Weetabix x 2.
Wholemeal toast x 2, butter. (…& marmite on one cheeky slice)
Chicken casserole, boiled potatoes, sliced green beans.
Winterberry cheesecake, cream.
Tuna and sweetcorn mayo sandwich (wholemeal), 5-bean salad, side salad.
Ice-cream (2 scoops).
‘Nutri-Grain’ Raisin Bake bar.
…& the usual PINT of milk.
Variety is the spice of life, don’t they say?
I felt I was ready to add some chilli to my meal-plan this week. (Anorexia has little tolerance for heat/excitement, so I KNEW this was the right choice)
But only when I finally heard loud enough that the ‘real’ me was getting bored of familiar surroundings, living life no-where near the ‘edge’. And I feared that if I continued this way, far too safely, I was setting myself up for an imprisoned idea of recovery out in the real world.
I didn’t add the chilli hastily though… hence it taking me hours over a few days to meal-plan for the week.
About a month ago, it’s hard to believe that the QUANTITY of food on the menu was enough of a staining headache. I felt unarmed in a World War 3. A terrifying impossibility at first… then it went to ‘just’ being able to pull through meals with continuous self-destructive thoughts (scratching my arm to remove the distress/refusing to relax/having a restless leg/just generally not knowing how to make sense of anything)… to now completing meals with ACCEPTANCE.
It feels liberating to say I can sit down after eating, SOMETIMES feeling fairly at peace… with the use of my most trusted coping mechanism – scribbling the whirling thoughts and feelings in my notebook after every meal. This was something I saw the rest of the patients doing when I was first admitted. But I was too frightened to face what I was thinking… and even more scared to see it written down.
Now, like driving a car, I don’t have to think about it. I have come to rely on it like a spider making it’s webs…
Let the buggars out. Don’t fight them; however you need to… just do it. I’m learning that if you fight a thought, or any kind of pain in yourself, it will simply scurry under a hedge only to reveal itself in the dark at a later date. A bit like the unveiling of monsters by the Scooby-Doo gang at the end of their mystery adventure.
The unknowing of when that will be, to me now seems more terrifying than the idea of facing it RIGHT NOW.
You’re probably wondering how the hell do you add ‘chilli’ to a meal-plan? Choices. I mean not settling for paddling in the shallow end EVERY time, not pressing the button at the pedestrian crossing and waiting for the green man even though there’s not a car on the road for miles… ! Basically not letting my brain automatically grab the safest option available.
How is this living? When the opportunity is there and we never take it, how much of life must we be missing out on? We’re here but we’re not experiencing it, just existing through what we know. And what we know is miniscule on the scale of what else there is to discover…
…yes, I’m a hypocrite because this is how I’ve experienced much of my life over the past 8 years. Not always; there’s been some ‘reasonably recovered’ short phases. But Anorexia promises peace and comfort in staying safe. The risk of making a decision will be too dangerous.
Putting it bluntly, the fear around making choices on the meal-plan, is being too ‘excessive’. It’s terrifying to choose something for variety or trust ‘what you want’. Anorexia says if I am expected to eat all of this food, to experience all this flavour, then I must ALWAYS pick the most perceivable ‘low calorie’, less ‘indulgent’, and ultimately probably most of the time… less ‘tasty’ options. It’s always searching for the ‘right formula’ in which to plan out certain foods, to attempt to ‘tidy’ like it tries with many other areas of life.
And I absolutely COULD continue this way. It will see me through this inpatient journey. It will show compliance. But how far will it take me through LIFE… ? It’s SCARY how dangerous, being so rigid and unconsciously AVOIDING foods and probably main of life’s opportunities, life on the outside could be. I could CHOOSE not to eat chocolate for the rest of my life. Fine. And to only eat Weetabix for never-ending breakfasts. Fine. To avoid white bread until my dying day. Perfectly doable. To never add sauces because ‘I don’t need them to survive’.
But do I want to define my life by just ‘fine’? Nope and that’s why it really shook me up when it came to questioning my choices on the meal-plan. It has taken me a bloody good while to shake my head up to realise what was driving my choices. I thought this was just ‘how my head works’, with no trust that I would EVER be able to responsibly pick and enjoy a variety of foods without coping.
Of course, when realising I wanted to KNUCKLE DOWN with a new approach to my meal-plan this week, as usual, I wanted to do everything at once in a way. To put all challenges in, driven by this fear of what life could be like continuing in Anorexic rigidity. I felt shook up from my own fear of this… ! This autopilot world my brain has settled for until this day.
I genuinely had no clue where to start. Should I throw in a chocolate bar straight away this week? Every day to REALLY piss Anorexia off? Make it weak? Should I ban having Weetabix at all? Should I pick a completely different main meal option every day from what I’ve already been choosing?
In the end, I listened to myself and realised I needed to hear someone else’s opinion. I couldn’t trust how fast my head was racing, and knew my high self-expectations were carrying me away on a choppy sea. (…another challenge, but practicing self-assertiveness, addressing my needs in a healthy way – approaching others for help!)
But also I was still bloody scared/anxious about choosing anything beyond what was ‘required’ on the menu – the ‘safest’ food available to hand.
One of the support workers sat and listened while I ranted out my subconscious ‘rules’ and thoughts, when first scanning the meal-plan. I would usually be done pretty quick by rooting out my always-safe options. But I began to question my EVERY bloody decision. Suddenly, it actually felt quite exciting…
…what, you mean all these other opportunities/choices were under my nose all along? Someone (Anorexia) was telling me there was only one way at every signpost. And now I’d discovered lots more unexplored land…
In a way, I’ve kind of forgotten what my personal likes and dislikes are… My identity has become so submerged with my Eating Disorder, with the not-so-super-power of transforming any food item to numbers and quantity of guilt. But I do know, for example, that Yasmin likes Chocolate. (yes, Anorexia, please cringe) and she definitely likes cereal variety. But it’s Anorexia that doesn’t like spontaneous portion sizes, the unknown number of Rice Krispies shimmying into a bowl.
Weetabix is always two. Two rectangles. Two familiar, consistent rectangles. That way I could never be ‘indulgent’ or eat more than what I deserve by accidental differences in portion sizes of breakfast cereals. It didn’t matter if there weren’t any scales on the Unit to portion my breakfast, because Weetabix would stick by no matter what.
To be fair, it’s not actually my irrational head fearing the other cereal portions. Our dietician in the group the other day, explained to us that the recommended ‘30g’ on cereal boxes is NOT a substantial enough energy source to last someone through the morning. If you ate other things alongside it such as toast/fruit/yoghurt etc. then that would be fair enough… or if you were to have a bigger morning snack.
So the larger portions served here on the Unit, ARE enough to fuel the brain and body in the morning. To maintain weight. It’s taking me a long time to get my head around though, I really can’t lie to you. It’s still a shock to see the portion in a bowl because of feeling brainwashed into weighing the packaging-advised 30/40g for so long at home. (which is aimed at the general population – the overweight)
Of COURSE Anorexia is going to think well Weetabix is definitely the lowest calorie option so there is no way I can pick anything else;
“Hear what your Eating Disorder says and DO THE OPPOSITE!”
Challenge accepted. Choosing to still cling on to calories is NOT letting Anorexia go. It’s not being free. Your body is not a machine made up of numbers. Nor does it calculate them for you…
First thing’s first, Weetabix was a great way to start really allowing myself CHOICES again. So I put my foot down and decided to plan alternating, my breakfasts this week between Weetabix and any other cereal.
Then, you can probably guess… my head’s next question was – right, no what’s the next best ‘calorie’ option? ….and I REFUSED to jump on this train of thought. Reminder to self: calories = Anorexia. My aim: to let GO of Anorexia. Answered my question in a jiffy.
Then, the evil swine’s next move, was to decide which days, depending on what I was having for lunch that day – would be dependent on slotting in those new breakfast choices.
How on earth does a breaded fish fillet at lunch know you’ve had bran flakes that morning???! And why would it ever care? Your body is THANKFUL for fuel, energy, flavour and life.
I did my BEST not to over-analyse which days to slot the newbies in.
But eventually decided on Rice Krispies and bran flakes – introducing cornflakes and muesli next week.
My other decision was to challenge some new meals I’ve been avoiding, because the one which glimmered more ‘clean/healthy/pure’ stole Anorexia over them all. But in my determined rebellion, I have decided to listen to my taste-buds and take it from there.
Today, for example… the tuna mayo, sweetcorn and red onion sarnie replaced my usual ‘egg mayo’ safe go-to. The sweetcorn and onion, to me seem an ‘excessive’ unnecessary addition, so anything like that is off the cards with Anorexia. Yes I may still choose egg mayo in future, but surely I can prove to myself that I am entitled as any human being is, to choose and enjoy a preferred/fancied sandwich flavour? The majority of people don’t give this a second bloody thought and I would never think to judge.
Also, I know that ‘Yasmin’ enjoys sweetcorn. But because I have this view again that it’s not the lowest ‘number’ on the list of vegetables choices, I have no right to choose it.
Challenge accepted. I’ve chosen sweetcorn once this week.
As for the ‘carbohydrates’ we get to choose from with every hot meal, of course my disordered brain zooms in on the options with a ‘smiley face’ – meaning the ‘healthiest’. (it’s a general hospital menu) so I’ve lived off mash/rice/boiled potatoes. Yes all perfectly great, I enjoy them as far as carbohydrates go, but what about those other choices I always dismiss… the hash browns, chips, roast potatoes, garlic bread, potato wedges, potato croquettes… ?
I’m still working on the majority of those, but my challenge this week is choosing roast potatoes once. It really messed with my head as on this particular meal (a roast dinner) we have a Yorkshire to, which to Anorexia feels like an EXTRA unnecessary carbohydrate. But I rationalised that roasties were a traditional element of a normal English roast. Did I not want to enjoy them in the future? With my family? Now’s the time to make the changes.
There’s a few meal choices I’ve decided to challenge but won’t bore you with them just yet. The main focus of my challenges this week, reassured was ENOUGH progress right now, was breakfast and supper. Weetabix had morphed my mind.
As with breakfast, I chose to alternate Weetabix with other options too – those being Nutri-Grain, biscuits and sultanas and raisins. They’re all things I have tried before, yes. But not as often through the week. Weetabix would always reign as top dog because of it’s lowest calorie status. So I’m ready to kick those number thoughts in the teeth.
I’m scared of the guilty thoughts about why I should feel so special and deserving to choose anything other than the lowest calorie options… ? But sod you. There’s so many other options I REALLY want to get in there very soon. I’ve already decided that next week I WILL challenge a chocolate bar for one of them. (just needed to rev myself up for it this week, haha… whilst getting used to having more varied cereal) I’ve made it a mission to also start choosing white bread every so often. Because, so what?
Tomorrow begins with mission: Rice Krispies….. !!!!!!!!
Then lunch…… a new Yasmin vs Anorexia option: Cheese Omlette.
Scared as hell, it’s ridiculous.
I realise how silly that sounds, but hopefully I’ll have something positive to report on the snap, crackle and pop side of things.