When my therapist first suggested I should try a turkey Christmas lunch I felt anxious and reluctant to give her a definite answer. Having been a pescatarian was the one thing that had kept me in my eating disorder. It was something that was never challenged by therapists that I’d previously worked with, even having been in an inpatient setting. I subsequently pondered her suggestion, weighing up the pros and cons and decided to give it a try, little did I know how hard it would be. I wrote an email to confirm and after clicking send I knew there was no turning back. After many anxious days and sleepless nights, the day finally came. I spent over two hours travelling to my session trying to push the thought of it out of my mind, trying to focus on other things. I did, however, check my phone several times hoping that my session would be cancelled or hoping that my therapist might forget and I would not have to go ahead but no such luck!
I arrived, trying to avoid the fact the lounge was full of Christmas decorations, smelt of food and that the table had been nicely set with festive trimmings. All of which I had not allowed myself to enjoy or experience for many years. I sat down staring at the plate of food in front of me. I then started wondering if she would even notice if I did not eat the turkey? Maybe I could distract her? Then she asked if I had tried the turkey. My stomach was churning, my heart beating at 100 miles an hour. There was no turning back. When I say I am going to do something I do it, no matter how hard it may be. I picked up and put down my fork several times before I put the food in my mouth. My instinct was to dispose of it into my hand, but instead, I washed it down with squash. Phew! I joked by saying, what am I scared of? The turkey coming alive and pecking my face? I was trying to rationalise my fears and lessen my anxiety. Eventually, I ate the food on my plate. I felt like I had just completed a bush tucker trial in the jungle. Jokes aside, in reality, this should have been an enjoyable experience, not something that I am robbed of because of my eating disorder.
My journey home was full of anxiety and fear. One blessing was that there was a toddler on the train who was screaming louder than my eating disorder voice. This helped me but I’m guessing it was not a pleasant experience for the other passengers. I finally arrived home and sat with my thoughts analysing the day in detail. My conclusion was I should focus on the positive parts of the day and not the negative/traumatic parts which my eating disorder thrives off. Facing my food fears never seems to be as bad as my mind makes out they are going to be. Was I proud of my achievements? Honestly, not really, the achievement did not seem big enough to celebrate. One day I may feel differently about this experience.
My advice to anyone who has changed their food preferences due to their eating disorder would be to question whether you actually want to be a vegetarian/vegan. Try speaking openly and honestly to a therapist or nutritionist about why this is. They will be able to help you work through whether you are restricting what you eat for authentic reasons or whether it is part of your eating disorder and stopping you moving forward into freedom.
Shine brightly and challenge your eating disorder bite by bite.
Written by Becky
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