Below is a real account of a moment when I was in the grip of my eating disorder. I have written it as a dialogue to help you understand what goes through someone’s mind when their eating disorder is challenged. It conjures up quite a funny image now when I think back to it. I sure was a fruit loop!
SISTER: We are going to Sainsbury’s for lunch.
ED: Shit what am I going to eat? I can’t make a scene – dad is here, so are Callum and Samuel and I am in a Sainsbury’s cafe. Lizzie doesn’t let me get away with anything. How am I going to get out of this one?
SISTER: Can you choose something to eat please…like NOW…starring at the counter for another 5 minutes won’t make any difference – and NO you can’t have nothing.
ED: Do you not get it? There is NOTHING here that I can eat. Like NOTHING. The rage is coming; I can feel it bubbling inside me. How the hell am I going to escape? I need to get out of this.
SISTER: Can you get a sandwich and a yogurt please – NOW.
ED: A sandwich – HELL NO. Bread will bloat me – then I will feel full, fat and lazy – like a whale. I won’t be able to exercise it off, so bread is out of the question. A yogurt – maybe I can handle the yogurt. Shit they only have LUXURY yogurts. I don’t, I can’t eat luxury yogurts; they are DOUBLE the calories of the ones I normally eat. WTF am I going to? Want to scream!!!
Maybe I can delay it…wait until they have all got their food and then just grab something and they won’t notice.
SISTER: You need to hurry up, I am about to pay and the boys are hungry.
ED: I can’t Lizzie… I can feel the tears coming. The shakes, I might faint. I need to go to the toilet; this is just too embarrassing. I don’t want to make a scene, but I really don’t know what to do. (In the toilet). Ok man-up Laura. You have got to compose yourself. You are in a restaurant and people are staring. Go back to the table. Maybe I will be let off eating – if they can see how upset I am. Surely they are not that cruel?
SISTER: I got you a sandwich and yogurt.
ED: I knew it – there is mayo in it and she got me a LUXURY yoghurt. I can’t stop the tears – I feel so embarrassed. Attempt the yogurt – show willing. A mouthful maybe. Everyone is getting cross with me. Dad is fuming with me too. HOW DARE HE!
DAD: Can you just eat the bloody yogurt.
ED: You don’t understand – it is not a normal yogurt. I don’t eat these ones. They are WAY more calories – like double the amount.
DAD: This is crazy – just eat the god damn yogurt Laura.
ED: I hate you all. I am outta here. Phew I am in the car park. I just need someone who understands how horrendous this. I am so angry. What is wrong with me? I don’t get it.
DAD: Love, you are not getting out of this – just eat the rest of the yogurt.
ED: What the hell – is he crazy? Dad has actually followed me into the carpark with the yogurt and a spoon.
So picture this – a skinny girl running around the supermarket car park in tears. Her dad chasing her with a spoon and a yogurt. It could be a comedy sketch – only it wasn’t. It was real-life. It was my life. For sure my dad’s approach was not the most therapeutic to getting me to eat something, but to him it just seemed ridiculous that I wouldn’t eat a yogurt. To my eating disorder eating just one spoonful of that yogurt would have been torture.
The hours of backlash I would endure for the rest of the day from my ED would be too much. In that moment I had no ability to rationalise what was happening. I had been taken over by the monster and had lost the plot. I sat sobbing on the ground behind Dads car. Unable to speak, he told me that we would not be leaving until I ate the yogurt. My ED had to give in. There is nothing more than it hates than to give in. I ate it and then proceeded to tell my dad what he had done to me, and that it was his fault I had gotten into this state in the first place.
If the same event were to happen now – the dialogue between my sister and I would be very different. It would be so simple, so easy. An ED requires so much energy. It makes life impossible for everyone around. My sister and dad just wanted a quick bite to eat after doing the shopping, yet my eating disorder had turned it into some sort of mega drama.
Today the dialogue would go something like this…
SISTER: We are going to do the food shopping in Sainsbury’s – we might as well feed the boys there too.
ME: Ok cool – the boys love it in the café – they get to have chippies!
SISTER: Right grab what you want I am nearly at the till.
ME: Sure thing, I’m gonna get one of those yummy yogurts with my sandwich. You know the LUXURY ones, not those pathetic small boring ones.
SISTER: Of course – can you go grab a table?
The difference today is that I’m present in the moment and am in a relationship with those around me. The food holds much less significance. I have a choice now. I get to choose how I feel, how I react, and there is no need to blame anyone. Food is not my weapon to express what I am feeling. In fact, my environment or feelings makes no difference to how I choose to nourish my body. I don’t give away my power that easily anymore.