Everyone at the table was staring at me as if I had just been assigned as the new Pope, while I popped another green bean in my mouth. I was just chewing on it like every other person would do, but they acted as if a miracle had just happened. Maybe four years ago, it would have been a miracle. But these days, eating is as much part of my everyday routine as any other woman’s make-up ritual.
First thing in the morning
As a matter of fact, eating is the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. I never skip breakfast, and neither have I done so in the past. The fact that I regarded a single cracker a proper breakfast is an entirely different story*. It doesn’t change the fact that I did eat. Similarly, I ate lunch (one slice of bread and a cracker) and I ate dinner — though this was almost nothing, especially not compared to what I ate before my eating disorder. I used to love food — particularly dinner and dessert — and I was the one, along with my dad, who used to finish the last bits in the pan. I didn’t even think about it, which, even today, is still unthinkable.
What I did think about, those years before my recovery, was how not to eat, while at the same time covering this fact up; my continuing to eat was just a massive cover-up. Terms like “anorexia” or “bulimia” have such black-and-white connotations, I knew I was safe as long as I continued to eat something. At least, I would be spared the verdict of being anorexic… not just from others, but also from myself. I now realise that I was mostly scared. Even when I was still naïve enough to believe that I would never get anorexia – yes, this was also while I was sick already – the health risks (read: death) scared the hell out of me.
The big difference between me and the people around me was that I did not see how I slowly transformed into a twig, getting closer to risking my health every single day. I needed this diet so badly, to shed all the fat. I believed I had everything under control, but I was the only one to not notice how I was controlled by my anorexia – that I was totally out of control. And for other people to realise this while not being able to do anything about it must have been horrible. They must have felt powerless, and disappointed, and mostly sad. I used to be a fun, loveable person rather than a lifeless doll with an even less realistic body than Barbie’s. The sad thing? My body was real. Imagine how scary this must have been for those that loved me.
Another difference: then and now
When I find myself eating with close friends or family, I get the impression they watch my every bite, which is confirmed when I hear the “well done” after I have finished my plate. They’re almost cheering. I understand why my eating seems so miraculous. I mean, it sort of is, when someone starts eating proper meals again after six years of near-starvation. But we’re four years into my recovery now and I am used to having four decent meals a day. Yet whenever I get a “well done” or the comment that they don’t know what we’re going to eat when I come over because they’re not sure what I eat, I feel like I’m different. It only emphasises the fact that my eating pattern is divergent. I understand the happiness and excitement of seeing me improve, and I really appreciate that everyone wants to support me (please continue doing so!). But at this point, I just want to have dinner like every other person does. I want food and eating to be something normal, and I definitely want the act of me eating to be as ordinary as it is for everyone. This helps me way more than drawing attention to the fact that I’m doing so well now; it is a reminder that my eating used to be disordered. Not eating used to be the norm to my anorexic self. Now, eating should be one of the main verbs in my dictionary. And it is.
I eat, you eat, we eat
I eat, because food is one of the core ingredients to live and enjoy whatever life presents. You eat, for the same reason. We eat, because living means enjoying each other’s company, and food is a great way to connect.
*Obviously my meals have increased and the examples given are only representative of what I ate before my recovery, and not of my present eating pattern.