There was Once Upon a Time... The Fairytale before the Eating Disorder.
There was Once upon a Time, and there will be Another Time.
There once was a time where I could allow myself to be happy and nourish myself well without a second thought or a tinge of remorse.
A Time when I actively sought out ways to nurture myself rather than seek ways to restrict, punish, regiment, control, count, and self-sabotage.
As I spend time weighing out my plain porridge oats and almond milk, I think fondly of a time when I didn’t worry about control and how what I place in my mouth will influence subsequent feelings of guilt, negative self-comparison and dwindling self worth.
Instead of the sad bowl of oaty gloop staring back at me, there were once school mornings spent preparing sugary cereal or toasted waffles while happily watching programmes aimed at children atleast 4 years younger than I ….
This was likely followed by a gallon or so of milky tea and 1(or maybe two!) chocolate milky way bars when on the run to school !
Instead of analysing numbers on the packet of an overpriced superfood snack bar,I would happily enjoy the velvety centre of full sized Galaxy ripple, the delicate velvety insides of a bakery fresh custard tart, the gooey centre of a double baked chocolate brownie, or a double helping of of sugary sweetness from my local pic and mix store.
Joy wasn’t something to be calculated or restricted, and food wasn’t ever a symbol of my worth. It was always to be worthy of. I’d be the last person in the world to ever turn down the offer of tea and chocolate biscuits - no matter the time of day or when I had last eaten.
Over a decade on, I long for the days where time wasn’t wasted on ‘ifs’, ‘buts’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘can’ts’ around every single meal. I eat enough …. To get by … to fight another day …. To make it seem I’m just about OK. That will do for now …
But I nostalgically long for the times when I wouldn’t dare say no to a second helping of chippy chips, an extra sized bucket of butterkist cinema popcorn, or a stuffed crust pizza with extra EXTRA cheese…. (not the gluten free cauliflower based ones flaunted on Instagram!).
Food choices boiled down to what would satisfy me most, even if it meant curtailing my side portion of broccoli and peas to make way for the 9 digestive biscuits I would sneak down from the secret top cupboard when no one was looking. My anxiety was purely related to the prospect of getting caught - never the ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ of what I did or didn’t eat.
Believe it or not, there was a time when my mind wasn’t a Calorie Calculator. I didn’t even know the word that defined the amount of energy in food, let alone have my whole personal encyclopaedia! The only counting I ever did was proudly remember the number of pizza slices I’d successfully eaten at a Pizza Hut buffet.
It was once a fun challenge to try an eat more than my friends, whereas now any such task would feel akin to being doomed into oblivion. As opposed to my most recent memories of battling parents over not eating enough, I would gladly fight my brother over the last Cadbury fudge bar in the sweet drawer…
Although I still love my cups of tea, the difference is that now mine comes without the added handful of custard creams, let alone the hearty slice of jammy Victoria sponge or the luxuriously buttered fruit scone I would always order in my favourite cafe. Tea was only ever doused with creamy milk … not watery almond juice that taste like someone just squeezed a cherry Bakewell tart through their behind ….
The funny thing is, I know that food is not to be feared, counted, controlled or judged in relation to my worth. And yet, I still automatically do it. Instead of choosing what I’d really like for dinner, my auto pilot is to opt for the ‘healthiest’ ‘wholemeal’ of everything on the menu, and pretending that I’m satisfied after a dessert of fruit, yogurt or sometimes neither.
As I watch my friends and loved one’s happily order whatever they want off the menu, I feel paralysed with fear rather than joy and excitement. Eating out feels like a chore rather than the fun occasion it once was … it feels strange that I ever looked forward to dining out of my own home. At the same time, its part of what keeps me inspired to recover.
Watching the smiles and laughter of others around food reminds me of a time when I could gladly do the same - when life was much more light hearted and made for memory making. It inspires me to strive for caring about myself more, and not allowing life to be squandered away by micro managing my energy intake and the quality of what I eat and when. I hope a time will come where I can fondly walk along a beach with greasy but gorgeous chips.
There will be a time when I can walk around the local park AND order a mr whippy ice cream, no skimping on the flake or raspberry sauce. There will be a time when I can wander a European city early in the morning in hope of finding the bakery that sells life changing pastry that melts in my mouth.
There will be a time where my boyfriend can make breakfast for me in bed without my beady eye or health conscious demands. There will be a time when I can carve out a whole Sunday afternoon to bake fairy cakes with my children and eat them together.
There will be a time when I go to the cinema and order myself a box of popcorn to myself, aside from the pieces I throw at the noisy people sitting in front of me.
There will be a time when I eat a full slice of cake on my birthday, or any other day for that matter. There will be a time when food on a menu is picked for how fulfilling it will be rather than what nutrient quota it lives up to.
There will be a time when I grab myself a handful of chocolate shortbread biscuits to dunk in my tea. There will be a time when my life savings are spent on experiencing life rather than buying expensive snack bars…
There will be a time when I look out at a foreign sunset, enjoying local dishes with a loved one.
There will be a time where I go to sleep not counting Calories, but instead feeling grateful for my life and my body without judging them.
There will be a time when I make peace with food and myself in a way where I can nourish rather deprive the soul that longs to be loved again.
There will be a time when I can just live as me - not a Calorie Counter.
There will be a time when I look back at all of this, and instead of thinking of all the years wasted to anorexia, I will think that the struggle that made me this strong was worth the life I fully lead.
There was once upon a time, and there will be another time. This is the fairytale that spurs me onwards and forwards.