Nutrition Session 3: Thursday, October 15
Lesson: Progress happens in the uncomfortable
Normally I would be embarrassed to admit this–failure– but I know that if I don’t, the counseling will never work. And I need it to work.
“What do you mean?” The nutritionist asks me with inquisitive eyes.
I think back on the past week and a half–most notably, the therapy session I had on Monday, October 5.
I hate myself.
I recall everything I felt in that moment of discovery–the shock, the fear, the sadness. I recall how it felt to finally disarm myself and let all those feelings sink in. I remember how it felt to cry. And then, more distinctly, I remember the sadness turning to guilt, and from guilt to disgust.
I recall a voice from inside telling me what an awful person I am for allowing others to love me.
You never deserved their love because you don’t even love yourself. You are pathetic.
I recall the voice telling me I am a liar, a fake. And I recall it telling me how worthless I am now, because in addition to all this, I am no longer skinny. And for that, I must punish myself.
But I don’t tell the nutritionist any of this, I simply give her the facts.
“I’m eating more now…a sufficient amount..but I’m still eating in the same patterns I have been..the bulk of my calories at night. See, I want to be able to feed myself until I’m satisfied, but because I don’t eat enough during the day…when night comes, I’m starving. I have dinner, and I’ll wake up an hour after I go to bed hungry, like stomach rumbling hungry. And I can’t go back to sleep, so I’ll eat something..but I know in my head I’m over the calorie amount I want to be, so I feel gross in the morning. I’ve increased my workouts back to three hours. It feels like a never ending cycle, and I know the only way to break it is to spread my calories evenly throughout the day but I can’t because…well..this is all I know how to do. It’s what’s familiar. I just don’t know how to eat something before 8pm..how to listen to my body when it’s hungry…and then of course there’s the fact that I feel disgusting and huge..also that.”
She laughs. “First of all, you are not failing. Recovery is a very long process, and you will get through it. As for the eating patterns, have I told you the sidewalk analogy?”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s my favorite. Every day you walk the same sidewalk to get to work, and every day you fall in the exact same place–something trips you. But you keep walking the same path because you are familiar with it and you are comfortable. But in the long run, don’t you think you would benefit from trying a different route, one where you won’t continue to hurt yourself?”
I understand what she is saying, so I nod my head yes.
She continues, “So you see, in order for progress to happen, you have to get out of your comfort zone–you have to try new things. The eating disorder, the way it’s programmed in your body, it makes you believe that one simple change is for a lifetime. Your task now is to reprogram your mind to realize you have freedom–a choice every day. To stop thinking in terms of should and to think in terms of could. “
“Okay so how I can find a new sidewalk?”
She asks me if I would be okay with a very general meal plan.
“I’m not going to tell you how much of what to eat, but I think it would help you if, together, we came up with a general guide, ideas of meals and snacks for you,” she says.
“That seems safe enough.”
She pulls a blank meal chart out of her filing cabinet, and together we make a weekly plan. She asks me what types of foods I like, she pushes me to explore options I may not have otherwise considered, and she hands me the paper when we are done. I look it over and do not feel too overwhelmed; it’s simple, and unlike the charts made for me as a young teen, rule-free.
I have a choice.
The session ends, and I thank the nutritionist for her help. I meet my father in the parking lot of the treatment center and get in the passenger seat. On the drive home, he asks me about my session. As I tell him about what I learned, I begin to fold the meal plan in half, and then into a quarter so that it fits perfectly in the palm of my right hand. I close my right hand.
When we pull into the driveway, I put the folded meal plan in my lap and, using my right hand, I unplug my phone from the car’s charger. I then place the phone in my lap as I open the glove compartment with my right hand, and use my left to pick up the folded meal plan and toss it in. I close the glove compartment and exit the car.
The rules are back in control.