What a weekend. It wasn’t just a great weekend in itself, but it was a great weekend for making progress with my recovery. It was my friends 30th birthday party and it involved a meal at a tapas restaurant with about 20 people (most of whom I didn’t know) and then everyone onto Popworld (a nightclub). I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I was determined that I wanted to be able to do it…and I did! And it was brilliant!
Although I am now quite used to eating out in restaurants and can do so with relative ease, the only way I am able to have done this is by looking up the calorie content of the meals beforehand and choosing a meal I know fits in with my daily allowance. So, every single time I eat out, it is to a restaurant that displays the nutritional information, to enable me to feel comfortable with eating out. I know a lot of eating disorder sufferers hate the fact that some restaurants display nutritional information and that this should be stopped however, for me, it has been a real help. It is only through them displaying their nutritional information that I have been able to go out for meals and start to socialise with friends and without this information, I wouldn’t have been able to. I do acknowledge that it is not ideal or the healthiest approach to take, but for my stage of recovery, where I had previously never been able to eat without my parents there, knowing the nutritional content of the food was the only way I could make a step forward in my recovery and eat out with friends. It was a starting block and it has actually changed my world as it has given me the chance to eat out in restaurants with friends.
So this strategy has served me well for a couple of years now. But as I say, I know its not the healthiest approach and I did want to be able to challenge it, but it was felt too scary. But this weekend was going to be the time it had to be challenged. The tapas restaurant did not have any nutritional information and we were not going to know what varieties of tapas we were going to be provided with in advance. To say I was scared was an understatement. I have religiously counted calories for the last decade of my life and now I was being faced with the prospect of eating an unknown meal out in a restaurant. My initial instinct was to say I wouldn’t go. But this wasn’t actually what I wanted, it was just fear making me too scared. So I decided this was the time that this element of my recovery needed to be challenged.
Please click the link to watch my video
A mixture of tapas was brought to the table. After an initial feeling of panic and thought that I couldn’t do it, I looked at everyone else around me helping themselves and I knew I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to be able to join in like everyone else and enjoy the occasion. So I did. I tried meat paella, seafood paella and chickpeas with spinach. And it was delicious. It was the first time I had tried chorizo and calamari and I loved them! It felt amazing to be able to relax, chat, eat and be a part of the occasion. Yes, I was still anxious and apprehensive, but it was my first meal out without counting calories and it felt liberating!
The following day I received an impromptu message from the birthday girl inviting me out for lunch with a couple of others. Spontaneity doesn’t feature in my vocabulary. My anorexia likes me to have a routine and to stick to it, to have a plan and know what I’m doing and when. So my response to this offer of going out for brunch was no. It wasn’t what I had planned as part of my day. But I did actually want to go. So again, I plucked up the courage to challenge anorexia and I said I would go. Given that the night before I had made a major achievement of eating a meal without knowing the calories, I had decided that the next day, I would get back to my familiar routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, I explained to my friend that I would come out for brunch, but that I wouldn’t have anything to eat and she was fine with that – she’s very understanding.
Please click the link to watch my video:
I know some of you probably think that me going out for brunch and not eating is not very good but it had been such a huge step forward for me eating the meal the night before and to have to do it twice in the space of 15 hours was too much. It was enough of a challenge to break my routine and get me to go to the brunch at all.
But as I sat with them at brunch, I knew that in future, I wanted to be able to eat with them. As I say, it was a bit too overwhelming to try and do it twice, one after the other but I had done it once and that was the first step. A big step. And now that I have done it once, I am determined to do it again. I am going to challenge myself so that once a week/fortnight, I eat a meal that is not calorie counted. It may not seem like much to some but for me, it is a huge challenge. To anyone with an eating disorder, they know what it is like to calorie count, and how incredibly scary not doing so is. Calorie counting has helped me manage my recovery but now I’m ready to challenge it. It is an incredibly daunting prospect but one that is so important for my recovery. And to anyone out there reading this that also has an eating disorder and religiously calorie counts, but wants to make progress but is too scared – You can do it and it will feel incredible when you do. I know exactly what it is like to eat numbers rather than food, I have been doing it for over a decade. Just take it in baby steps, like I am. If I can do it, you can too. It is scary but it is so worth it. Life is worth it! As I have said before in my blog – being brave doesn’t mean you don’t get scared, it means you don’t let fear stop you!
Please click to watch my final video on the weekend: