Can I tell you a secret? I have a lot of secrets. Yep. That’s the secret. I present myself as an open book to most people and I have no problem discussing things that might make your average person uncomfortable. Chalk it up to extensive therapy and acting training (which are indistinguishable at times). It is highly encouraged in both acting and therapy to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings instead of suppressing them.
But I have a lot of secrets.
In my eating disorder program they teach you about how disorders are built upon a life of secrecy, and we must learn to be honest with each other about what’s going on when no one is looking. The more withdrawn you become, the more you become rooted in unhealthy behaviors. During my time at the program, I was known as the girl who thrived on therapy. I was always ready to dive in to group sessions and open up about my feelings because I wanted to get it right this time. I wanted this to work. I prided myself on being open and vulnerable and unafraid to “go there” while so many others seemed afraid and closed off.
Fast forward to now. After eating just a bowl of Cinnamon Life cereal this morning and nothing else (no reason, just poor planning) I rushed home tonight with a major plan of action. I was going to cook myself bruschetta with pasta and Italian sausage, and watch Julie & Julia while devouring my meal because there’s a scene in which they eat bruschetta and nothing in the world sounded more satisfying than eating bruschetta while watching attractive movie stars eat attractive movie bruschetta. And I did. And it was delicious.
But what about my secrets, you ask?
Well here’s a big one: chowing down on balsamic soaked tomatoes on crunchy, chewy bread and loads of Italian sausage on a mountain of spaghetti was the highlight of my day, possibly my week. My life often revolves around when I can finally be alone in my room and enjoy myself. In my room, there is no one to judge me for eating too quickly, or for getting seconds, or for not eating mindfully as I was taught to do at my EDC. It feels like complete and total freedom. I have the power.
No. I don’t. The food has the power. The evil voice in my head that tells me to keep eating until I’m going to burst, has the power. That same voice that condemns me when the frantic deed is done, has the power.
Don’t misunderstand me: having a delicious meal should be a pleasurable experience! This is where dealing with food issues is so much more difficult than drugs or alcohol, as my fellow bloggers Ashley and Rachell have pointed out. We must eat food in order to survive! But! There is a difference between enjoying a meal, and knowingly relinquishing control to a disordered behavior.
So how do I recognize this behavior and modify it, without going through the cycle of shame that will inevitably send me back into the pasta bowl? And the cookie jar, and the butter dish, and the cheese sticks? Good question. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
**Photo by Leslie Hassler