Monday, March 15, 2010

Notes From Prague

So on my very first night in Prague, I'm wandering around the old town in a total jet-lag haze, just trying to make it until 9 p.m. so I can go to sleep without further messing with my circadian rhythm. I find an Indian restaurant (because what's a trip to Prague without...Indian food?) and sit down. The two women next to me are speaking English, and are talking about none other than treating eating disorders. When they got up to leave, I introduced myself, just thinking--you know, what are the chances of that happening? Certainly I don't go around introducing myself to everyone I overhear talking about EDs, but I'd been hoping to find an English-language support group while here and thought maybe they could help.

One of the women is German but lives here in Prague, doing a study about online parental support groups. Unfortunately, there are no English-language support groups here, but she not only pointed me in the direction of a therapist in case I need one (I don't think I will); she also took me under her wing, and we've been hanging out. And really, that's what I need--to not feel isolated; to share food joyously; to feel connected to someone here in my environment.

All that is a lead-in to saying that I am doing well here. Not perfect, but well. The first week was a little rough--I felt lonely and disoriented, self-conscious and overwhelmed. I found myself doing a lot of wandering around the town, then getting hungry and not knowing where to find food, and in the process of figuring it out, passing my normal-hunger threshold and entering a bad zone of thinking that maybe I should just "wait it out" until the next mealtime. I finally sat down and made a food strategy for myself--my kitchen is stocked, I always have snacks with me, I have directions to 3-4 appealing-sounding restaurants in every neighborhood. And the plan has worked.

So that's good. What's interesting to me is the areas in which I'm thriving, foodwise. There's a freedom that comes along with having no attachment to the bulk of the food I'm surrounded by; better yet, I can't read labels (metric? kilojoules? whaaaa?), so I can't stand there in the grocery aisles comparing labels. I'm eating yogurt without knowing if it's full- or low-fat and am fine with it; I'll order the goulash if it sounds good, not thinking of it as a "bad" food. My newly discovered favorite snack, it turns out, is primarily for toddlers. So am I going for comfort food, even without realizing it? Yes. But I'm not overeating it, nor am I attaching anything but pure deliciousness to it.

In fact, I couldn't do the former without the latter. Rather, I can to a degree, but there are certain foods that are still "fear foods" for me. I've had ice cream a couple of times in a healthy manner since starting treatment, but overall I avoid it, because I just know that it's too big of a challenge for me right now. The times I've had it have sort of sprung up on me--a course on the house at a restaurant. Now that I'm thinking about ice cream in particular: A few days ago I was walking around here and saw a gelato stand, and they had my favorite flavor. And without thinking about it, I got a small cone, and enjoyed it, and that was that.

You know what's remarkable about that? It's not that I had it and enjoyed it and let it end there. It's that I didn't even count that as a victory because it felt so totally normal. Dobrý pro mě!