I spent the last ten days in both Italy and France. Technically, Switzerland and Germany, too, if you count airports. Those ten days had more of an impact on my recovery than I could’ve imagined.
Prior to embarking, I knew there were two potential outcomes of this trip. One being that I would return home, anxious and eager to resume familiarity and security in my eating. On this trip, I would not have access to a scale (I do not weigh myself, but I do weigh my food), my usual foods, or any other E.D.-related comforts. I would be going twelve days without getting weighed in, which is the longest I have gone in over a year. I also would be faced with challenge foods daily: pizza, pasta, cheese, and gelato (to name a few).
The other possible outcome was that I would come home inspired: excited about experiencing a new culture and all that came with it, food included. My palate would be expanded and I would begin to incorporate new things into my menus. New tools in my toolbox, as my mom would say.
As much as I hoped for the latter, I honestly didn’t expect it. It’s hard to explain the discouragement and sense of hopelessness that frequently sets into my heart when it comes to my eating disorder. When something’s been a part of you for so long — and truly, I cannot remember what it was like to not struggle with my eating; it’s been six years — it has a way of embedding itself in you. While I prayed my trip would not be consumed with concerns of food, my expectations were not high.
Not only were they met, my expectations were far surpassed. I feel like I’m on fire. All thanks to Jesus as well, I’m also experiencing the utmost appreciation for the new medication I am taking, which I have been on for just over a month now. Appropriately, four weeks is the amount of time it’s supposed to take for one to be able to see an effect. I think I’m seeing it 🙂
I was able to notice a marked difference when I was in the Zurich airport yesterday, preparing to fly home. I had two options I could purchase for a late breakfast, at around 11 o’clock: a croissant from Starbucks, or a soft pretzel, freshly delivered from a Swiss bakery. The croissant was the safe option. For one, I knew the calorie content of it (unfortunately, I memorized the nutritional values of major food chains years ago, Starbucks being one of them). And secondly, I’d already had three croissants on this trip. That tool had already been added to my toolkit, it didn’t really scare me anymore.
But the pretzel…it looked so good. It was fresh. It was something I hadn’t tried yet.
I ordered it. And it was delicious.
To understand the significance of this, you have to realize something. The eating disorder thrives on certainty. I’ll choose a clif bar over an unpackaged snack any day, and not because I believe it’s healthier for me, but because it’s wrapped. It has a set number of calories, which means I don’t have any room for error. A handful of crackers or a cookie is so uncertain. There’s not a label on the individual pieces, and that terrifies the heck out of the E.D.
Yet, I ordered the pretzel. I’d begun to appreciate the quality of food over the number of calories it contained. I can’t describe the momentousness of this shift. The weight I felt lifted off my shoulders once this realization set in was enough to make me smile ear to ear.
The header photo of this post is me with a cappuccino and a crêpe. I love crêpes. Or should I say loved. They used to be my favorite breakfast food. My mom would make them from scratch and I would top them with butter, powdered sugar, and lemon. I think the last time I had one, we were in the house we lived in when my parents were still together. That would mean I was no older than twelve.
Our first full day in Paris, I chose for Maddie and me to eat at this crêpe restaurant. There was absolutely no rationale behind that decision other than that a crêpe sounded good. When’s the last time I made a decision based on that? It’d been a while. Keeping with tradition of the ones I so used to love, I ordered a sweet crêpe: salted butter and sugar. It was absolutely divine. I knew I needed a milk as well, so I had a cappuccino along with it.
A note on cappuccinos (or really any coffee drink) in Europe. Nonfat, or milk alternatives, they’re not an option. At one of the restaurants Maddie and I went to for breakfast, they didn’t even have a menu. They told us they had croissants and cappuccinos. That was it. And they were excellent.
Ten days of experiencing this, I don’t even know what to call it — a different culture around food, I guess you could say, really opened my eyes to what good food is. Not safe food, or healthy food, but just good, quality food. Nowhere in Europe did I see anything labeled at a restaurant with a calorie count. Not one place. The focus was so much more on the quality of it: at my favorite sandwich shop, we watched the butcher slice the prosciutto straight off the ham, the bread come right out of the oven, the mozzarella that he said had just been made one day prior. Nothing frozen, nothing low-calorie. Just real, good, food.
Instead of eating my usual turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch today, on the first day I am home and could return to my normal meal plan, I’m making homemade pizza. I want to try making it the way I had it in Italy (SimBIOsi was my favorite pizza spot, but there were so many great ones!). The latter outcome, the one that I’d so hoped for but didn’t think would happen, happened.
As my mom has been reminding me, it takes a minimum of 21 days to change a habit. I think that number’s got to be a lot larger when you’re dealing with something that you’ve been doing for six years. Whatever the number of days, I am thankful for being ten days closer to changing mine.
Other victories (and places I’d recommend eating if you’re in Florence or Paris!)
–Le Consulat (Paris)
–La Ménagere (Florence)
–Ditta Artiginale (Florence)