You have to eat, even when you’re afraid.

Sometimes, I think if I take off the reins, the urge to eat will take over my world.

I know where it comes from and what drives it, this feeling that I can’t ever consume enough. This feeling that if I start, I’ll never stop.

It’s from the eating disorder, from a lifetime of restriction and deprivation. You can’t undo what’s been done. I can’t go back in time and eat the food now I didn’t eat then. But I worry that without the restrictions I still have in place, I’ll try.

You have to eat to live. This is an unfortunate truth I’ve had to face. It’s scary, however, and I resent it.

It’s terrifying to feel out of control and on the edge, like you’re just one small step away from chaos and self-annihilation. After all, part of what drives my eating disorder is an attempt to shape the word into an orderly place. Put everything into the right slots. Do everything right. Maybe then the anxiety will ease?

But to get better, I’m supposed to let go. Trust that it will work out. Trust that chaos won’t kill me. Trust that I won’t fall over the edge. Take a leap of faith.

Eating disorders are killers and recovery is hard. If I could go back in time, I would make sure I never learned to believe that being thin is what it takes to have worth and value. I hate that I still hang onto that belief. I hate that it’s so pervasive among the not-me, that the belief afflicts so many.

We talk a good game about how it’s the inner person that matters, that acceptability comes in all shapes and sizes, and that your value lies in more than the size of your thighs, all while being inundated with perfect bodies across the spectrum of media. I know they’re filtered and photo-shopped and surgically altered, yet I still think, “if only”.

I am trying. I eat the regular meals. I eat the snacks. I try out new foods, occasionally. But I still hold tight to the reigns because when I slacken my grip, I feel the binge coming and I’m terrified.

What will happen if I let go? How can I deal with the chaos?

Intuitive eating is not intuitive to me at all. “Eat what you like; eat what appeals to you.” I have no freaking idea. I eat pretty much the same thing every day. It feels safe. And I’m eating. That’s a win.

I’ve gained some weight and it’s a struggle. I hate looking in the mirror and not seeing bones.

Restaurants are still a nightmare. So much food. So many choices. The question, “what do want?” leads to panic. I want everything. I want it all. I want pizza and pasta and appetizers and dessert. I want to eat it all, fill up the spaces, eat to make up for every time I didn’t. And I don’t. I want a bowl of lettuce with dressing on the side and lemon water.

I want the food to go away. I want to never think about it again. I want to win the lottery and buy myself a chef who will come to my house and make me healthy meals with appropriate portions so I never have to enter a kitchen again. I want my eating to be some else’s problem and responsibility.

There’s a box of lemon cookies on the counter. I bought cookies rather than baking them – and I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world – because it’s hot and heating up the oven would result in an unbearably warm kitchen and living room. I’m not blessed with air conditioning.

The cookies are a bit of a problem. I keep on buying things like boxes of cookies and bags of cheezies because I want to learn to live with them. I want to learn how to eat them without freaking out and without binging. But as soon as I get them home, I get buyer’s remorse. Because their presence makes conversations with my eating disorder frequent.

Have a cookie. It’s just one cookie. One cookie won’t hurt.

I’m not going to have a cookie right now. I’m not hungry and I’m feeling a little anxious about lunch.

Just one cookie. You can do one. Just eat the inside. Eat the icing. It’s almost like not eating it at all.

I don’t want to eat food that way anymore. I don’t want to eat just the inside, just the icing, just the edges, just the toppings. I want to stop deconstructing my food, only allowing myself bits and pieces.

So, just eat one.

I’m uncomfortable with just one. I feel fat. I know fat isn’t a feeling but I’m uncomfortable; eating now will make it worse.

No, it won’t. You’ll be fine. What’s wrong with you? You can’t even eat a cookie? That’s pathetic. Have half a cookie then. It’s delicious. Full of lemon cream and a vanilla wafer. You like them. Half is fine. Almost no calories in half a cookie. And you ate a small lunch.

Maybe half a cookie. I could do half a cookie.

(Eats half a cookie; throws the rest in the garburator.)

Oh my god! I can’t believe you ate half a cookie! You already had lunch. Are you trying to get fatter? You’re disgusting already. There’s fat on your stomach and have you seen your thighs?

I’m not fat. The photos from my birthday show a thin person. I’m allowed to eat half a cookie. It’s fine. I just need to eat reasonable meals and have reasonable snacks.

You ate too much for lunch. And now a cookie. Just eat all the cookies then. You are so fat and pathetic. Eat some chips while you’re at it. You are such a failure. You can’t even diet right.

I’m okay. I’m not fat. I’m not pathetic.

You are pathetic. You live alone. You don’t have a job. You’re a total failure and now you’re going to be a fat failure.

(Eats the inside of three more cookies.)

Now you’re definitely getting fat. Why don’t you have some toast with butter too? Better yet, finish off the bag of chips. You’re already fucked. You should probably throw up. And, if you’re going to throw up anyway, why not eat more?

I’m stopping. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m not going to eat anymore. I’m stopping. I’m not throwing up. It’s been a month. I’m not doing that. I hate it. I’m not doing that.

Fine, get fat. Be gross. Be a failure. At least take some laxatives. Get on the elliptical. Move those fat legs. Make up for the cookies.

(Skips laxatives but goes on the elliptical for twenty minutes. Gets ready to repeat the same battle again throughout the day, throughout the week.)

It gets tiring. I would really like to have my brain back. It hasn’t been mine in decades. Recovery is hard, and every step’s a challenge but the only thing I know how to do is keep trying. Keep showing up for the fight.

And, it is a fight. Recovery from addictive behaviour is a fight you have with yourself; you either win, or lose everything. I’ve been very close to the “lose everything” and I don’t want to go back so I “keep on keeping on”, even when it seems like I’m getting nowhere fast. Because I’ve lived according to the demands of my eating disorder. I’ve lived that way full-time for thousands of days. It sucks.

Even if it seems like the battle will never end, the now is still better than the then, when every day would find me hunched over a toilet multiple times, fingers down the throat, heaving up food.

So, I’ll keep trying. Keep on buying boxes of cookies. Keep exposing myself. Keep on co-existing with food. Keep trying to learn that I can eat without dying, without getting fat. That even if I eat more than I’m comfortable with, I will probably not consume the world. And that gaining a little weight is really okay.

What fears do you hang onto that aren’t based in reality?

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things can start to make sense. Once I have both myself and the universe figured out, I plan to take up macrame. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow


  1. Thank you for sharing this! Fears……lots and most are irrational. Ultimately, it’s like I don’t deserve this beautiful life I have so I keep waiting for something terrible to come in and destroy it. I am a “waiting for the other shoe to drop” worrier. So exhausting

    Liked by 1 person

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