Now that I am tackling my fear foods I am beginning to see how much I have been lying to myself by kidding myself that I didn’t like them. And why would you eat things you don’t like? I struggle the most with things that are very bland such as pasta or rice, why bother if it isn’t a taste party in my mouth?
I am a long way from having dealt with all of the foods that scare me but guess what? Bread is awesome, especially fresh from the oven. Add butter, or jam, or Nutella, or hummus, or eggs and you really get into a happy place. Chocolate is amazing as it melts on your tongue and there are so many types to choose from. I have spent years baking for others but not actually eating what I made or licking the bowl and spoon to enjoy the batter; I could ignore the delectable smells emanating from the oven.
So why have I been pulling the wool over my eyes? It’s simple really: it is easier to avoid things if you think you don’t like them, most people don’t choose foods they don’t like the taste of. See, its normal, its fine shouts the anorexic voice. The problem being that the more I told myself this the more I didn’t eat things and the less I ate them, the more I came to fear them.
I got to the point where I really thought that something bad would happen if I ate, what became the majority of foods. Somehow the fear went beyond simple weight gain, though this was terrifying, to something I couldn’t define. It was abstract but somehow also very real. I can now see how illogical it all was but it is still something I am fighting. What do I think that slice of bread is going to do? Slap me round the face? And the hot brownie, is it going to give me a third degree burn? Of course not, totally ludicrous.
So what happened when I decided to try and challenge my fear of bread? Well to start with there was a very real fear of bingeing. I went through a horrible period of bingeing and purging, I hated it but couldn’t stop and it took a hospitalisation for me to break the habit. I often ate bread as I binged so I couldn’t shake the fear that I could fall back into it all. Also, I have been starting to feel hunger and I was terrified that if I were to eat bread I wouldn’t be able to stop and I would purge it. Simply put, I didn’t trust myself. Now that I have more or less beaten my fear of bread (challenge repeat, repeat and repeat again) I think that this fear wasn’t entirely misplaced as I needed to rewire my brain to not be triggered to binge by eating it. I decided to have it only when I was eating with other people and yes, I did find it hard to stop and I know I would have eaten much more had I been alone. In all likelihood it wouldn’t have ended well. The difficulty also came as my appetite is often insatiable and takes a lot of eating to assuage. Often I could have eaten a loaf without a moment’s hesitation or it touching the sides.
So where am I now? Well I have been eating bread consistently for over a month almost every day, fears need to be faced regularly so that the food becomes normal and safe. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the fear and anxiety have gone completely, rather eating it has become a habit. I am still torn between loving the taste and hating what it will do to my body but I do it anyway. I now add butter because damn I love it no matter how evil I have made it in my mind.
I remind myself of the me I remember being, the me I was before this all started. The woman who, after a long couple of days in the mountains, ordered a pizza and chips in a restaurant only be told by the waiter that he would only bring the pizza as I couldn’t possibly eat both. I did, much to his surprise, so he brought me the chips and I the ordered a dessert afterwards. This was my life and boy do I want it back. I want to not fear restaurants, to be able to relax and enjoy eating with friends, to not have a head full of numbers and thoughts of how to compensate for the excesses I see in what I eat.
When the fear grips me I try to remember this, I try to think long term about the me I want to be in a year from now rather than the me I will be after eating a slice of bread. The effort to reward ratio is hard in recovery; in the short term there is very little reward but in the long term there is, or so I hope: energy, freedom, eating out, being happy, clear thinking, being the real me. To try and see some form of progress I have stuck a list of my major fear foods on the fridge and I put a tick beside them every time I eat them, I add a smiley face when I no longer fear them. I have to think about what type of woman I want to be, do I really want to be scared of the food I put into my mouth? No, most certainly not.
At the end of the day no food can damage us (well ok, food poisoning can but that is not worth worrying about), it can only nourish us and boy do I need that: for my hair and nails to grow; to fuel the things I want to do in my life; to repair the damage anorexia has done to my kidneys; to quiet the voice in my head; to think about something other than food all day.
Much of life is grind: a job; cooking, doing the laundry; folding and putting away clothes; ironing; cleaning the toilet; hoovering the house; doing the shopping; dealing with responsibilities blah blah blah. Outside of this we deserve to prioritise ourselves, to do things that make us happy and give us pleasure. I think that many people would class eating as one of life’s great pleasures, maybe not always but often. That after dinner chocolate, an ice cream on a hot day, pizza on a Friday night or a slice of cake with friends. Why would you not join in? We really do deserve moments of genuine happiness as much as anyone else, we are worthy.
At the end of the day, to quote a good friend of mine, food tastes good and fills you up no matter how much you kid yourself otherwise.