I’ve come to learn I shouldn’t be left to my own devices in other people’s apartments. I don’t mean that I steal things, or that I look for embarrassing things under the beds and in the medicine cabinets. Those things don’t really interest me (though a certain Chanel purse had me rethinking the “don’t steal” thing), and between the Nickname Posse I would be SHOCKED if we had any secrets that would lurk under the bed or in the medicine cabinet; or at least any secrets that we don’t all already know/text/talk about in detail. But when left alone this weekend in my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H’s apartment to watch their pup while they went off somewhere beautiful and relaxing, I did *perhaps* go a little wild… on the wealth of non-Whole30 approved food in their cabinets and fridge.
Actually, even before arriving to their place down in the Financial District, the end of last week turned into a mini free-for-all for my diet, starting with indulging in free pizza for lunch at the office and ending with me ordering from my favorite Dominican restaurant in the Heights for dinner; I told myself it was because I had barely any groceries in the apartment to make a decent meal, but in reality I’d had a glass or two of wine and tipsy me figured “well, I already ate grains and dairy today so SCREW IT!” After settling in with the pup early Saturday afternoon, I went looking for a cup for water (because despite having watched the dog multiple times and having spent countless days and nights in this apartment, I still forget where everything is), and happened first upon a cabinet that contained, among other things, a jar of Nutella and something called “Cookie Chips.” I’d brought some leftover groceries with me and could have stuck closer to my normal diet if I wanted, but for Friday and Saturday I’d decided not to, which led to an interesting revelation on Sunday.
Sunday morning I woke up with what can only be described as a food hangover. My head hurt from all the sugar from a Nutella binge and an impulsive cupcake purchase, my skin was starting to break out from the dairy, and I was experiencing some gnarly stomach cramps due to I’m not even sure what. I wandered out of the guest room (aka my bedroom) in search of an essential oil or antacid or something to help, and found myself in R/H’s bathroom staring at a scale. Now, given my sordid history with anorexia, I do not own a scale and never will – but more often than not, I will still weigh myself if I see one. I know the number doesn’t matter. I know that. But Sunday morning after a delicious night of treats from R and H’s cabinets, their scale said that I was up 10 pounds from the end of Whole30, and seeing that number put me in a mental tailspin. Truly, I haven’t indulged in the Eating Disorder part of my brain in probably a year, but for whatever reason, this time, I did.
Life after an eating disorder is an endless struggle to think a certain way, constantly fighting to remember no, you’re not fat, and food is not scary. Before Whole30 I was really good at disassociating which voice was the eating disorder and which voice was rational thought, because okay, maybe I didn’t need to eat six KitKats from the work candy drawer that day but I won’t feel bad that I indulged in chocolate. During Whole30 I was really conscious about which voice could have been the eating disorder versus which was my body adapting to new meal patterns and eating schedules and the lack of sugar. It’s post-Whole30 where things have blurred; there’s this pull now to stay as close to that diet as possible because it makes a tangible difference in everything from my sleep, to my anxiety, to my work and to yoga, but once I’ve had something non-compliant for the day it turns into an awful cycle of “MIGHT AS WELL EAT EVERYTHING” followed by crippling anxiety about whether that will be the meal that finally makes me fat. Sunday night I sat on the couch for a while staring at a photo I’d put on Instagram earlier, a post-Bikram yoga sweaty shot where I’m in a sports bra, mentally bouncing between Rational Thought and Eating Disorder, and as I felt the panic start to rise, I immediately shut down Instagram and texted my soul sister E, the only person who could calm me down when anorexia rears its ugly head.
“It never really goes away, does it” I told E after we’d talked me down from my Nutella-induced food panic. “No,” she agreed. We talked a little more about how annoying it can be dealing with life post-ED, how one day I’m totally fine letting myself enjoy that third slice of pizza or a KitKat from the candy drawer, and then a week later I’m fighting back tears over a number on a scale. I hadn’t had a food-driven breakdown like this in months, maybe even over a year, and I’m lucky that E was available to help me step back and realize that everything is fine. I’m actually kind of grateful that I went a little crazy on R/H’s cabinets (*with full intentions to replace the Nutella I PROMISE), because I think I was starting to give in to the old rigid food rules that precede a relapse, hiding the anxieties connected to “bad foods” behind Whole30, instead of realizing what was happening and nipping it in the bud.
I’m not going to change my diet or lifestyle following this revelation – I still feel immensely better physically when I’m not eating things like grains and dairy, and frankly I prefer salads and smoothies to pretty much all foods – but this week my goal is to indulge in something every day, and to let myself enjoy it. Maybe it’s more Nutella on a spoon, a soy latte, or a warm croissant from the bakery in Chelsea Market; maybe it’s just an extra piece of fruit in the afternoon and a bigger portion for lunch. If I’ve learned anything else from yoga, aside from how to really shut down the anorexia part of my brain in such a way that dealing with this felt foreign, it’s that everything in life takes constant practice. Growth, after all, only comes after you slide back, fall down hard and still pick yourself up, always working so hard to move forward.