolate chip muffin from work. I added a little peanut butter, and it was the perfect snack to enjoy while I packed my lunch and finished getting ready for the day.
My snack held me over for a bit, but I was getting pretty hungry again shortly after getting to work. I still had quite a while before my lunch break, so I accepted the offer of a couple of my coworker’s chips. I reminded myself again and again that being hungry is the only reason I need to eat something, and I enjoyed a chip or two despite the anxiety of eating out of my usual schedule.
When my lunch break rolled around, I had a salad made with beans, avocado hummus, vegetables, salsa, and tortilla chips. I also ate a container of yogurt and some more hummus with carrots. During my lunch break, I took a few minutes to stretch and take some deep breaths in an effort to center myself for the rest of the afternoon. I constantly interact with people at work, and I have come to appreciate a few minutes to myself in the middle of the day.
A couple of hours after lunch, I was hungry for a snack. I had brought a wide variety of options with me to work so that I could break out of my routine a little bit, and I opted for an apple, some roasted seaweed, and a piece of turkey. I also shared some of this Jose Cuervo chocolate with one of my coworkers. If you like tequila and you like chocolate (which I do), these are definitely made for you.
I started getting hungry again as I was getting ready to close for the night at work. Previously, I would have distracted myself until I got home and could make dinner, but I had vowed that yesterday would be different and I wanted to follow through on my commitment to myself. I ate a few of these gorgonzola crackers and some baby carrots, almonds, and wasabi peas as I finished up closing chores and left for the day.
For dinner, I decided that I wanted a true challenge. I met my dad for dinner, and I told him that he could pick wherever he wanted to go. He chose a restaurant that I haven’t eaten at in a long time, primarily because burgers are their speciality and burgers terrified me for quite a while. Since I was trying to go all in, I ordered something that I have not ordered in some time, certainly not since I stopped counting calories. I ordered a burger. It was a yak burger, to be specific. When my food came to the table, my anxiety skyrocketed. I started to panic about unknown calories, my hunger level, and a number of other disordered things. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that food is not something to be feared, and I ate.
I wish that I could say that I ate the entire burger. I could have eaten the entire burger. Partway through my meal, though, I got nervous. A little bit of panic set in, and I stopped eating before I should have. I’m not proud of this decision, but I want to be entirely transparent about it because it is the reality of recovery. I took the remainder of my meal as leftovers, went to my grandpa’s house to check on him, and then headed home.
When I got home, it was clear to me that I was still hungry. At first, I was incredibly tempted to resort to distraction. After all, I would probably be going to bed in a few hours. What’s a few hours spent hungry? My eating disorder reminded me of how easily I could just be hungry for a while, how that might ease my anxiety about eating a different dinner and make me feel better. Despite the allure of returning to old behaviors, I called to mind my commitment to myself for the day, to honor my body by feeding it when hungry, and I ate a few chocolate chips and some cereal to finish off my dinner.
I took a relaxing bath and spent a while journaling in the evening before my eyelids started to get heavy, indicating that it was nearing my bedtime. I was still feeling hungry, and I wasn’t going to let the unknown contents of my dinner keep me from responding to that hunger. I ate an english muffin with peanut butter before bed because I was hungry, and hunger is the only reason I need to eat something.
Yesterday was a hard day because I challenged my disorder more directly than I have in a very long time, but it was worth the challenge. I don’t want to settle for complacency. I don’t want to settle for partially recovered. I know that the way to continue pushing upwards in recovery is by challenging myself in ways like this, and I intend on continuing to do so. Yesterday was not perfect, but it was practice. It was easier than Monday, which was easier than Sunday, and I have every reason to believe that it will continue to get easier the more that I trust my body.
That rounds out this week’s post! I hope the rest of your Wednesday is wonderful!