Today was a struggle for me.
I was in class. It was our last day. My professor brought in juice boxes, cake and donuts for everyone.
#1. I do not like fruit punch. Never have, never will.
#2. I do not like jelly donuts. See above.
#3. I did not really want to eat less than two hours after my breakfast.
The majority of my class picked up both a slice of cake and a donut along with a juice box.
I ate nothing.
I received multiple offers. I politely declined.
And then the anxiety set in. Do they know I was anorexic? Are they thinking that right now? Are they judging me? Am I being rude?
I had feelings of immense guilt for not eating and it occurred to me, my feeling of distress was because I felt like I was drawing attention to myself. Because, well I was afraid they would somehow know. That they'd think something was wrong with me. Because all my life, all I've ever heard when I experience any sort of food related anxiety, all I get told is "You're skinny. Shut up and eat."
It can be really frustrating and hard to know, is it my choice or is it anorexia's choice? Sometimes, its a mix of both. I think the actual fear of possibly having ED thoughts is more anxiety provoking than anything. I knew eating something like that at 10AM would probably upset my rather sensitive stomach. So, I asked myself some questions. Is eating this food so people will stop bothering me worth the potential repercussions? I know I've been having some bad days - is it worth me possibly not eating enough today? What if I feel shitty afterwards? Will I even actually feel more comfortable right now if I eat this?
I like to think of it as risk-assessment. The obvious answer here was no. And if we're going to be really honest, no one in that room probably gave a damn one way or the other, but I felt uncomfortable so I removed myself from the situation.
I'm pretty sure any therapist or ED specialist would insist I did the wrong thing and should have eaten the cake. But I didn't want it. I didn't really feel comfortable with being pressured into having something I didn't want. And ya know what? If I want cake, I will eat it. If I want pizza, I will eat it. If I want a crispy chicken sandwich and fries, I'll eat that too. But if it's being offered to me, it doesn't mean I have to have it. That's still something that's hard to grasp for me, I think, because eating is so often a social thing. And we all want to be part of the group. But is it really normal to make yourself eat something you don't even like, because other people are eating?
I really think that normal eating is a myth. Well, maybe not a myth per say. But it's not what they make you think it is when you're in treatment. Three meals and three snacks a day? Once you start living your life, you don't reaaaallly have time to do that in many cases. I mean, I still have a snack at night before I go to bed because I sleep better. And if I'm hungry, I eat. But I don't schedule it out anymore. I hardly think about it most of the time - unless I'm starving, in a boring class counting the minutes until I can go somewhere to get food. But that's a special scenario.
Back to my point: normal eating is really just a fancy name. Its more a state of mind than an actual thing. Normal eating is eating when you're hungry (or sometimes just because you have a yen for chocolate) without overwhelming anxiety. Can you eat a few slices of pizza by yourself and not hate yourself for a week? Do you need to eat certain things every day at certain times, or will you be just fine if you eat at 8PM instead of 6PM?
Congratulations. You're normal. Not because you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, and not because you eat 2000 calories a day. But because you aren't afraid of these meals or numbers or what time it is anymore. I can remember a time when I was eating my 3 meals and 3 snacks. I used to eat with my mom. I would panic if it went past a certain time, for anything. Last snack had to be had by 8:30, etc. What a different life it is now.
So to summarize my rather lengthy post: After your weight-restored I am almost positive there will still be times when you feel uncomfortable in social situations pertaining to food. And that's OK. Just because you don't want a jelly donut doesn't mean your ED is usurping control of your brain. That's something I learned today. And other times, just the fear of possibly having an ED thought popping up might be enough to say "Nope not worth it." As long as you're healthy and doing alright, do what YOU think is right for you in the moment, you're doing just fine. And normal eating is really just an evolution from following a meal-plan every day to not following a meal plan every day. Not so scary after all right?
I personally came home from school and had a brownie with my lunch. Brownies trump donuts any day in my book. And I was much happier with my brownie than I would have been eating a donut I didn't even like with my classmates, whom I was not terribly fond of either if we're going to be blatantly honest. And you all know that's my strong suit.