My weight has been bothering me as of late, which should not be much of a surprise. Although I came through my surgery ok, it took me really the last five weeks to fully recover, and even then I’m often tired. It’s also been the start of the academic year, my kids started a new school, and so everything for me is in turmoil. I look at my now pouchy stomach and see the scale inching up and it brings a wave of self-loathing to the fore. I haven’t reverted back to my “fat, lazy, stupid, ugly” mantra or the “fat girls don’t get to eat this, fat girls don’t get to stop running…” tape that I was playing for quite a time in my head. I’ve made progress, and that is something.
Still, life is not ideal, and ED reared its ugly head again today when I had a mini food-panic at lunchtime. I’ve had full blown food-panics where I can hardly breath from the fear. This was a smaller one, but I wanted to share what happens when I have them.
I’m running late – I have to take my son’s friend home, take the kids to town to get haircuts and go to the bank, and then go to Target for groceries and birthday presents and last bits of school supplies. The kids are in the minivan and I realize that I haven’t eaten, and I have no idea what I can eat that is safe. I dislike lunch – sandwiches are a last-ditch effort for me, I hate spending money on myself for a worthless food, and I cannot go into a McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King. The thought of eating a fried burger makes me want to throw up, and I feel the fear start to rise. I grab a quick snack as the kids are calling me – a Wasa bread cracker with some almond butter and water – and run out to the car.
I’m driving along and having a conversation with the kids but the entire time I’m thinking about food. I didn’t pack a snack – how stupid of me! I should have grabbed a low-fat cheese snack, I haven’t had protein. I didn’t take enough water, the kids have nothing to eat, I don’t have any fruit, and what can I eat that’s safe? I’m going to be out for at least four hours and if I wait until I’m home I’ll binge on something horrid and want to purge, but I can’t purge today because my husband is home and he’ll know. He can’t know, he thinks I’m better, and he’ll be angry because purging won’t help me recover from my surgery. But there’s nothing to eat, I can’t do fast food. There’s nothing safe there, not even a chicken wrap because they always put ranch dressing on it and real cheese – not low fat or fat free – and their wraps aren’t even high-fiber wraps.
My stomach churns, not from hunger, but from the image of slimy ranch dressing oozing out of a thin wrap with three pieces of chicken in it and chunks of rich cheese. I feel like I’ve just eaten a plate of pasta with alfredo sauce, or some creamed dish that my mother used to make. I can feel the bile rise inside of me and though I’ve barely eaten and I have two children in the car and it’s really hot outside, I want to pull over and purge. There’s nothing inside of me, nothing there, but I feel dirty and slimy and foul and I need to get it out.
My heart is racing now, and I try to calm myself. I sing along to the radio, and laugh at my kids’ jokes. I sip my water and try to breath. Still my mind is going full blast and I am berating myself for not planning ahead, for taking too long with work this morning, for not being prepared to go out, for not having good choices of food to eat with me. Nothing seems good, nothing seems safe. I run through all of the restaurants in the nearby town and I can’t do any of them because either I don’t know the calories and fat content of the food, or there might be butter, sauce, real mayo, cheese and other things I can’t identify.
I realize for a moment that there is a Subway in town, and that I know that I can get a flatbread sandwich with mustard for 280 calories, and that they won’t put cheese on, they pre measure everything, and I can fill it with mostly vegetables. I hate veggie sandwiches, I hate sandwiches, I hate spending the money – I HATE MUSTARD. But as much as I know what I don’t want, what I can’t eat, I have no idea of what I can eat. Except Subway. I tell the kids and my youngest wants McDonald’s but I know if I go in, I will have a fry or want a burger and then after eating it I will not be able to keep it down, so I lie to him and tell him it’s too crowded and expensive. This is what I’ve come to. Lying to my child because the idea of my eating in a particular restaurant scares me. Food scares me.
I want food to be safe for me, I want to not think about food, I want to not feel hungry and stay thin and get thinner and get smaller. I want it all to go away and I want to go back to thinking about other things. I eat the horrid flatbread chicken with veggies and mustard and tell myself it’s ok. I punch in the details into my food tracker app as I drive, violating a billion rules and laws, because I cannot let what I ate go until it is cataloged, logged, and charted.
Finally, I can exhale. My chest no longer feels tight, and I made it through what was, on all accounts, a mild panic. My kids didn’t know (i pray), I don’t have to tell anyone. It’s done, it’s gone. I will make dinner tonight and it will be a safe meal, and all will be ok. And tomorrow I will do better. I will be better. I will remember to eat something, I will have a plan and follow it. I will log and chart and do all of the twisted routines I have to do to justify my eating. And I will hide all of it in shame and weakness.