Most foods, it seems. Turns out my attempts to make my own meal plan weren’t boring because I was uncreative, they were boring because I have quite the list of unsafe foods. I had no idea. (Truly!)
So my nutritionist and I sat down this week and did some meal planning. We decided on a caloric intake that is still considerably below what I should be eating, but high enough that it makes me anxious. Really, really anxious. I also have to write down everything I eat this week and what time. I have been doing this for months anyway, but to know that someone will look at it and judge it makes me exceptionally nervous. Even following this carefully prescribed plan, I feel like I’m eating way too much. I am sitting here looking at my last four days of food logs and having a minor panic attack, even though I know that:
A) I burned all of these calories and then some, given that I ran a 13 mile race this weekend and
B) I have a tendency to grossly overestimate the number of calories in any given food. (I did this in a session with my nutritionist last week, when she asked how many calories would be in a meal we had planned. She gave me a look, that sort of questioning eyebrow, and I said, I like to round up. Yes, she said. I’ve noticed.)
I keep thinking, How can I get out of this tomorrow? Where can I skim a few calories? Do I really need BOTH of those snacks? Do I have to eat a fruit at lunch? Maybe I could just “forget” to pack it. Maybe I could only have one veggie dog for dinner instead of two. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
I had to choke down most of my food today. Breakfast was fine, if not boring. I set the meal up in stages, a behavior I’ve noticed is becoming more common. I think perhaps I am hoping that if I get a meal out slowly, take long enough, Armageddon will occur, Jesus will return, and I won’t have to eat. It hasn’t happened yet, for the record.
7:15. Breakfast. Measure the cereal. Heat water for tea. Measure the milk. Tidy the kitchen. Cut the banana. Check on steeping tea. Add spices. Fold laundry. Finally, after 10 minutes, it is all together and I have no choice but to eat. I eat half of it, look down, worry about the fact that I both have no desire to finish the cereal and have every desire to eat the rest of the box. I walk to the end of the driveway, get the paper. Return to the table. Sort through the paper. Read Parade magazine as I eat the last of my cereal. Clean up. Try not to think about how many calories I just ate.
9:30. Snack time. I have been looking at the clock every two minutes for 20 minutes, dreading this moment. I wonder if I would be justified in pushing it back. Decide this will be okay, that if I don’t wait a little longer than I’ll have to eat a second snack in order to make it to lunch, which will be far later than usual today. My nutritionist wants me to have two snacks in the morning. When she suggested this last week, my entire body posture changed. I became immediately tense, shoulders at my ears, breathing halted momentarily. Put your shoulders down, she said. Breathe. Two snacks in the morning is utterly unacceptable. I will wait until 10:00 for snack, eat it as slowly as possible.
1:45. Lunch. Church is long, then I wait for a friend to get out of a meeting. We agreed last week to have lunch together, get something from the food court at the mall where our church makes its home. Originally we said we would split a free meal (coupon!) to save on the cost. I tell her I brought a lunch instead – that I didn’t want her to have to base her meal based on what I would eat. She seems disappointed, asks a few more times if we couldn’t split something, but finally relents. We eat lunch in a park. She is a tenacious friend. We talk about my race this weekend, about my running in general, then the topic turns to food, body, disorder. She asks questions, wanting to understand. She asks how she can help. She tells me what she sees, but acknowledges that I don’t see it at all. She asks how we continue from here – tells me that she wants to be sensitive, but feels that if we never talk about it, it’s like her being eight months pregnant and my never mentioning it. Reminds me that just because I ignore it, it won’t go away. We talk about God, about the power He has to protect and heal and save. I see tears in her eyes as she talks about this in regards to me, now.
4:00. Snack time. I am hungry. I am terrified by this hunger, this wanting. I am grocery shopping. I have written a list before going into the store, terrified that in a moment of weakness I might buy something unsafe. I’ll eat my snack when I get back in the car, I tell myself. Back in the car, I look at this snack, think, But it is so close to dinner time. I have a mint instead. This same argument takes place in my head another three times over the next hour. I get home, put away groceries.
5:30. Dinner. I cook, plate my dinner, clean up. I sit down at the table. My father is watching golf. I am reading the paper, trying to distract myself from the food on my plate. Rules about what to eat first, how fast to eat, how much to drink. Rules I forget I have until I try to break them. I finally finish dinner, put away the leftovers for another night. I sit at the table with my glass of water and the paper. I am still hungry. I want to run upstairs and count how many calories I’ve had today, do something to alleviate this anxiety. I stay at the table instead, aware that bolting after I eat would probably give the impression of my going upstairs to puke. And while that’s not the case today, it’s not always not the case, so I’d rather not arouse suspicion. Stay in the kitchen, prepare lunch and snack for tomorrow, tidy pile in the refrigerator. Offer to cook part of my parents’ dinner just to have the satisfaction of being around food, but not eating it.
7:00. Upstairs counting calories. And recounting. And trying desperately to figure out how the count is this high when I skipped a snack. Had considered moving the snack to after dinner, but that is out of the question now. Wonder how in the world I will be able to do this again tomorrow, knowing as I do that my afternoon snack is just too much. Plan tomorrow’s meals, snacks, count calories. Re-count.
I told my counselor last week that I simply tire of eating. I feel like I’ve barely finished one meal or snack and then there’s another one right behind it. While this is true, and at times, the eating itself is tiring given that I get little enjoyment from it, it’s not the whole story. I tire of the fight. Of the lengthy argument that occurs in my head every time I put food in my mouth. And this meal plan has helped in some regards, but the fight is still there.
I wish I could foresee a time when the fight doesn’t occur. Or even just remember what it was like before the fights started.