As I sit at the dinner table in the local hospital with my fellow eating disorder recovery mates, a donut lies on my dessert plate. At that moment, the dessert plate is my biggest fear. I know that everyone in the room shares in my angst.... Everyone except the clinician.
Oh the thoughts that race through my mind...
I don’t even like donuts.
Why is my dietitian challenging me to eat it?
I’m scared of it.
I can’t even find out exactly how many calories are in it.
Maybe I’m a bad person if I eat it.
What will it do to my body?
How am I going to eat this in front of so many people?!
I try to prolong the bites of my dinner, hoping to delay eating the scariest thing on the list: the round fried piece of dough covered in chocolate icing. The anxiety creeps in. I am starting to feel full, but not from food. I’m full of fear.
On second thought, do I like donuts?
I feel like there may have been a day ten years ago that I did enjoy them.
They’re a dessert. Sometimes I like dessert.
But no, I have an eating disorder!
I’m not supposed to like desserts!
And if I do like them, maybe I don’t actually have an eating disorder.
Maybe I don’t deserve treatment.
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me.
After many agonizing bites my dinner is finally in my stomach.
I keep glancing at the clock. I have 13 minutes left to finish all the food on my plate. If I don’t finish.... well, that’s not even an option.
Waves of shame pulse through my body as I pull my dessert plate closer.
Just take the darn bite.
But everyone will see me eating it.
But they’re eating dessert too.
But I’m scared.
But you gotta do it anyway.
No, I can’t!
Yes, you can and you will.
I reach out my hand, pick up the donut and bring it to my mouth, cringing as I take the first bite. I start to feel a little calmer. I still have the entire rest of the donut to go, but that first bite is often the hardest part.
Because of the setting, I am so deeply focused on the food I put in my mouth. And I am surprised by what happens.
Well, actually this donut is really delicious.
I never realized how good they can be.
Suddenly, I realize that the last time I ate a donut was probably when I was on a binge, when I definitely couldn’t taste it, let alone enjoy it. During a binge I would normally eat whatever was accessible, whether I liked that particular food or not. A moment blinded by impulse, where all logic is gone before it even hits my mind.
For many years I convinced myself that I didn’t like donuts. I convinced myself that I have a salty tooth and that I prefer other sweets. I convinced myself that I only like “healthy” foods. For so many years I deprived myself of different categories of foods and many other desserts. But today I realize that maybe just maybe, I do like donuts. And not only that, I realize that it is possible for me to actually enjoy a donut.
At this stage in recovery there are a few different outcomes of my donut challenge. Leaving the dinner table I have feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. I only notice these feelings because I’ve started acknowledging my distorted beliefs about food and body image. I am shocked to notice that I do like donuts, contrary to what Ed has been telling me for eons. Each time I eat with an open mind, and challenge myself, even when I don’t think it’s a challenge, I am suffocating Ed’s voice just a little more, until he is completely drowned out.
Yes, lessons can be learned from my therapists, dietitians, and psychiatrists, but with an open mind, they can be learned from a donut too!
(Disclaimer: This blog conveys the author’s personal experience and is not necessarily a depiction of the general population’s experience with eating disorders.)