Annoying numbers and hard-boiled eggs.

I like numbers, save for those found in high-level cosmology and physics. And that’s really a jealousy issue: I hate that I don’t speak the language. I stopped my math education at university, year one. I can mostly understand the lectures but the papers and texts might as well be Greek. Which they also use.

An affection for numbers is a good thing to have: despite the whining of teenagers, numbers are a big part of life. Sometimes, numbers are exciting. Winning numbers at the roulette table are a thrill, as are the numbers on end-of-year bonus cheques from work.

Other numbers are less interesting. The number six-point-five, for instance, is a complete bore. That’s the number you get when you do the math on the high and low-density lipoproteins amounts in my blood. It’s not the cholesterol ratio you hope to see. *

The moderately bad result was the kind of surprise that’s not really a surprise. On the one hand, I don’t eat a lot of animal fat. Except for butter. I love butter. On the other hand, seventy-five to eighty-five percent of your cholesterol profile is genetic. The similarities I share with my mother are more than skin deep.  

I’ve dodged the nutritionist bullet for some time now. They like to throw them at eating disorder patients and said patients like to resist. I had one once. She made me uncomfortable with her shock and horror over my food and behaviour choices.

‘One and done’ is a non-helpful behaviour people often embrace. If someone fails or makes a mistake, it allows you not only to bail but to reject all future similar offerings as well. This suits the neuroses just fine. They don’t want to get gone. Avoiding banishment is easier when you can block the things that might bring improvements and get you sent on your way.

I tried to turn down this nutritionist when my GP offered her up but he seemed hurt by my attempted rejection. Damn my empathetic heart. At least appointments in the age of COVID take place at home and in pyjamas. I like how we pretend we’re still stylish. Maybe I should add heels and marabou feathers?

I ended up chatting with the nutritionist for about an hour. I’d forgotten about the meeting and almost missed her call. It definitely wasn’t a Freudian slip. ** Luckily and atypically, I answered my phone when it rang. I prefer to text. If only I could get my mother on board.

I feel a bit sorry for her. I don’t think the meeting went according to her plan. Not that it was in any way my fault. But I have a complicated history my doctor didn’t disclose. Working on higher-than-ideal cholesterol isn’t a priority or even really a possibility when the eating itself is still a bit odd. To her credit, she was fluid and rolled with the changes to her brief.

Her conclusions after hearing about my diet were what I expected: I don’t eat enough protein; I don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, and I eat too much processed food. This was not an unexpected analysis: I’m not a fool and I don’t bother much with lying to myself anymore. At least, on purpose.

She wants me to add an afternoon snack to up my protein game: a hardboiled egg or a piece of cheese. I wanted to scream at her for making such a horrible suggestion. Every muscle in my body locked up in rejection. Did she not hear me say I ate a snack in the morning? If I was early in recovery, I’d have thrown something or stormed out.

There are advantages to being a long-time traveller on recovery road. You get weird little bits of self-control. You understand, at least on some of the levels, that the helpers aren’t trying to destroy you.

I could skip the two hard caramels I often have in favour of the egg but that seems impossible for very complicated reasons that are utterly impossible to articulate. The short version is people who don’t eat enough actual food often use quick sugar hits like candy to compensate.

But I like to pretend that’s not me.

In psychotherapy, they tell you to pay attention to what makes you uncomfortable.

I cannot over-emphasize how uncomfortable the snack suggestion made me. She wants to force a piece of cheese or a whole egg on me every afternoon? And I know that’s not what she said but it’s what my feelings heard. And now there’s anxiety and rejection and maybe I should start cutting back on what I already eat and now would probably be a good time to get on the treadmill.

She obviously wants to make me fat.

Pretty strong reaction to a suggested snack. My eating disorder might not be as dormant as I thought, absent active-vomiting notwithstanding.    

Another psychotherapy maxim is “lean in”. Lean in to the things that make you uncomfortable. Like letting someone get involved with my food behaviours. I’m still reactive and defensive, more than I realized. Then again, I have the people around me well trained: they know what to do and not-do. The nutritionist is new. She doesn’t know the rules.

The eating disorder perceives a threat.

As good a reason as any to keep the nutritionist.

Even if we’re not working on getting my cholesterol under control.

The butter will be pleased.

* This is a reporting of the numbers as they’re disseminated in Canada. The US uses a different reporting system. In U.S. publications, cholesterol readings are measured in mg/deciliter, but in Canada, the readings are in numbers and ratios. For example, in the U.S. high cholesterol is defined as a total reading of 240 mg/dl, but in Canada, we talk about high cholesterol as a total reading of 6 or 7. It can make the numbers from the other country seem shocking if you don’t know that. Diabetes numbers also differ between countries.

** This is the whiny complaint of privilege. Not everyone has the opportunity to work with a nutritionist. I couldn’t afford one myself if I had to pay out of pocket: I’m middle-class poor. That is, I have a roof and a car and month at the end of the money. But I live in Canada and the nutritionist is covered, both for the eating disorder and for assisting people with high cholesterol. I like universal healthcare.

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

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