Psalms 71:7 “My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection” (NLT)
Last weekend I entered into the hamster wheel of my internal dialogue of eat or don’t eat. Well, as it often is, it isn’t actually whether to eat or not, but what to eat, and where to eat. I just don’t feel like cooking, but I don’t feel like making a decision either.
I ran in the morning. I didn’t run that far, maybe five or so miles, but ran hard and fast because I had so much to do, and my competitive streak wants me to stay in front of the women behind me. I knew I couldn’t spend the whole day working out. I thought I had done enough to not think this meal through without such scrutiny, but I guess I wasn’t convinced. I had eaten okay, but not actually fulfilling my new menu plans. I had yogurt, granola and endura before I ran. Lunch was a sandwich, a few chips, grapes, and a small cookie. I continue to run through what I had eaten in my mind like the hamster runs in the wheel. My mind is racing, but not really going any where.
We decide to go to Pizellis because Kelsey is working and I want to see her before I head out of town on her birthday. I know I can get a “safe” salad there, but here is the thing, I don’t want just a salad! I want pizza! God how I love pizza, but it is so unsafe and risky. It is riskier than most foods because because if I should want (need) to purge, it can be pretty difficult to bring back up. I would then be stuck with it. Spin, spin, spin, spin, my brain, like a hamster wheel is starting to squeak as it runs in circles trying to decide whether to eat pizza or not. How many people think this long and hard about pizza? The 20 million of us that will struggle with an eating disorder at one time in our lives(NEDA), that is who, while the rest of you just order the fucking pizza. Oh, and freely enjoy eating it.
It is crowded in the restaurant so I have some more time to think….squeak, squeak, squeak. I begin to do the math in my head, “You will be okay and the pizza is what you really want. Your skinny jeans and 25’s fit fine this morning” The thoughts seem so loud in my mind I wonder if those around me can hear the squeak of my thoughts running like the hamster in a wheel?” I am next in line……squeak, squeak, squeak, I take a deep breath and order my individual pizza just the way I like it in addition to the safe garden salad.
The salad arrives first. It is huge, and I wonder why the fuck they would make a side salad this big? There is no way to eat this and the pizza, but I am starving and take a couple bites hoping this will take up space leaving less room for the decadent pizza the arrives in front of me. I sit and stare at it, smell it, but feel frozen and unable to reach out and just grab a slice. I hear God’s words again “Be courageous, do the work: Here, hold my hand. Remember that I am strong and soft at the same time.” I picture His strength allowing me to eat it, and His softness allowing me to enjoy it. Can I be strong and soft at the same time? Can I eat it, and enjoy it? Squeak, squeak, squeak…..Can Kurt hear my wheels turning (probably not), but I am sure he is wondering if I will keep it in. It has been a long time since he has seen me eat (not pick) at pizza. He is through his first 2 slices and still hasn’t seen me eat pizza.
I spin the wheel of pizza slowly around in front of me as I look for the perfect slice. It must be perfect since it is probably the only slice I will allow myself to have. They are small slices. I need that to be known in case I should have more than one. I don’t want to appear gluttonous, or over indulgent. It is as if I feel a need to explain my hunger or apologize for it. Who has to justify or apologize for their hunger? Those of us that live in the grip of an eating disorder or even those of us in a new fragile state of recovery often feel this need; that’s who!
After a couple of slow rotations of the pizza, I reach out and take one piece of artichoke and move it slowly to my mouth. There, now this piece of pizza is perfectly balanced and ready to be separated from the imperfect circle of the hand tossed pizza. I lift it to my plate like a pro, supporting the point so the melted cheese doesn’t slide off. ” I remember how to do this, ” I think ” it is just like riding a bike!”
Now do I cut it and eat it with a fork and knife? This seems more civilized, but also more eating disordered, so I decide to pick it up with my hands and eat it like the majority of the people sitting in the restaurant. This is how I remember eating pizza pre-eating disorder, or in recovery. The trick for me when using my hands will be to eat it, and not merely pick at the toppings appearing to eat. Kurt is on his third slice as I finally allow myself to to eat and taste my self-created pizza. I take that first gooey, crunchy bite aware that the soft and firm are existing exquisitely together. Oh my goodness! It is delicious. It has been so long since I have had a slice of pizza, that I am not sure if this pizza is superior to others, or that I was so hungry for pizza. I finish the (small) piece of pizza followed by a sip of wine and a nibble of salad. I begin to pick at the toppings of the almost whole pizza still in front of me and realize that I am still hungry. I stop and think for a moment; am I still hungry or do I just want more because it was so flipping delicious and satisfying? Is it okay to want it if I don’t need it? How is this different than wanting and buying a new pair of jeans that God knows, I don’t need?
If I eat it and don’t need it and end up feeling the fullness, it may be more than I can tolerate. This would then ruin the pleasure of the experience, but if I don’t try it then how will I know if I wanted it or needed it? How will I know what is too much or too little? It is a fine line I am walking. I take in too much and beat myself up for consuming it, or I end up getting rid of it and beating myself up for purging. Squeak, squeak, squeak….I have a choice to make. I decide, as I remember picking at jacks homemade pie, to take the second slice and enjoy it. In the moment I was okay and realized that I was still, indeed, hungry. I both wanted and needed this second piece. I start to reach for for the third piece, (almost) with out thinking, but I know that I have taken enough risk for today. As I pick at the toppings on that third piece I tell Kurt, who has finished his pizza, that I am sorry that I can’t finish the pizza. I let him know that anymore and I would feel uncomfortable. He knows what this really means: anymore and I would purge. Before I can say another word, he calls for a box and I feel safe in the moment. You Lord strengthen me and Kurt steps in as the your servant to protect me from myself.