When I was about 3 years old my mom and I were out shopping and she got me an Easter egg to snack on. She thought it was such a wonderful treat that any child would LOVE to have. I took the egg and threw it away, grabbing instead for the salty pepperette she had in her hand. I love this story and I love telling it. I love the thought that from a young age I preferred salty and savory snacks to the sweet ones that most other children reach for. I have always been a salt fiend and I have learned that my dad was the same way; I love cured meats (prosciutto and salami are 2 particular favourites) and will often choose them over any sweet desserts or treats. That’s not to say that I don’t have a sweet tooth (because I definitely do!) but my palate prefers the savory side of the flavor spectrum.
Over the years as I descended further and further into my eating disorder I started to forget little things about who I was. I forgot that I loved to laugh, spend time in nature, sit in the silence and feel the magic of the world around me. I forgot the wonder that comes with watching a thunder storm or the energy that flows through me when the seasons change and the wind picks up. I forgot that I used to feel deeply connected to the people and things around me; that I would do anything for a friend in need even if it meant giving up something important to me. As my body became more and more starved not only did I start to block out the world around me and focus on my own tumultuous mind but I forgot what my 3 year old self knew so well – my tastes and preferences.
I have always been a pretty good eater. I have no food allergies and often ate whatever was put in front of me. While my friends would only eat Kraft Dinner or chicken fingers I loved olives, artichokes and even tried escargot (knowing full well that I was eating snails). My friend’s parents loved having me over for dinner because I would eat anything they served me, I had foods that I preferred but none that I hated, wouldn’t eat or wouldn’t try. In fact I actually developed a fear of missing out on fantastic food. When presented with a buffet, dessert table or bake sale I found myself unable to walk away without trying one of everything – what if this was the best brownie I will ever eat and I didn’t even try it!? This led to a lot of guilt and is actually what ignited my desire to begin purging. I never lost control of my eating, felt that I was binging or could not stop eating – it was all very planned and calculated. I started limiting my intake whenever I could because I never knew what great food opportunity would present itself to me. The truth is that by this point I had no preferences because I was so starved I would eat anything. My body wasn’t worried about the fact that I preferred salty over sweet things, it craved the sugar and fat so it made me ravenous for anything sugar laden or frosted. For years I felt as if food was constantly screaming at my through the cupboard doors, through store windows, and all across the streets as I made my way to work or school. Restaurant signs jumped out at me, smells of baking taunted me and sometimes I could swear the food was actually vibrating with the intensity it made me feel. At one point I even started to steal food – whether I was going to be able to eat it or not, I just needed to have it near me; partly as a test of my strength and willpower and partly as a comfort – if I wanted to eat it I could and I didn’t need to feel guilty about spending money on it if I didn’t eat it.
I have been in the process of recovery for just over a year and a half and purge-free for just over a year and only now am I noticing that food has much less power over me. I don’t crave it anymore, it doesn’t beckon me, scream at me, catch me in its gravity or vibrate; it sits quietly waiting for me to decide to eat it, letting me go to work without being attacked and allowing me to come home and sit in the living room in peace. The most surprising thing of all though is that my preferences are coming back – if I see chocolate I don’t have to want it, I can go to a party with food and only eat what I really like, I can pass on desserts because I am really just not interested instead of turning it down because of some food oriented moral code.
Not only do I feel almost free from the pull food had over me but I feel as if I am reconnecting with my 3 year old self. That adorable little child who knew that pepperettes were yummier than chocolate, the girl who what she liked and ate what made her happy instead of what she “had” to eat. Slowly, I feel like I am becoming a complete person, the person I was born to be and the person I know I can become.