Who Wants What?
Have you ever been on a date where someone orders for you? Or any situation, for that matter, when another person tells you what to do or how to feel? I spent almost two decades living like that. Every time I ate out, my eating disorder told me what I wanted. Orthorexia made my weekly grocery list; my hands were simply its vessel to write it all down. I became its servant, obeying its every command.
I’d love to be able to say those thoughts are gone, but nine months into recovery and I still face anxiety and guilt around my food selections. This is to be expected, I guess, after years of being told what I wanted to eat. Old habits die hard! Thankfully, those thoughts are becoming less demanding as I gain the strength and self-compassion to fight back.
Just this weekend, I went to the ballpark and orders nachos—something my eating disorder would have deemed forbidden. Yes, there was still some hesitation. I pushed through and shoved those messy chips in my mouth with determination. And yes, there was still some guilt afterward; however, the newfound freedom and sense of accomplishment quickly trumped any regrets.
On this bumpy path through recovery, I am rediscovering who I am and what I want. During my eating disorder, I became a pescatarian. After talking with my RDN, we decided this would be okay for me to continue in recovery. While I saw a mostly plant-based diet as a means to eating cleaner, I also cut out animal products for environmental and animal welfare reasons. These latter two factors being my driving force to remain pescatarian. I’d like to think that if I wanted a chicken nugget now, I’d have one, but I just don’t feel the desire to have one.
This leads to my main point. There is a blurred line between what I want to eat and what my eating disorder wants me to eat. I still find myself questioning whether I don’t want a particular food because I simply don’t want it or because my eating disorder says I can’t have it.
Have years of an eating disorder changed my personal preferences? For example, I’m not a big fan of bread. I’ll eat it, but I can do without. But is that because I spent years viewing bread as the devil or is that just a personal preference of mine? Do I maybe just not like bread that much?
My ultimate goal is to be an intuitive eater and eat without the stress and anxiety which plagued me for so long. I’ll admit, I’m struggling with deciphering between my voice, orthorexia’s voice, and the scars that remain from years of disordered eating.
I was addicted to healthy, clean eating. While alcoholics and drug addicts are encouraged to refrain from those behaviors in recovery, I cannot. I must eat every day, multiple times a day, which means I constantly face the temptations to return to my old habits. That’s why I must identify and understand my motivations behind my food selections.
As recovery progresses, I hope that this line will become less fuzzy, and I’ll be able to listen to myself fully. At this moment, I do question my motives around food. Yet, I know that when I reach for the regular milk sitting next to the almond milk that I am moving in the right direction.