I went shopping last night and it occurred to me that there was another facet of my battle with anorexia I could share.
Shopping for me is easy. I don’t require a list, I don’t need to meander through the aisles to see what’s good. I know precisely what I’m going to get every time I go to the store. My diet is very narrow. There are some foods I view as ‘safe’, and most of the time they’re all I can get myself to eat.
This is my grocery list every week without exception.
Grilled chicken breast
Mountains of tuna
Strawberries (sometimes bananas)
Every day I eat the same things:
Breakfast: 1.5 cups of All-Bran, 1 scoop of protein powder (if I think I can manage the calories), 1 cup of skim milk, three strawberries cut up.
I measure all the values out in a measuring cup. 449 calories.
Morning snack: either 1 cup of yogurt (again, meticulously measured out): 110 calories, or a chicken breast: 140 calories.
Lunch: custom protein smoothie at the gym (take out the banana and replace with some other fruits to bring the calorie/carb content down). 356 calories.
Afternoon snack: either 1 spoonful of peanut butter if I’m feeling good (it’s high fat/cal): 190 calories, or a chicken breast: 140 calories.
Dinner: two chicken breasts. 280 calories.
Night snack: a can of tuna. 100 calories.
Total daily calories: 1435 – 1515
I have rededicated myself to trying to eat more this last week, so I’m finding little things to add each day. Today I had 68 calories worth of unsalted almonds. Other days it’s a banana or some spinach. If it’s a cardio day, and I’m in a good frame of mind, I can even have a teaspoon of barbeque sauce with my chicken at night. That’s how this week I managed to get around 1800 calories almost every day. I know I got setback last night when I gorged myself. As a result today I’ve managed 1576, and getting that much down was a battle.
Being able to eat this ‘variety’ and to consistently have 1800 calorie days represents a tremendous amount of progress since February (and a remarkably fast recovery time from my incident four weeks ago). In February I was getting 800 total calories on a good day. If I ate more, I’d be in tears from fear of gaining weight.
The pain in the ass of it is that I know I can eat more and still maintain the same rate of decrease in body fat %. I know I’m not fat because I know my waist-size vs. the average American’s, I know my body fat % vs. the average American’s, etc. I’m aware that I could that I could safely expand my dietary options. It’s just that I can’t convince my brain of any of it. Eating other things, when I’m not having a very good day, is like bungee jumping: I know it’s safe, but the body and its sense of self-preservation resists. It’s an obsession in the purest sense of the word. Every edible thing enters my brain as a series of numbers indicating just how much of a threat that item is to me. Sometimes it goes away briefly (like Thursday), which is a huge improvement over where I was five months ago! It’s just not often.
Often I am asked, “doesn’t that get boring eating the same things every day?” Absolutely, it does. But I know that it’s better than the panic if I eat something else.
But you know what? It’s ok. Like a diabetic taking insulin, we do what we must (…because we can…) to manage the condition. It’s what we do to live as close to normality as we’re allowed. Are there worse conditions? Of course! But this is mine. I just want others to know what it’s like, perhaps for solidarity, perhaps so they can spot it in others. Maybe some of both. I want people to know that it can happen to anybody. I just want people – I want you – to understand.