I Eat, You Eat, We Eat

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.

My thoughts

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 difference

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.

7 thoughts on “I Eat, You Eat, We Eat

  1. (Excuse me for my English…)

    This could be me, same story… After three years in recovery I still hear: you’ve eaten good! And; you look sooooo good right now, so healthy.

    These comments hurt, though. Doesn’t effect you? Like healthy = bigger, or..? How do you deal with the comments?

    • Hi Maura, thanks for your reply! Don’t worry about your English.

      Yes, I get similar comments. I think it’s a tricky thing because there are two aspects to it. Obviously I understand that they are well-intended and meant to be encouraging. However, I think not everyone knows how someone recovering from an eating disorder may perceive them. “You look so good right now, so healthy,” sort of indicates that you definitely have changed physically, because prior to recovery, the comments I got were that I looked so bad and skinny, etc. In that sense, I associate something that is intended as a compliment on my improvements as an accusation of having gained weight. Whenever I notice that I’m interpreting a compliment on my appearance and health as such, I have to analyse the situation: is that person really commenting on how much I gained? The answer is always “no.” That’s what I make of the compliment, and not what the person has said. Does the other person realise that I might take it that way? Probably not, because eating disorders are extremely complicated and while we may hope for understanding, we should not expect everyone to just know about all those different aspects. In this case, I feel that it’s my problem and that I have to deal with it. I have to add that it depends on who it is. If it is someone that is not that close to me, I just let it go. If someone I know well and see often comments repeatedly on how well I’ve done because I’ve finished my plate, I will let them know how such a comment makes me feel, and that, while I understand the intention, it does not necessarily help me.

      Like I wrote, I definitely appreciate all the support, but at this stage, eating is part of my everyday life and seeing that no one else gets those compliments, I don’t need them either.

      Long story short: I assess the situation and try to put it in context. People don’t want to hurt me with those comments and so I shouldn’t feel hurt either.

      • Thanks a lot for your answer! I asked you this question cause i’ve difficult times to deal with it… You helped me to change my attitude towards other people and there comments. 🙂

  2. Wow Laura…. I never thought of it that way…! Thanks for giving me the side of the recovering ones… Several friends have or had an eating disorder and it is always hard to determine how to behave without pushing someone further or back in their disorder. Being obviously happy when they eat seems not the way (although I’m as happy as can be when theu eat “normal”).

    I guess you won’t lose that label very soon. That’s the part I hate the most; even if you recover properly, you’ll always be that girl with an eating disorder. At least according to people who didn’t have had such a disorder. And I am not an exception when it comes to close friends. There’s a difference between knowing and feeling: I know that some of them can handle food and eating like I do but it feels like they can’t. Unfortunately! We aren’t that close and based on your blog I can only say that I think you do a pretty good job by enjoying your food and the ingredients…!

    • Obviously I am not sure if this applies to everyone – but it certainly applies to me, and I think Maura’s comment shows that I’m not the only one. I’m doing fairly well these days, and it’s been like this for a long time. Food is still not my best friend, but I am able to enjoy most of the things I eat. It’s okay that I’m the girl with an eating disorder – after all, I am very open about it and at this point, I am not yet a girl that recovered from her eating disorder. It’s just that I’m more than the girl with an eating disorder. I’m a student, I’m a dancer, I’m a young woman, I’m a car lover, I’m a blogger, etc.

      That being said, I think it’s only normal that you feel that way about close friends. Honestly, eating disorders are very complicated and unless people with an eating disorder express their feelings, you will not know exactly how to deal with that. My piece is not intended to put blame to anyone, but I do think it’s good to be aware of the possible implications to someone with an eating disorder.

      Don’t worry about your spelling and grammar; I’m perfectly capable of understanding what you wrote and that’s far more important 🙂

  3. As someone that is on the sidelines, you expect that a positive comment helps. However, after reading your blogpost, you have made me realise that some comments actually are counteracting. I certainly do not feel offended, and your message is so clearly formulated that it is only a minor effort to take this into account.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *