Last March, I went to Las Vegas for a conference. I was at my deepest point in anorexia, at my lowest weight and terrified of everything. My biggest fear about going to the conference was the food. What would I eat? Would I be able to stay disciplined? Could I possibly return home at the same weight or even less?
The conference provided breakfast, lunch, and two snacks. I was there with two colleagues, who were excited to explore Vegas in the evenings. As soon as our flights were booked, I started planning each day, each meal.
Breakfast was easy. Just don’t eat it. Come down from the hotel room and scoot right into the first session. Done.
Snack. Problem. Okay, if I go to different sessions than my colleagues, they won’t know if I eat the snack. I can say I’m full from breakfast. I can go to the bathroom.
Lunch. The hardest one. Fill up my plate with salad and veggies as much as possible. Try to make a normal looking plate, but you don’t have to eat it. Move the food around and eat the salad.
Snack. Same as above.
Dinner. Just say you’re tired. You’re a working mom. You just want to relax in your room with room service and the TV instead of going out.
Okay, I had a plan. This is how an anorexic person lives, planning every second of how she will avoid food. Mostly, I didn’t go anywhere and had almost no social life for many months. Going to that conference was very unlike me at that time, and I’m not even sure why I went. Maybe I thought I could somehow enjoy Vegas without food. I couldn’t.
My meal plan mostly worked. However, I remember one morning snack was doughnuts. I LOVE doughnuts. I mean, really love doughnuts. I crave them. All kinds. I eat them until I feel sick. I hadn’t had one in probably two years. Back to the conference snack. I went to the bathroom. Still thought about the doughnuts. My colleagues called me over to join them, as they were indulging in the tasty snack and commenting on how great they were. I really wanted a doughnut.
It felt like slow motion, as I walked over to the table. I surveyed the many types of doughnuts and settled on a chocolate iced doughnut. I looked at it. It looked at me. I put it on a small plate. I walked back to my colleagues. They had met new people and were all chatting away, not paying attention to what I was doing. I was staring at the doughnut. The chocolate icing oozing down the sides of the doughnut and onto the plate.
I took a plastic knife and carefully cut a small bite off the doughnut. I put the bite in my mouth and the chocolate sugar was overwhelmingly delicious. Then…overwhelming guilt, disappointment, and disgust. Overwhelming worry about weight gain. I told my colleagues I needed to go to the bathroom (they didn’t know I had already gone). I threw away the rest of the doughnut, went up to my hotel room, and cried through the next session.
Why couldn’t I just eat a doughnut? “Just eat” doesn’t work on anorexics. “Just eat” makes us feel worse, like it’s this simple choice and we are too stupid, shallow and selfish to make it.
Almost a year later, and here I am. I spent last week starving myself all day and only eating a small dinner in the evening so LK wouldn’t think Mommy doesn’t eat. I wrote several blog posts that I kept private tracking the calories, pounds, thoughts. I lost 6.6 pounds from Monday to Friday. It wasn’t even hard.
I miss Ana. She’s comforting. I felt like I had a friend with me all the time last week. I miss being thin. I miss feeling good in my clothes. I miss my smaller body.
Anorexia isn’t something people just get over. Even when weight is restored, we think about food, our bodies, our weight, all the time. I’ve become horrified with the 40 pounds I’ve gained since last March. I’ve become terrified of how much more I might gain if I don’t start restricting again. I’m beyond guilt-ridden that LK is going to learn all of this from me, and not love her precious body like she does right now. Everyone thinks life is back to normal. I’m in Texas. I eat now (mostly). I look normal now. Everything must be fine now.
This is a very long road. And somehow, I think I’m still only at the beginning of it.