My stated recovery goal is to eliminate my disordered eating behaviors and develop better coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression. My ultimate recovery goal, however, goes farther and will take longer: to turn off my mental treadmill of disordered thoughts and poor body image.*
Since starting recovery, I've found that I'm hyperaware of my eating.
(Obviously, hyperawareness of my food intake is nothing new to me. And this is a far cry from the disordered hyperawareness I've engaged in before...mostly.) Even when I'm not resisting impulses to restrict my intake, everything I eat takes on a new level of meaning. I'm having a salad for lunch, so I don't have to find an extra vegetable at dinner; I had a glass of juice midday, does that count as another fruit serving or just as a snack? There's no such thing as grazing from the potato chips bowl or having a bonbon anymore. I give myself those things as allotted exchanges or scheduled snacks, so it's not like I'm falling into good-food-bad-food thinking--but neither am I eating normally.
The whole idea of going on the meal plan was to regulate my eating behavior, which is working. But the thing is, as much as I restricted before in order to compensate for my bingeing, 70% of the time I wouldn't have been in a space where I wouldn't let myself graze from the potato chips bowl. That 70% of the time, I'd munch from the bowl at parties; would have a beer; might have an afternoon cookie. That 70% of the time, I'd at least appear normal to an observer, regardless of what I was doing for meals or at night. But now--now that I'm in treatment and feel as though everything that goes into my mouth means something, whether it means that I'm getting my protein exchanges or having carbohydrates where they still feel odd or am having one of my thrice-weekly desserts--now that observer would see me refrain in most instances. Now I don't appear normal.
I'm nervous about treating my meal plan as a diet--as another plan for me to get freaky about. My body will respond much better to a wholesome meal plan than it would to, say, my raw-foods phase (I felt great while doing raw foods, but "great" in that "I'm restricting every day and feeling TOTALLY AWESOME because of it" ersatz narcotic way, not in a truly healthful way). So at least my body is taken care of, but what about my mind?
So here comes my refrain: It took me 25 years to get to recovery; recovery will not be complete in my six weeks at Renfrew, or six weeks beyond that, or six weeks beyond that. I am hoping it won't take a lifetime--I'm hoping that I will get to a point where I'm able to eat intuitively and stop the whirring of mental calculations. But it will take time. I know that my body feels miles better, and my mind scads sharper, now that I'm nourishing myself properly. That is a victory. I think that the meal plan will eventually settle in and my vigilance will wane, if I pay as much attention to the rest of recovery as I have the meal plan. I'm ready for my thoughts to go elsewhere.
*Here's another place where finding "normal" feels impossible. It's hard to find the mythical "normal" eater, but doubly so to find an American woman with a wholly intact body image. I don't want to set a goal for myself that's unachievable; is it possible for anyone to feel only thanks for her body, no forgiveness, exceptions, or qualifiers needed?
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