When I was a teenager, I was in desperate search of control over my own life. Growing up, I tried to please everyone else, and I lost track of myself. I was often at the mercy of an alcoholic father, and I wanted to make my mom and brothers happy. As I got older, it became apparent to my family and doctors that I was suffering from depression (as they thought at that time.)
I had been thin my whole life. I believe my patterns of disordered eating and over-exercise became present in my mind because of my constant use of the Internet. Some of my online friends that I regularly interacted with suffered from dangerous eating disorders. Several were treated in inpatient hospitals – we wrote letters back and forth and I encouraged them to stay strong and keep living.
Of course, I had my own demons, and it didn’t take long for me to start counting calories and obsessively exercising. I would stumble upon tips and tricks to, essentially, develop an eating disorder, and it was easy for me to slip into something I could do to have control over my body and myself.
I will intentionally choose not to share the tips and tricks that I unfortunately remember – but one. I remember someone once posting “Why would anyone use ketchup? It’s literally pouring on extra calories.”
There I was, an impressionable, young, mentally ill girl, and I took that (along with many others) to heart.
Immediately, all condiments were out. I didn’t “need” them. And until very recently, I was convinced that I truly didn’t like the taste of ketchup, barbeque sauce, mayonnaise, butter, and sour cream.
My husband and one of our friends who stayed in our guest room for a while recently are food connoisseurs. I would see them slathering on sauces, butter, salt, you name it. And I saw them enjoying their meals.
My husband prepared baked potatoes as part of a meal last week. I, for the first time in years, decided I would do what my husband and our friend were doing and add some sour cream and cheese instead of just a couple slivers of butter as I typically would have done. And … I loved it.
Baked potatoes have never been my favorite type of potato – but this was amazing. I was so impressed, tonight I added some sour cream to my homemade fajitas. I was blown away. I realized the bites I was enjoying the most were the ones with sour cream.
All this time – for years – I was honestly convinced that I did not like the taste of sour cream. I’m so glad I gave it a chance, because I was apparently missing out for all those years!
This is truly mind-blowing for me, because it opens up a door in my mind of what else did my mentally ill brain convince me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do, or wouldn’t like, and I don’t even know it? I’m sure there are all kinds of foods I should try again, just to be certain. But I’m guessing there are even more things.
I thought I’d overcome my disordered eating, but sometimes things like this crop up and it becomes clear that I can still take steps to heal. I’m willing to, and I am. I know that sometimes I overcompensate for lingering disordered thoughts, such as, “Don’t eat that, you’ll get fat” – and then I basically force myself to eat said fattening food, to prove to myself that I am not a slave to my disordered thoughts. I know that is not healthy, either; I know my relationship with food is still not as healthy as I want it to be. I would rather think, “Don’t eat that, you’ll feel sick” (if applicable, that is!) But mostly I want to remember that food is fuel and gives me energy I need in order to live. And there’s nothing – nothing – wrong with enjoying the taste.