I have had three meals a day, every day, for 12 years.
Every single one of those meals has been a triumph. Every single one of those meals is still significant, still difficult. The relationship I have established with food has remained a challenge since the day I began depriving myself of it all those years ago.
Each morning begins mostly the same, letting my hands fall below my chest in hopes that my stomach will feel flat, the anticipation of a good breakfast quickly followed by the fear of it. Instead of feeling nourishment, I wonder if I ate too much, and with each bite I develop a more sincere discomfort for the way my stomach looks and feels.
I am constantly uncomfortable in my body after meals. Sometimes this feeling lasts a few minutes, sometimes for the rest of the day. I often look forward to eating, but I feel heartbroken and guilty when the meal is over. I always want more and I’m angry with myself for that.
When these complicated feelings began in my late teens, I would cope by restricting my food or skipping meals altogether, but for the past 12 years I’ve conquered the discomfort, three times a day, every day.
On the easier days—the small moments when I feel brave—I take on the challenges of eating “scary food,” such as fried foods or sweets. The challenges are frequently cushioned by then having meals that feel safe. When my disease voice tries to pull me back in, these “safe meals” provide comfort and familiarity. The knowledge that I’m eating exactly the same thing I’ve had a million other times serves as a reminder that it isn’t going to hurt me.
Educating myself on the subject of nutrition helps as well. Through the years I’ve become an expert on portion control, food groups and exactly what my body needs in order to maintain my recovery. The logical side of my brain knows when my emotional side is being irrational about food. If I just focus on what has worked all this time, I can eat that next meal and know that I’ll survive.
The only way this all works is if my emotional side trusts my logical side, and if my logical side is compassionate with my emotions and fears. Prayer helps. Oh, God does it help! Quite often, it’s the only thing that helps. I learned a long time ago that having a talk with my higher power can get me through just about any uncomfortable situation involving food. I ask for help in accepting my body for its shape and ability, and the willingness to eat the food that I need—no more, no less.
I’ve also been saying thank you to my higher power. Thank you for my recovery, and for allowing me to be present and connected to my spirit. I can now have deep, meaningful relationships with other people because I am not consumed with obsessing over my body and depriving myself of food.
I am proud to have achieved 12 years of hard-earned recovery and although I have come incredibly far, I know that I still have a long way to go. Every single meal is still hard, every single day. There is no end to this plight; the path isn’t a smooth, direct line to a healthy relationship with food. I have learned tools to cope and I use them daily.
My life has grown bigger than my disease and my relationship with my higher power is stronger than ever. Twelve years of recovery has not alleviated the daily struggle, but now I feel lucky, because every day is rewarded with enormous triumph.
Author: Corina Seligman
Image: Martin Cooper/Flickr
Editors: Nicole Cameron; Emily Bartran