My dietitian gave me the homework assignment of writing about what it would mean to me to live a life where food was enjoyable to me. So here I am writing a blog post about it because I think it’s a very interesting topic to discuss.
When I googled food, this was the first image to show up. My OCD likes this one even more:
I find no enjoyment in food at the moment. When I eat, I don’t process textures or tastes. I don’t look at food and recognize it for what it is. This is a remnant of my old behavior of calorie counting. Any food appeared like numbers instead of its actual entity. I see food as a job; a task that has to be accomplished. This is the only way I can manage to get myself through meals: mechanical, robotic, mindless eating.
I don’t want this to be forever.
Because food is supposed to be enjoyable. That’s why “foodie” is actually a recognized word in the dictionary; that’s why we have restaurants and recipes; that’s why people eat, besides for sustenance. But because food has meant something reprehensible, even evil, to me, for so long, I don’t recognize it that way.
I don’t want this to be forever either.
I want to be able to order a pizza to my dorm room at two o’clock in the morning because I’ve foolishly stayed up all night working on a paper and need some “brain food”. I want to be able to go out for ice cream and not have my voice quaver in fear as I place my order and watch my hands shake with every minute spoonful I put into my mouth. I want to be able to go out to a restaurant without having to look up the menu beforehand to decide what I’m going to eat because it fits into my exchanges. I don’t want to be relegated to a life of exchanges, either; nor do I want to be forever tied down by measuring cups and exacting portions.
I don’t want to be afraid of food. But more than that, I want to like food. I want to enjoy it. I don’t want to see it as some sort of mission that I have to accomplish like I’m some sort of secret agent or something.
Certain foods terrify me. For so long I’ve lived in fear of ordinary things that most people consume quite regularly like coffee, apples, and rice, to name a few. This is because my eating disorder managed to convince me that said foods would be detrimental to my eternally unattainable goal of gaining complete control of my life. My eating disorder is a manifestation of my perfection, my depression, and my anxiety. It’s the cherry on top of the mental disorder sundae, so to speak. Foods that aren’t separate also scare the living daylights out of me; I like to be able to recognize each ingredient separately. When everything is combined, it’s sort of an amalgamation of horribleness that becomes an equation my brain is too tired to solve.
Pizza is sort of the ultimate example of this. When we had pizza day at treatment, I literally cowered in terror.
Cheesy, ooey, gooey, saucy, oily, greasy, and capable of scaring the shit out of me. For god sakes, it’s dough, cheese, tomatoes, and whatever toppings your heart so desires. None of these foods should be frightening.
But they are. And I don’t want it to be that way any longer.
I don’t want to have trigger foods. I want to be able to eat things and process them as sweet, savory, chewy, crunchy, et cetera. I want to be able to try new things fearlessly and decide whether I like them based on actual taste and texture rather than whether my eating disorder judges it to be a safe food. I want to stay out late with my friends and order wings or Chinese takeout just for the hell of it. I want to be able to cook things without constantly wondering about how I’m going to get through eating it. I used to cook for pure enjoyment; I loved the aromas and the whole process of it. I’d turn on some music and even dance around a little bit while the various ingredients cooked, baked, and conglomerated. I wasn’t fearful of combining things and trying new items.
I want to be able to enjoy ice cream again.
I want to be able to enjoy pasta again.
I want to be able to enjoy whatever the hell I so desire without worrying about the caloric content of it, or whether it’s mainly a carb, fat, or sugar. Because for so long I’ve lived in the shadow of my eating disorder. I’ve let it dictate my portion sizes, my preferences, and my choices.
I’ve let it rule my life.
Ultimately, learning to like food means completely conquering my anorexia. It means relearning to trust my body to let me know when it needs food and when it’s full. It means embracing my hunger cues rather than wanting to slap myself silly for having them.
I can barely imagine a world where food is not the enemy. But I know I want to live in it.
I want to live in a world where I’m excited by food. I want to be able to travel to other places, other countries, and try their cuisines and actually enjoy doing so. I want to not feel overly bloated and distended after a meal because my body doesn’t trust me to take care of it yet. I want to eat cake and cookies and chocolate (the three evil c’s) and all these foods that my eating disorder has declared gluttonous and not suitable to consume.
I don’t want to feel guilty about eating. I don’t want to worry about whether or not someone’s watching me eat or whether or not I’ve measured out an exchange to the T. I want to be able to eat more than my meal plan because I’m still hungry and not punish myself for that later. I want to not be on a meal plan anymore because I’m capable of nourishing my body while simultaneously managing to take pleasure in doing so. Essentially, I want to be able to eat whatever the hell I feel like eating, whenever I feel like doing so. Not overdoing it, but not underdoing it either. That’s not a word, but it’s what I’ve spent so much time attempting to do that it’s become my reality. I was never able to eat little enough. I was never able to cut enough foods out. I was never able to satisfy my eating disorder.
And I never will be. Ultimately, I need to recognize that for the brutally honest truth that it is. My anorexia and food don’t jive well together for obvious reasons. But food is necessary.
Right now, that’s all I can see it as.
But enjoying food means more than that. It means not seeing food as a chore. It means not eating the same thing every day because I’m too damn scared to try something else or to vary my routine. It means not engaging in new behaviors that have emerged to take over from my old, discarded behaviors. It means seeing food as just what it is.
Because, in the end, that’s the biggest truth I’ve had to teach myself from the ground up. That’s the reality my anorexia wants to desperately to prove wrong. That’s the truth that cannot be ignored. That’s the truth that means the difference between living and dying.
I don’t want to live a life ruled by food. I want to live a life full of food and the happiness that it brings me. I want to live a life where food isn’t constantly on my mind because I’m so concentrated on the next time I have to force myself to eat again.
I just want to see food, as food. I want to give my anorexia the royal “fuck you”.
That’s what enjoying food really, truly means to me. It means winning the battle against my anorexia that I’ve waged for so long. It means not wanting to return to the emaciated pile of tears I was reduced to back when I was in the hospital and had to adhere to a meal plan or have a tube do the eating for me. It means not damaging myself; making myself so incredibly fragile that a single crumb or morsel more of food can be my breaking point.
It means living the life I was meant to live. I’ve spent enough time giving anorexia control over everything I say, do, and think. It’s time to take back my life, one bite at at a time.