Sunday, April 1, 2007

Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries!

I have never felt so torn. Am I old or am I young? I’m almost 31 years old, a thirty-something – the no man’s land of adults. I’m considered a “kid” by those ten plus years my senior while I’m “sooo ooold” to those ten years my junior.

I went out for lunch with my friends, Nancy and Aaron, and Aaron’s twenty-something daughter, Melanie. I was nervous and uncomfortable because I didn’t know where I belonged. Although only ten years older than his daughter, I really didn’t have much in common with her, except that I remember being her age once, not too terribly long ago. On the other hand, Aaron is old enough to be my father and Nancy was a teenager when I was born.

For someone who had become accustomed to being the youngest in any given situation, this was very uncomfortable. I know I seemed aloof and snobby – too things that those in the know would never associate with me. (I’m as earthy as a Virgo can get.)

So, as usual when I can’t handle the emotions, whatever they may be, I turn to my favorite coping mechanism. I ordered a dry side salad with grilled chicken and made sure to leave almost all of the chick peas and a few pieces of chicken on my plate. I tried not to stare covetously at the others’ sandwiches and concentrated on my salad, enjoying the bitterness of some of the spring mix mingled with the sweet tang of the marinated chicken. [Really, you get used to salads with no dressing, especially those with protein in the form of meat, nuts or beans, to the point where a salad with dressing, even fat-free or low-fat, feels greasy to you.]

After lunch, we all went to a tea place next door known for their “bubble” drinks. Apparently, a bubble is a gummy-bear, tapioca-like substance at the bottom of the beverage, be it tea or a milkshake. Nancy passed with the excuse that she was full from her sandwich.

“Oh, my salad was very filling, too,” I agreed and also passed on the tea. The real reason is that I couldn’t have the bubble tea because it was caffeinated and I wasn’t about to let a fattening milkshake pass my lips. Let’s not forget to mention that the unknown calorie count of said “bubble” crossed my mind as well.

We walked back to my van which I had parked outside Melanie’s apartment. I volunteered to drive to Stever’s, the candy Mecca of Rochester, down the street.

Any candy store, actually, any food store is like entering the gates of Hell for someone with an eating disorder.

Did you ever see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 60s/70s version with Gene Wilder?) Do you remember the scene in the beginning when Charlie goes into the candy store with a small handful of change and he looks all around the store at all the wonderful treats and all the kids around him grabbing armfuls of sweets? Charlie's eyes showed envy tinged with more than a hint of sadness and pain. He couldn't enjoy all the goodies around him like his peers.

That’s what it’s like to have an eating disorder and shop for food. Only, usually, you have money to spend. What stops you is that you are mentally calculating the caloric content of each item as you pass so much so that it paralyzes you and you find you can’t decide.

All or nothing thinking, I believe the experts call it. You want it all, you can’t have it all, so you accept nothing instead. Better to have never loved, than to have a taste and pine all the days of your life for more.

So I wandered the store and gazed at all the treats. Edie walked right beside me, whispering about sweet-nothings in my ear, “Inhale, breathe deep. Smelling has no calories at all and is just as rewarding.” “Don’t even think about buying anything you might like, like dark chocolate. But something for Jack, buy him milk chocolate.” [There once was a time when I would’ve dived for the milk chocolate and left the dark for someone else. Perhaps age has refined my palate?]

Then Aaron called out, “Oh! You have to try some white chocolate covered popcorn!” I stood but two steps away from the counter where he sampled the coated kernels. A moment of indecision passed before I walked up to the counter, lifted the napkin and carefully selected the tiniest piece of popcorn I could find – just to say I tried it. It was fabulous, but I resolutely continued my perusal of the other fine wares of the store. I selected 2 suckers (lollipops, if you will) and 4 milk chocolate pieces in the shape of a car and checked out.

While I waited, I read some of the boxes, flipping a few over to see if they had a nutritional panel on them. Of course, they didn’t. Oh well, time to head back to work.

Once back, I started a virtual conversation with Aaron. In it, he wondered if I was okay with the impromptu visit to the candy store. I told him I was until the popcorn incident. He apologized for not thinking. I brushed it aside. For Hell’s sake, he didn’t know I was having a tough time today deciding whether to be “good” or to be “bad.”

And there it is. The heart of the matter.

Each day it is my choice whether I will eat or not, whether I will let Edie rule or whether I will fight her tooth and nail. So for all my crying that “I can’t” or “I tried,” it all comes down to choice. Ultimately, I am in control.

Today, the battle rages and Edie is winning. My jeans that I couldn’t zip on Saturday without sacrificing the ability to breathe, fit just fine today. The benefits of restriction and exercise. The positive feedback I crave. I know I should stop playing with fire, but the reward is worth the risk. The reward isn’t that my jeans fit, that is just a bonus. The reward is the peace that I feel when all seems right in my world. I am in control of my emotions. I am floating on air.

Unfortunately, my body does not view this as a reward and will, eventually, rebel against the punishment. Somedays, I’m willing to take the risk though.

This is why I am still in therapy after a year.

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