making chili, an exercise in recovery

I made a vegetarian chili this weekend. I’m not sure how much actual cooking was involved. It was mostly opening cans and dumping them in a crock pot. True, I chopped up the onions and celery and added the spices. Perhaps I’ll call it “cooking-light”.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction, a step away from the way I currently eat.

Learning to eat in recovery is hard. An eating disorder takes away your ability to interact with food in a “normal” way. Food is either good or bad. Good food is low calorie and a high water content. Bad food is everything else.

As I’ve worked on my recovery, I’ve tried to be consistent with meals. As in, eating them. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every day. Snacks are a true challenge. My brain argues with me about consuming them all the time.

You just ate. You can’t really be hungry. You’re probably thirsty. Drink some water. You don’t need to eat. It’s almost time for (insert next meal here).

I’m a de facto member of the fasting club. That new eating plan that promises you’ll feel better if you only eat within an eight-hour window. That’s pretty much me. I don’t eat after dinner and dinner is usually around five o’clock. My eating right now is in no way perfect; it’s not even what I’d consider “normal”. It is, however, miles better than it has been for most of my life.

For example, I’m not currently eating dinner, then feeling that by doing so I’ve “blown it”, eating a second dinner, and then throwing up. This is a huge win. It is hard to convey how devastating constant vomiting is. The damage it causes, mentally and physically, is severe.

But I’m meal-steady these days. I slip into small binges every now and then, but no one every promised recovery would be easy.

I decided recently, however, that I needed to move forward again. Dinner seemed like a good place to start. The food I consume for my evening meal is almost never homemade. It’s prepackaged and pre-portioned; there’s a comfort in that. I know how much I’m “supposed” to eat. The sizes and calorie counts are printed right on the packaging. One meat pie. Two bean burritos. Eight perogies. Easy and relatively low stress.

Unfortunately, I still pay attention to caloric content. It’s hard to unlearn something you know, and hard to stop monitoring the numbers.

Dinner without pre-portioning is a challenge. How much do I serve myself? What size bowl or plate should I use? When do I pack up the leftovers? What do I do if I sample from them and it starts to feel like a binge? None of these problems exist with premade offerings.

They are, of course, carb heavy and nutritionally weak. It’s time to step it up and cook for myself on a regular basis. Time to push the recovery envelope a bit. Lean into the discomfort.

Hence the chili. Vegetarian, because I’m not fully convinced that I’m comfortable being a carnivore. I currently consume meat, but I find it ethically difficult. Unfortunately, you have to be able to eat something, before you can decide you don’t want to.

The chili was good. Four kinds of bean in a black bean and tomato base. Not too spicy; I like the heat, but other people live here and there’s a chance they might like to partake. I skipped the green peppers entirely; my stomach doesn’t appreciate them very much.

I dished up a bowl. I have no idea if it was an appropriate portion size or not. Historically, I’d have checked the calories in each ingredient, added them up, and done the math to figure out the calories in a cup. Not doing that was a win. I think I ate enough; when I err it’s usually on the side of too little. But I feel pretty good. Kind of proud of myself. I made an actual meal that was a step beyond noodles and premade sauce. I ate it and I survived.

My brain wanted me to go back and pick at the leftovers. It’s a sneaky trick it likes to take –Just a bite, just one more taste. Oh no, too much, you’ll get fat, you’re gross, get rid of it – but I resisted. I packed up the leftovers for another day.

I had two burritos for dinner last night instead of the leftovers. I was feeling edgy and out of sorts and I needed a “safe” meal, but I still feel pretty good about what I accomplished.

I recognize that for some people, preparing and eating a meal is mundane but for me, it’s a win and I’m taking it.

7 thoughts on “making chili, an exercise in recovery

  1. I completely understand everything in this post. I feel like you and I may be in similar places in our recovery journeys. I ask myself these same questions, and feel very similar to what you expressed. It’s nice to know we’re not alone. Thank you for posting.

    Liked by 2 people

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