“Other people’s food.” You know, the food that other people eat. The food that is for them. Not for you. Not eating other people’s food makes you different. Special. Less dependent.
Until you realize it doesn’t.
I’d been getting braver. So much braver. I’d eaten more sticky toffee pudding that week than most people eat in a year, maybe a lifetime. I’d eaten chips. Chips! First time it was grabbing one, a single, lone chip someone else had left over. Then it was eating half a portion ordered by someone else. Then ordering myself a small, with a trembling unsure voice. Then a medium. Then a large. Chips were suddenly safe-ish. And I still couldn’t really believe that had been me. Guilt and liberation. Do those two things ever stand alone? Probably not. But more and more I was learning to ignore the guilt.
Life was better. Even in this one week. Life was better. If only because something different had happened. Years and years of day-in-day-out same same same ritual ritual ritual. Now I was eating chips.
Crisps were next. For years I had convinced myself I didn’t like crisps. Well today I was going to boldly call bullshit on that. Who the fuck doesn’t like crisps?
I walked into Tesco and walked out. Without the crisps. Turns out the crisp isle was a bit too much. Deep breath. Again. Who cares if the checkout staff think you are bonkers. Buy the fucking crisps sissy scaredy pants.
Long story short is I bought the crisps. Very long story short. Buying the crisps is a whole other blog. Not today. Because today I am writing about what happened as I was standing in the checkout waiting to buy the bloody crisps.
So … I’m standing there. Slightly contemplating putting the crisps back, but mostly not. Mostly determined. And this crazy thing happened. I noticed the chocolate bar display that lined the barrier to the register. You know, the one that hold packets of chewing gum and bags of M&Ms before it turns into cheesy magazines like “Hello.”
I noticed it. Okay so that’s not really it because I always noticed it before in a food-porn type of noticing it. But this time was different. I noticed it, and it was for me. It was for me too.
The chocolate bar stand was no longer “other people’s food” only. I could buy from there if I wanted to. I could eat anything on there if I wanted to. It was for me, too.
Then, the understanding swept over me that this whole store was for me too. The chocolate. The crisps. The Chocolate Hob Nobs. The Pop Tarts. The Honey Nut Cheerios. The ice cream bars. The bread — any of the bread, not just the horrible low calorie bread. In fact that bread was no longer for me because that bread was for people on diets and I was not on a diet. The pastries. The bakery items that other people bought and ate regardless of the fact there was no nutritional information or ingredients list on them. Those were for me too.
That day, my brain opened up to the understanding that there was no foods that I was not allowed. All the foods in that supermarket were good enough for me too. They were not only what “other people ate.” They were not off limits for me.
I also understood that day, that not allowing, not even contemplating, eating these foods did not make me different or special. My ability not to eat these foods, not to need them, didn’t make me superior to everyone else — because nobody else gave a shit. That was all my eating disorder. Only my eating disorder cared that I hadn’t eaten Wotsits in over 10 years. It meant nothing in the real world. This restriction that I had been proudly upholding was worthless.
I understood that day, that the concept I had in my head about “other people’s food” — like so many of my eating disorder rules and realities — was a reality only in my own brain. And that we do have the power to create our own realities, and that the only person who was going to be able to change my reality was me.
From that day on I forced myself to eat “other people’s food” until it no longer felt novel and alien to me to do so. Normalcy is something that my eating disorder was so very terrified of. Being like, or eating like, everyone else. Well, I can tell you that being like everyone else about food has allowed me to actually be my own special and different, authentic, self in every other way.
Don’t be scared of that.