“You’re quite a fussy eater, Nic.”
“What?” (Resisting the urge to growl, “You have no idea!”)
“You know what you like, and you stick to it,” answers the new-ish friend. When he puts it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. But for me, 16 years recovered, 10 of them fully, a remark about what I do or do not eat is a red rag to a bull. How apt, as we’ve been living in Spain these past two years.
I worked so hard, when I took that first terrifying step towards recovery in a specialist eating disorders unit. I was so lucky to get a place there: only twelve beds for the whole of the north-west of England, back in early 2002. I was 19, a fragile child, compared to the life-embracing woman I am now. Back then, I had starved myself to within an inch of my life, breathless merely from the effort of existing. I permitted very little to pass my lips. I didn’t need to, did I? I was still alive. Well…
So when someone, (admittedly, someone who knows nothing of my past) calls me a fussy eater because I don’t fancy eel for starters or a dip that would burn the tastebuds from my tongue, a fiery anger is ignited inside of me. Would a fussy eater taste bull’s tail at her birthday dinner? Would she eat paella made with chicken and rabbit? Exotic dishes while honeymooning in Asia?
I am still proud of these recent ‘achievements’, even after all these years and the much grander things I have done: passing my MA in English Literature at a prestigious English university; living abroad alone three times, and now with my husband; getting married in a castle in Italy. None of these things would have been possible had I given in to the voices which told me I was too fat (they still do), that I didn’t need that much food, that as a skeleton, I had achieved perfection. Now, my love of life and good food and wine and friends and travel are stronger than the desire to be a porcelain doll, sitting on a sofa watching life being lived by others.
Full recovery is possible. There may always be the shadow of an eating disorder somewhere, but it fades. When you have goals, no matter how seemingly small, which are more important than the number on a scale or a tape measure, you have made the first step towards recovery. The trick (or my trick) is to want to live a real life, rather than renting a room in The Reaper’s house. Do not misunderstand me: recovery is a battle, and one in which you must be prepared to be hurt like never before, as well as to throw strong punches. And like all battles, there will be scars. But we are tough, we heal, and scars fade.
So get through those first few months; get closer to your goals, and soon you’ll start to feel invincible.